We have based everything we do on empirical evidence: we want to use what works. Our programs are based on years of research that confirms that:
The result is an eclectic approach to early learning, borrowing from the best model programs and making use of the most recent educational research. Our foundation is found in the time-tested principles established by Maria Montessori, enriched by modern materials designed to address the needs of people in the twenty-first century. Because the program is based on results, we are not distracted by the latest educational fads, but we are willing to try new approaches. As such, we--like our clients--are always learning and growing.
Created by Early Learning Institute, the HeadsUp!® Approach to early learning follows, and goes beyond, traditional developmental programs based on the developmental stage theories proposed by Jean Piaget. A Swiss scientist and learning theorist, Piaget described in numerous works how children change their manner of adapting to and interpreting their environment. Piaget outlined an elaborate sequence of capabilities, divided into four major stages, which he tied to narrow age ranges. Subsequent research indicates that children do not progress through stages in a step-by-step manner, that the age ranges at which children are capable of performing certain tasks is a function of their experience with the tasks and not their chronological age, and that children in Piaget's "sensorimotor" period (0-2) have much greater abilities than Piaget postulates.
By improving on programs that follow a strictly Piagetian framework, the HeadsUp!® Approach makes available an optimal level of materials and activities and fulfills children's requirements for novel and necessary experiences. This is especially true in the infant-toddler and twos programs, which use play and learning games to help lay the necessary foundation of all future learning.
The cornerstone of the Montessori approach is a respect for the child as an individual striving for independence. The role of the Montessori teacher is to observe each child carefully and to facilitate learning through the child's own experiences. The teacher provides order to a child's learning, not to dictate what should be learned, but to help structure the process by which everything and anything can be learned. Even today, more than 90 years after the creation of Maria Montessori's centers, her program remains the only organized, sequential, and individualized preschool curriculum that has been tested and proven to work.
The HeadsUp!® program recognizes the astonishing capabilities of very young children and offers games and activities that encourage the development of fundamental thinking skills. These skills are the source of all physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development. Research has shown repeatedly that the critical skills necessary for success in all facets of life do not develop by themselves, but are part of the cultural heritage of human beings and must be learned. Good learning skills prompt the development of even more skills. The HeadsUp!® program encourages children to become conscious of and take pride in their emerging competence. By becoming aware of the skills he or she has, a young child is better able to use them.
The preschool program is a modified Montessori curriculum incorporating art, music, and imaginative play into the traditional emphasis on practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, science, and cultural activities. At HeadsUp!®, the traditional Montessori program has been updated to incorporate activities that are an integral part of modern American society and preparatory for further learning. As implemented in a HeadsUp!® classroom, the Montessori approach is characterized by an open classroom filled with individual and small group work areas as well as a large central area for group circle activities. The open shelves contain an extensive set of unique Montessori learning materials organized into different areas (practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, and culture) and sequenced from most basic to more complex. In addition, there are areas for other activities including art and imaginative play as well as for traditional preschool play materials (e.g., wood blocks, vehicles, dolls).
The daily curriculum activities feature a balance of broad-based skills (physical, social, emotional, intellectual, creative), while building excellent technical skills in the fundamental academic areas of reading, writing, speaking, numeracy (number literacy), and logical thinking. It encourages the development of personal characteristics that facilitate learning and success in the real world: persistence, initiative, curiosity, independence, and creativity. It incorporate subjects that are either non-traditional or are neglected by other schools, such as music and movement, interpersonal communications, art, human values and cultures, and practical life skills, such as cooking, recycling, and first aid.
The formal assessment objectives used by teachers are divided into groups that encompass both Montessori and traditional school terminologies: general intellectual functioning and skills (“cognitive”), language arts, mathematics, science, social sciences, art, music, Spanish, and Chinese. In addition, teachers assess “individual traits and qualities,” “group and social skills,” and--with the older children--”school readiness skills.”
The HeadsUp!® Approach governs not only what we say but what we do. Proper implementation results from numerous exemplary practices:
Our centers take pride in hiring the highest caliber staff and providing them with excellent compensation, benefits, training, and working conditions. Directors and head teachers, without exception, possess bachelor’s degrees and many staff members have post-graduate degrees.
Our head teachers devote 25% of their working day to administrative responsibilities such as meeting with parents, training staff, and preparing classroom activities. This is an unprecedented amount of “prep time,” given that few teachers receive even two hours per week when they are not included as part of the classroom teaching ratio.
Head teachers are given annual memberships in the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the American Montessori Association, as well as a discretionary monthly expense allowance for their programs. We provide all staff with an extensive in-service training program, monthly room meetings and monthly whole-center meetings with paid dinners, and funds for outside training.
Our centers exceed the minimum staffing ratios required by state law. The infant-toddler program maintains a maximum 3.5:1 ratio, rather than the 4:1 requirement. The twos program and the preschool program maintain a maximum of 8:1 and 10:1 ratios, respectively, rather than the 12:1 state requirement.
Unlike most centers, we include only teaching staff present with children in the calculation of our ratios. The director, administrators, and off-duty teachers, including those at lunch or on their preparation time, are not included in actual or published ratios.
The full-day, year-round schedule, with only 10 scheduled holidays supports busy families who cannot be troubled to find emergency care when traditional programs are closed. The daily notes home provide information of some of the aspects of each day and provide a basis for commute and dinnertime conversations about what transpired at school.
Parents have no requirement for service hours at the school, though they have numerous opportunities to be involved through parent education programs, the parent advisory board, and other activities. Semi-annual conferences, scheduled at times convenient to parents, and daily office hours permit parents to follow their children’s progress and address issues that arise throughout the year.
Because the basic skill development activities are individualized, students are able to take vacations at any time throughout the year. This accommodates parents whose work schedules do not permit time off during traditional school vacation periods. In a positive vein, family vacations taken during these non-traditional times are able to benefit from lower costs and more availability.