Learning Together with Young Children
A New Way
childhood education career to creating what Peter
Senge (2000) calls a “learning organization,” a Head
Start agency that nurtures the thinking abilities of
parents, staff, and children. She believed any lock-
step, sequenced, “teacher-proof” curriculum would
undermine this goal. Teresa agonized over how in
good conscience she could justify spending close to a
hundred thousand precious taxpayer dollars to adopt
this kind of curriculum for her large agency with
multiple sites, many human resource needs, and a
series of budget cuts coming down the pike. Finally,
though anxious about potential misinterpretations
and findings by her upcoming federal review, Teresa
made the brave choice not to adopt any commercial
curriculum. Her decision was guided by her vision for
her program and the values she couldn’t compromise.

And, in the end, her federal review team agreed with
her approach.

You might have a different story. You could be
saddled with a curriculum model that has already
been adopted for your program, all or some of which
seems counter to the approach you would like to
take. Perhaps you are a family provider or a teacher
in a program with no clear philosophy or curriculum
approach guiding your work, independently sorting
out how to structure your time with children. Have
you been inspired by the stories of the in-depth cur-
riculum work from the schools of Reggio Emilia but
can’t imagine how to implement such an approach in
your setting? As a family child care provider or an in-
fant and toddler caregiver, you might be struggling to
understand how to keep your home-like focus while
still embracing this notion of curriculum and ensur-
ing that children are learning during their time with
you. You could be a preschool teacher diligently try-
ing to integrate the new content-driven curriculum
resources addressing standards for math, science,
language, and literacy and losing heart trying to juggle
it all. Whoever you are, we want to address your con-
cerns, inspire you, and strengthen your ability to live
fully and teach well.

Our aim with this text is to put a spotlight on cur-
riculum practices that are meaningful for children,
as well as their teachers. We offer you a curriculum
framework with a repertoire of possibilities to engage
deeper learning. Our goal is to demystify some big
theoretical concepts and offer a way to think about
the teaching and learning process that is emotionally
and intellectually engaging for teachers and children.

During a recent seminar, a provider asked us, “Are you
talking about a way of teaching or a way of living your
life?” We could only smile and answer, “Yes.”
With all the demands and ups and downs of work-
ing in the early childhood field, how does one ap-
proach the job with a lively mind and spirit? What will
fuel your passion and your determination not to be
confined by a narrow understanding of who children
are and what they deserve from us? How can you rise
above constraining requirements, limited time, and
limited resources to develop more significant experi-
ences for the children and yourself? Whether you are
an early childhood student, family child care provider,
center-based teacher, administrator, or teacher edu-
cator, this book attempts to help you find your own
answers to these questions and to strengthen your
ability to think through the complex issues of the
teaching and learning process.

We want you to see yourself as an inventor who
can demonstrate a better way to meet desired learn-
ing outcomes and in the process, nourish the heart
of your teaching and the vision of what early child-
hood education could be. Whatever your context,
you can use these ideas to deepen your intellectual
and emotional engagement in your work. You and the
children will find living and learning together a more
joyful experience. You will contribute to a revitalized
democracy where people have the desire, skills, and
opportunity to make contributions, think critically,
negotiate conflicts, and invent equitable solutions
that respect our planet and all its inhabitants. Learn-
ing Together with Young Children invites you to take
back the joy and meaning of the teaching and learn-
ing process. Consider it a call to action.