I know that there are LOTS of different reasons why families come to Le Village. For some it is the ability to work and be present with their kids. For some it's the flexibility to be part time. For some it is a space for community and friendship. Somewhere on that list is the curriculum. We know because when we’ve done surveys curriculum comes up but never really rises to the top. When kids are small, as long as they are safe, many parents seem to be content.
But I know how important these first years are to set up successful learners! For me, from the moment I conceived the idea of Le Village, I knew to make it the space I envisioned it needed to have AMAZING curriculum. I wanted us to be much more than just a service that kept your child alive. I wanted to be a place for your child to thrive - and develop a lifelong love of learning.
I came from a professional sales and marketing background so this was not exactly my area of expertise - so I studied it ALLLL. At the beginning, I hired-in expertise to create our curriculum from scratch. Over the years, along with Ms. Lilly and our dedicated teaching staff, we’ve fine tuned our methods and activities. We watch what the kids respond to and shape our delivery to their needs.
Along the way, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the styles of curriculum and my impression of them—so I thought I’d share them here and how they kind of stack up against one another—and how they stack up against Le Village and our curriculum. There are so many amazing learning styles out there!
Here is a quick breakdown:
Overview: All about independent exploration. Things must have a beginning and an end. Best for a meticulous child.
How this child likes to play: Purposely builds blocks into a specific pattern or shape to be strong and tall. Sorts them largest to smallest. Is annoyed at the one child holding the final piece of their tower because clearly it needs to go…right..there!
Curriculum style: Spring. The class could study life-cycles. An activity would be examining a butterfly. The child would learn each part of the butterfly and be able to to categorize between moths and butterflies. The child would list the parts of a butterfly down and then replace the activity on the shelf when they are finished. The next activity is sorting between moths and butterflies. A teacher may gently correct a mistake in categorization but mostly watch them explore. The child carefully looks and explores, completes their activity, and then replaces it on the shelf. The next activity might be exploring the migration of a butterfly on a map and listing the countries they fly over. There are lots of activities and the child has freedom to learn at their own pace.
Overview: Open-ended, creativity and play. Best for the sensitive and artistic child.
How this child likes to play: Creates houses with blocks and stories around the peg dolls. Elaborately explains their life stories and what these people are up to. Is cool playing this game alone but will integrate their friends. Whatever.
Curriculum style: Spring. A child may start by painting a field of flowers. They might then go outside to water the flowers in the garden. The yellow ones are their favorite, and they count the petals. 1-2-3-4-5! A butterfly lands on the flower. They want to be a butterfly. They find a blanket and pretend to flap their wings. The teacher sees them and teaches them about how butterflies pollinate flowers. Later the child creates a story about a flower that’s shy, meets a butterfly, and blooms. They use stuffies to tell their story to their friends.
Overview: Discovery and collaboration. Best for the child who likes to experiment.
How this child likes to play: Tests the blocks in different capacities, all rectangles or all triangles. Gets their friend involved in their experiment. They try to stack the peg dolls—and then giggle at their failed experiment.
Curriculum Style: Spring. A child asks one morning, “How are butterflies born?” The teacher responds, “Hmmmm, let’s find out!” They get the whole class involved. They look at butterflies with magnifying glasses. They find books on butterflies and learn about their life cycles. They get a butterfly kit and watch daily as the butterflies turn from caterpillars into butterflies. They make guesses on how long it will take. A child may ask “Why do they look different?” Another child may ask, “What’s that tail thing on some of their wings?” And the teacher responds “Hmmmm, let’s find out!“ The class will spend the entire unit exploring this way.
Curriculum-Led Traditional Early Childhood Education
Overview: Everyone is here and everyone is welcome. Best for the socially confident child.
How this child likes to play: Depending on the organization and quality of the space (and this can get blurry) there are blocks of varying shapes and colors and styles. There are lots of different kids playing lots of different ways here, and it is an exuberant, active environment that requires strong structure from the teaching staff.
Curriculum Style: Spring: The letter of the week is B for Butterfly. The kids read The Very Hungry Caterpillar in circle time. Some of the kids get a worksheet with a bunch of letters on it. They have to circle the B’s. The rest of the class gets to play whatever they like. They rotate. Then everyone colors butterflies with crayons. They have a snack. It’s time for Spanish class! They learn to say mariposa.They go outside to play on the playground. They balance on the play equipment and flap their arms and pretend to be a butterfly.
