Monica Taylor has just published her fourth book, but it’s not her usual academic work. Playhouse: Optimistic Stories of Real Hope for Families with Little Children tells the story of Playhouse, a progressive parent cooperative school in West Orange that was founded in 1951. Taylor, a Verona resident for 17 years, sent her children to Playhouse, as have many other Verona families over the years.
Playhouse is more than just a school for children, Taylor says. An urban educator by background and now a professor and deputy chair of Montclair State University’s Department of Secondary and Special Education, she sees Playhouse as a learning community for parents, where they can experience and embrace progressive models of education. Taylor believes that this type of parental education is more important than ever before because of parent concerns over standardized testing and the Common Core standards.
In the book, which is available through independent bookstores and major retailers in print and ebook format, Taylor tells the stories of Jeanne Ginsberg, the school’s 98-year-old founder, as well as those of the many families who have sent children to the school over the decades to explain the history of Playhouse and its principles.
“Parents and early childhood teachers need to educate themselves about the tenets of democratic and progressive schooling, and there is very little written for them,” Taylor says. “Early childhood teachers often graduate with certification but are unsure of how to implement this progressive pedagogy in their classrooms or how even to find schools where these types of practices are encouraged. They may have been prepared to teach in a progressive way but are unsure of how to apply these ideas in the classroom with 15 or more little ones in front of them.”