by Lauren Elliott, M.Ed
Director and Lead Teacher of Buddha Blossoms
Buddha Blossoms Early Learning Program provides play-based learning opportunities for young children outside a traditional school setting. Our classroom environment and our engagement with children is ever evolving, responsive to children’s individual and collective interests, skills, and needs. We know each child is unique, as are their families, and one-size-fits-all curriculum will never work for all children.
Our toddler program is primarily focused on supporting children’s social, emotional, and language development. Our program for 3-5-year olds also focuses on early literacy development.
Here are our guiding principles.
View of the child:
All Children are intelligent and capable, and we know that “there is no achievement gap at birth” (Delpit, 2012). While we are rigorous in identifying individual needs, and helping families find additional support where needed, we do not rely on labels to tell us about what a child can and cannot do. Our view of the child is open. We know from our experience with children that many things are possible beyond what we can currently imagine.
Children use many languages. While children’s words, ideas, and stories are central to our curriculum, we know they communicate about their questions, concerns, and interests in many ways beyond words. They must have many opportunities for creative action of all kinds, such as movement, storytelling, dramatic and constructive play, singing, and art. Adults learn about the child through these many languages of the child.
Children learn through experiences, primarily social experiences, that have some inherent meaning to them. We believe there is nothing more meaningful to the young child than their own story and children must see their image reflected in the classroom curriculum in many ways.
View of the teacher:
Teachers are researchers and anthropologists studying the child. They know their field well, understanding how children develop and they have many strategies for supporting their learning.
Teachers are learners. There is much the teacher doesn’t know, even after decades of teaching. Each child brings a never before encountered set of strengths, challenges, interests, joys and sorrows. A teacher must learn from the child. A teacher must also firmly commit herself to an ongoing look at their own bias, especially when the teacher comes from a dominate linguistic, racial, or cultural background. Conflict that encourages growth is welcomed by the teacher who is also a learner.
Teachers are connection-makers and community-builders. Teachers help children draw connections between their thinking, their peer’s thinking, and the world around them. They also support connections between the classroom life, the children’s families, and the larger community.
Teachers are storytellers. Just like children, teachers have stories to tell and they must make them visible in classroom life. Teachers do not only ask children to share their inner worlds, fears, questions, and imaginations; teachers do this too through oral and written stories they share with the class.
View of the family and a child’s home culture and language:
Children’s home life is not only welcomed in the classroom, but made central to their school experience. Families are regularly invited in to class and a child finds themselves reflected in the curriculum in many ways, not only in diverse books or dolls.
View of the curriculum:
The curriculum’s roots are the child’s story, her family, his language, their interests, their fears. Out of these, the curriculum grows.
We know that children need mirrors of themselves in the classroom and we know they are most engaged and curious when the curriculum is following their interests. Play and student choice are central tenants. The curriculum is designed to support all learners from the beginning by creating learning environments that accommodate individual learning differences. This means there is much variety in how each child can progress in their learning and demonstrate what they know.
For our older 3s, 4, and 5 year olds, narrative and storytelling are a central part of the curriculum. Narratives don’t only emerge through storytelling and story writing, but through all forms of creative expression (Gallas, 1994). Children who may struggle to use oral or written narratives as a way to express their thinking or learning, such as English language learners or children with language delays, can find ways to express their learning through other mediums if creative materials, ample time, and support is provided. Even those that do use oral and written language fluidly may find it easier to create through dance, painting, building, drawing, singing, and so on.
The classroom is constantly reinvented, shaping itself to the children. Most schools require the children to shape themselves to the classroom, and those who are unable to meet the demands of pencil and paper work and desk work, are considered unready to learn and left behind. But our curriculum relies on what children already know and care about it. The teacher builds up from there to ensure children are always challenging themselves and progressing in their learning.
*Lauren Elliott’s teaching philosophies are rooted in Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, Vivian Paley’s storytelling method and pedagogy of play, and the culturally relevant pedagogy of Lisa Delpit, Gloria Ladsing Billings, and many others.