With so many alternative preschool options, trying to decide which works best for your family can be intimidating. For overwhelmed parents, Wonderschool is here to increase access to all different types of preschool programs. This company provides early child care providers with the support they need to set up alternative preschools in their homes. In doing so they hope to create more preschool options for parents than ever before.
How It Works
Wonderschool is a support system for educators who want to start their own in-home preschools. Each school is tailored to the needs of both students and teachers. “All of the providers are their own independent business owner,” says Mia Pritts, Head of Early Care and Education. “It’s not a franchise; we don’t own them.”
Wonderschool providers are mentored by early childcare experts who are familiar with the programs. “We look for people with really direct, concrete experience that can facilitate setting up a great physical space but also coach and observe on how to work and interact with children and families,” explains Pritts. By including professionals at all levels, Wonderschool insures that its procedures are informed by years of childcare expertise.
Tailor-made Lesson Plans
While Wonderschool provides curriculum, programs can take a variety of different forms based on the needs of each class. “The word ‘curriculum’ sort of conjures up all sorts of visualizations to people,” says Pritts, ”where a lot of times we picture a box of stuff with instructions showing up in the mail each month.” However, rather than a standardized curriculum, Wonderschool provides materials that fit each provider’s expertise.
By supporting different types of programs, Wonderschool hopes to increase the number of early childcare options available to parents.
“There are bilingual programs, immersion programs, nature-based, play-based, Reggio Emilia-inspired, Montessori-inspired,” says Pritts. “And the most common thing you’ll see is that all of those programs are heavily influenced by children playing and experiencing, because that’s how children learn.”
A New and Growing Approach
Research has shown that independent exploration can play a crucial role in pre-K development. A study conducted by MIT determined that direct instruction is beneficial, but when used alone it can fail to inspire curiosity in students the way exploration does. Wonderschool programs strive to use the power of independent exploration to foster curiosity in children. For example, rather than being taught how to count, a student might learn numbers by collecting pine cones in the forest. Rather than being told what is yellow, students might be asked to find yellow items within their playroom.
Wonderschool is a relatively new venture, and like any new startup hitting the scene, the company has its critics. Deborah Stipek, a professor at Stanford University, expressed concerns to Vice that Wonderschool’s private programs are “only accessible by people who have a fair amount of money.” However, Stipek also acknowledged the potential to increase the overall availability of alternative child care programs, telling the publication “[t]o the degree that it supports people in creating home care programs, it might facilitate that so you might get a few people going into it who wouldn’t have otherwise.”
In the past, location, busy schedules, and availability have limited parent’s options for alternative preschool. Thankfully, Wonderschool is working to support educators across the country in setting up their early childcare program of choice.
“There’s so much beautiful differentiation that can happen from program to program and provider to provider based on their own individual experience, passion, and expertise,” says Pritts. By increasing access to alternative options, Wonderschool is creating a world where it’s easy for parents to find the perfect preschool for their child.