One question that will always be asked by parents when they want to enroll their child to a school is “what curriculum does this school use”. Parents have a big concern about the curriculum. They think that if a school has a good curriculum it means that the school is a good school; good curriculum equals to good school. In my country, Indonesia, many parents want to put their children in a school which use an international curriculum or other ‘fancy’ curriculum that come from abroad. Despite of the issue that people in my country has less appreciation to their own product, it shows that parents simply do not have enough information about what curriculum is. On the contrary, it also shows their understanding of how important curriculum is so that they always consider curriculum as one of the main factor that they look when they are choosing school for their children.
A lot of concern is being put into the curriculum making. Along with parents, educators agree that curriculum is important and has a big impact to children development. Curriculum needs to be planned carefully because it will lead to where the children will be in the future. It cannot only be ‘picked’ randomly from certain books or other sources. If the curriculum was inappropriately designed, the next process of learning will also be inappropriate and children will become the one who experience the effect of inappropriate learning. For example, there is an elementary school in my country, Indonesia who claimed itself as a bilingual school and used Singapore curriculum as the basic. Children there struggled a lot since they were not Singaporean and they were not being prepared to use English as their second language because English is their foreign language. Yet, they need to learn Math, Science, and Social Studies in both English and Bahasa Indonesia, their native language. The wrong choice of curriculum and the misinterpretation about it made the children become the victim. Definitely it is something that parents and educators do not want to be happened.
Curriculum itself can be defined in various ways. Different educators have their different definition. It has no exact definition as in Math that one plus one is two. In term of Early Childhood Education, Gordon and Browne explain curriculum as “the planned and the unplanned and includes all of the activities as well as the subject matter, the interactions with people, and all of the experiences of the child’s day” (Gordon & Browne, 331). My version of ECE curriculum is a plan of how children at school will learn and develop. Just like a building need to have a master-plan or blueprint before it is being build, a school need to have curriculum before it is being operated. Usually, each school will have their own curriculum, the one that make each school unique. The curriculum will be made based on school’s approach; for example a school that use Montessori approach will have curriculum which focus more in the exploring senses and using more educational toys such as beads, shape sorter, etc. Thus, the curriculum has to be developmentally appropriate and be in accordance with district, county, and states standards. Schools also need to have clear goals and objective; “goals and objectives state what children can be expected to achieve and provide a way of assessing each child’s growth during the year…assessing the effectiveness of the curriculum itself” (Dodge and Colker, 11).
To develop an ECE curriculum, schools need to look back at their philosophy of ECE. Childhood means playing because that is what children naturally do in their childhood and adults should not take out play from them. Thus, an ECE curriculum should reflects the childhood and makes play as a big and main part of it. In this context, play of course should be the meaningful play; a play activity that is being tailored to enhance children’s learning and made them develop, physically, mentally, and socially. In addition, the play activity could be a planned activity and it also could be a spontaneous one.
Another thing that needs to be notice about curriculum is that it needs to be flexible. It is important to have a plan about the learning but it is more important to be flexible especially with children condition than to stick with the plan and sacrifice the children. For example, one teacher makes a plan about the learning which is about color and designs various activities for children to do. One of the activities is throwing balls to baskets which have same colors. When it comes the time to do the activity, children do not have interest in playing with the ball. Instead, most of them choose to play with some toy cars. Of course, the teacher cannot force children to play with the ball and insist on ‘teaching’ them color using the balls. Instead, he/she can modify the activity and use the toy car as a tool to make children learn color. He/she can tailor the toy car game and show how to drive the car and park it to an object or a place which has same color. The children still learning color, the learning objective could be accomplished and at the same time they also have fun; did not being ‘forced’ to play something that they do not have interest in.
Starts from the ECE philosophy which is using play as powerful vehicles to children learning and has consideration of flexibility to the plan, then I can develop the ECE curriculum of mine. Using the Reggio Emilio Approach, the curriculum focus is in two main aspects which are creativity and self-confidence. Children will experience various play activities that can nurture their activity and enhance their self-confidence as well. Knowing the importance of these children to enjoy their childhood time as well as spending their time with their family, the school curriculum will be design as a curriculum for half-day school. By that, children will have enough time to gather with their family at home. Each month there will be different theme and children will be guided to produce something through their playing and learning activities. The themes will be planned by all teachers early before the beginning of the school year. Then each master teacher can discuss in a small group with their partners to make a weekly lesson plans for each themes. The theme should be focus in children. Therefore, it should be started by something that is familiar and relatedly close to them such as “Me”, “My Family” or other. Then it can be broaden into something they meet every day, “Animals”, “Colors”, “Shape”, “Transportation” and many others. The activities in the lesson plans should be developmentally appropriate for children and included all skills: cognitive, physical, and social. Started from the theme “Me”, teachers could make four weekly lesson plans which focus in four sub-themes: “My Body”, “My Boy and Girl”, “My Face”, and “I Love Me”. All those four sub-themes will prepare children to create one master piece which is making a “Portrait of Me” that will be displayed in an “Exhibition Zone” which the school already had as a part of its commitment in enhancing children self-confidence. By displaying their project, it also “convey to the [them] that their efforts, intentions, and ideas are taken seriously” (Yu G, 127).
The main objective of all activities in that month is to build awareness of self, knows that every child is different but it makes them unique and they should be proud of it. Teachers should always remember of the main objective every time they create the lesson plans and make sure that the activity they create including meaningful play which lead to creativity and self-confidence. One example of the activity in “My Body” sub-theme could be playing with paint. Children can do finger paints or hand paints, then then make foot prints. They also can do the other painting activity such as “Marble Painting” (Arce, 162). All of these things can stimulate their fine motor skill using the paints and at the same time build their awareness of part of their body.
Furthermore, there are a lot of lesson plans that need to be developed for each themes and sub-themes. During the learning process, teachers should always monitor and observe children progress then record it. “It is important that they do not just trust their memories….to ensure that they are planning age-appropriate learning activities” (Petersen, 11). After that they need to combine their observation of children progress with the evaluation of the learning process itself to make some adjustment to their next lesson plans. Thus, it will make children learning optimally conducted and they will progress developmentally.
At the end of the school year, school members need to make an overall evaluation about the curriculum. Parents’ suggestions or comments, teachers’ records, and any other input could be used. Some part of the curriculum might need to be changed or adjusted or it might need to be eliminated. The important thing and the main goal is that the curriculum will meet children needs. Thus, the curriculum will be functioned for children and not children for curriculum.