Hill & Dale's eclectic philosophy derives from our interaction with the theories and ideas of many theoreticians such as Dewey, Erickson, Bruner, Piaget, Blatz, Vygotsky, Adler, Maslow, Kohn, Brazelton and Greenspan and from the research of child development people that have expounded and interpreted these theories. We then interacted with real parents and children and developed our own philosophy.
We believe that the human being develops best in nurturing relationships; that there are stages of development; that emotions and feelings are what give this development and the living of life meaning and value; that the human being is an integrated whole that requires all of this; and that you cannot separate the parts but must relate to the whole person.
In a nurturing environment, children learn to communicate their feelings, reflect on their wishes, and develop their own relationships with peers and adults. These emotional interactions are the foundation of a child's intellectual abilities. In a structured and predictable environment, a child is empowered to learn that they have good ideas and that they can affect change. This child will believe that they belong and can contribute. The child is encouraged to make choices for itself and learns that there are consequences resulting from these choices. As a child makes choices and learns about consequences, they begin to develop the understanding that they are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings and actions. In this environment, the child sees itself as competent and worthy of happiness.
Trust & Security
Trust and security are the basis of any child developing mental health. At Hill & Dale, we believe that the first stages of developing a relationship with a child is to provide opportunities for the parents and child to develop trust in the educators at the Center. This relationship starts with Hill & Dale's My Family and Me program. This is a discussion group for parents and a playgroup for children. Families learn about early childhood development and explore Hill & Dale's philosophy of early learning and family development with our educators and with other parents.
When a child is enrolled in one of our learning center programs, an educator will be that child's special friend. By developing this trusting relationship, the child will feel secure as they learn the routines and structure at the Center. This reassures the child that their needs will be met and that they will be protected and cared for at the Center. During this transition time, one of the child's parents stays at the Center, encouraging their child to develop trust in their new special friend.
Team - Parent & Educator
It is important at this transition time that the parents see the special friend as a support for the parent as well as for the child. We want the parent to see us as a member of their team helping them be the parent they want to be. This transition time also provides the parent an opportunity to observe how we interact with their children and to develop a trusting relationship with the adults in the Center. During this transition time the special friend will also make a visit to the family's home. This visit is another way for the child, parent, and special friend to strengthen the connection between home and Hill & Dale.
Team - Educators (Team-Teaching)
Once the child has established a relationship of trust with their special friend, we have found that most children enjoy developing relationships with other educators. These extended relationships are similar to the relationships your child develops with other members of your family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc). To support the development of relationships with other educators at Hill & Dale we team-teach. We plan for the children to spend time with each of the educators in the team for different curriculum experiences, circles, and discussion groups. This helps the children see Hill & Dale as a community that is safe and supportive. It also helps children develop skills when dealing with adults who have different personalities, cultures, and languages.
Roles of Educators and Parents in the Life of the Child
The parents and the educators in a child's life need to provide different kinds of learning approaches in the home and in the learning center. The conformity approach is around routines. In the conformity approach, the child accepts a given goal and acquires a given procedure. The creative approach is around play, where the child sets their own goals and discovers their own procedures. The guidance approach is around relationships and feelings. In the guidance approach, the adult provides support for the child to deal with emotions and the situations that arise in relationships.
In the conformity approach, the child accepts a given goal and acquires a given procedure. The parent or educator's role is directive, giving the goals and procedures. Considering the children's needs, the adult is consistent, definite, factual, and concerned. The adult is directive in setting the routines (bedtime, mealtime) and in making expectations (self help skills, behavior at meal time, behavior in the super market). It is important that the goals set for the child and the procedures to achieve them are developmentally appropriate. In this approach, the child feels satisfaction, success, and pleasure when they have reached the goal. This approach leads to the following attitudes and feelings in the child: cooperative, responsible, self-esteem, dependence, trust, respect and warm feelings for adults.
In the creative approach, the child sets their own goals and discovers their own procedures. The parent and educator have a permissive attitude appreciating the child's efforts, show interest, are enthusiastic, watchful and protective. In this approach, the child feels satisfaction, success, and pleasure and develops imaginative, self directing, adventurous attitudes leading to independence, freedom of effort, and enthusiasm.
In the guidance approach, the child is supported with feeling and emotions that develop in relationships and when life presents struggles and challenges. The adult's role is to be friendly, suggesting, helping, informing, encouraging and allow children to deal with the consequences of mistaken behavior. In this approach, the child will develop purposeful, happy and secure.
The educators provide an environment rich with materials and opportunities to create and explore. The adult is permissive in the play environment, watchful, protective, showing interest and enthusiasm. This is when the child sets their own goals and discovers their own procedures. Play gives children an opportunity to practice and experiment with what they know as they imagine and create new and deeper understandings of how the world works. A child at play is like a scientist doing research. If children are in charge of their own play, they will be thinking, imagining, experimenting, exploring and learning through their own senses. At Hill & Dale, we structure our day so that the children have long periods to play and to make their own decisions regarding what and who to play with. We provide many hours of outside playtime; we believe it is vital for all of our nation's children to be comfortable outdoors and to develop a love of our earth.
In summary, our goal is that each child sees itself as a person who has valuable ideas and the ability to make decisions and take responsibility for their own feelings and actions. In addition, we strive to help parents gain the skills, knowledge and support that will improve their self-concept in their parenting role.