Douces Maternelles supports a model whereby the adult teacher does things “with,” or simply lets the child “do,” rather than doing everything in their place. In this way, the child learns by trial and error and by deduction, creating links in their mind. The child is the actor in the learning process, rather than passively receiving a lesson. As such, autonomy and responsibility are encouraged, so that the child does not exist in a system of dependance on the adult.
At the same time, the organization of the day follows the physiological rhythms of children (in terms of concentration abilities, sleep…) and encourages them to express themselves, imagine, and create through adapted pedagogical and artistic materials.
As the period from 0 to 6 years of age is the most fertile for the learning of languages, teaching at Douces Maternelles is conducted in both French and English thanks to anglophone and francophone teachers. Our students come from any and all nationalities.
Among the two adults in each class, one speaks exclusively in French and the other exclusively in English. The children associate the words that they hear with the work that they are doing, assimilating them without effort, as occurs in bilingual families.
Douces Maternelles is designed around smaller sizes (4 classes of 8 students that come together at various times during the day for groups of 16 children) as it is essential to preserve individuality within a group and allows the adults and teachers to adapt the program to the skills and needs of each child. The goal is to awaken curiosity, to have a pleasant experience, and to never impose on the child. As such, each child is offered aid that suits them, rather than simply having the same experience as all the others. What’s more, the adults invite the children to help each other in order to develop a spirit of cooperation and solidarity within the group. This is why there are also times when different ages come together, allowing the children to learn together and not simply through the adults and teachers. The youngest learn from the older children, and the older children feel responsible for the younger ones.
Inspired by these “new” pedagogies, Douces Maternelles puts the child at the center of discovery and learning. Thus, the themes chosen by the child with regards to their interests are always found in different workshops (language, singing, motor skills, reading, arts and others) so that the child can establish links between different possible activities. There are ample opportunities for manual workshops, as both learning and concentration often develop by manipulating objects. The idea is always to learn with pleasure and develop one’s innate potential.
Complementing cognitive workshops, motor skills are a fundamental need for young children. That’s why our motor workshop (running, yoga, games, dance…) takes place every day for students in their small groups of 8. Beyond simply expending energy, the workshop allows the child to understand their body in space and develop overall motor skills.
In order to better understand the world around them, the children have regular visits to parks, libraries, museums… The school also regularly brings in outside teachers from all disciplines: actors, storytellers, artists, musicians…
The well-being of the child is also related to the close relationship built between each member of the school and the parents. Parents are invited to come into class each morning to check up on things and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Additionally, individual meetings are regularly proposed for parents in order to keep them up to date on the year’s progress.
Finally, Douces Maternelles brings in a psychologist once per week to observe the children and the team. Afterwards, the psychologist discusses the experience with the team, highlighting eventual issues or collective points of interest, and aids in developing solutions. This outside viewpoint is indispensible for guaranteeing a high level of accompaniment and teaching for the children.