Please note that the above style is for curriculum-led traditional childcare. There are centers out there that are not curriculum-led at all. They often describe themselves as “play-based learning” and they do not have an organized process for teaching. Rather, they offer open play and a safe environment for kids during the day.
Le Village Cowork is a space built for babies, toddlers, and pre-learners. We are focused on social awareness and direct parent engagement. Our job is to watch. To promote. And to give your child a ton of opportunities to let us know how they like to learn. We take the liberal arts approach to early childhood education. And because we have high staff to child ratios, we can really meet your kiddo wherever they are at. Best of all, our parents play a pivotal role in their kids’ daily education. They can directly access the materials.
So where do we fall in this mix at Le Village? This same unit might go like this:
Overview: High parent involvement and small staff ratios so each child can thrive. Best for a curious child.
How this child likes to play: Children have access to blocks, small cars, and Little People. Across a partition we have more blocks and cars. The little ones are free to explore. Older children can ask to sit on the other side of the partition to make more complex designs. There is 1 staff member to every 4 children that is focused on helping teach toddlers to regulate their feelings. Not to crash their friend’s meticulously built tower. Not to steal their other friends' little person. They find the cars and build a bridge to drive their car across.
Curriculum Style: Spring. The shelves are filled with activities that explore Spring. There are worksheets that have the letters of the month—B for butterfly and F for Frog—but there are also tangible things to explore as well, tadpole to frog figurines and a basket of butterflies and moths with a magnifying glass to see what makes them alike and different. During art kids paint butterflies and everyone gets their own paint. Mess doesn’t matter. The teacher stands with the young ones to teach them to put the paint on the paper and not in their mouths or body. She shows the older ones how to fold the paper to make a funny pattern. After snack, the teacher plays a butterfly song and everyone dresses-up and dances. Then everyone goes outside to play in the yard. It’s a springy rainy day but that’s okay. The kids splash in the muddy puddles. At home, parents reinforce the same concepts by reading books, suggesting connection points, and playing.
Now that we’re introducing Le Village Learners, we’ve built upon our tried and true curriculum and enhanced it for pre-kindergarten prep.
Le Village Learners
Overview: Structured learning bookended by independent discovery. Best for a curious child.
How this child likes to play: By this time a child that has a love of building might have evolved beyond just using blocks. We are interested most in what drives a child to take action and there are many ways to explore. A child might sit in our Tinkering Station, and use magnatiles to build a tall tower. A different child might sit in our Pretend Play Station and use large cardboard “bricks” to build a little house that they can fit into while they play real estate agent. Another might draw the house and then recreate it with clay in our Art Station. Another child might use montessori materials to stack a tower of cylinders from smallest to largest, count each one, and meticulously return them to their box in a similar order.
Curriculum Style: Spring! We read a book about a fish that wants to be a frog. Afterwards we play a game where we find words in the room that say “Ffff” and write them on the board. Frog! Flower! Fish! Foil! Then we head to the table for a creative project where we create a colorful fish with paint and foil to look like scales. After lunch we head outside to the garden for gross motor play. The teacher has hidden 20 tiny colorful frogs with numbers on them. We line the frogs up in color order and then we graph the type of the color of the frogs with chalk. For independent play, we head inside for Station Time to explore our unit independently. There are 4 stations to explore: Montessori-style shelf play; Tinkering and Engineering; Dramatic Play; Open-Ended Art and Expression with tangible spring-themed items in each station. Learn more here!
Whatever reason your family chooses to join Le Village or Le Village Learners–or a different school!--we’re here for it.
I think it can get easy to feel overwhelmed or like there’s so much pressure to make the perfect choice for your little one. I know I certainly feel that way. I try to remind myself that I am still discovering Vivie, because she is still discovering herself. It is the most exciting, most beautiful part of being a parent to a young child. To get to watch them learn about themselves and to watch them experience the world and all the wonder it has to offer is such a gift.
No one, including your kid, expects perfection. There is no manual. There is no magic answer. And there is not a singular path to success. By remaining present, paying attention, listening and learning alongside them, we can ensure that no matter where we end up–that we will be there together. And as my mom likes to remind me–hey, who says you can’t change your mind anyway? Good luck out there Moms and Dads!