Historical Foundations of Early Childhood Education 
The Humanistic Tradition

Early Education as we know it is typically thought of as having originated in Europe in the early 1800's. That said, many of the values and practices we incorporate into modern-day programs have deep roots in ancient philosophy, such as that of Plato and Aristotle, religious leaders, and a generational tradition that has passed down through families over the centuries.

Most of today's educational programs are based on a humanistic approach: 'a system of thought that reflects concern for the values, potential, well-being, and interests of human beings." (Feeny, Moravcik, Nolte, Christensen 2010) This all-encompassing philosophy was slow to take, and its original creators were considered by many to be radical, unorthodox, and conspicuous. Our ideas about children have drastically changed in a relatively short amount of time. Children were once considered 'little adults', and that childhood was a waiting room of sorts, a necessary stage a human was required to work through before reaching adulthood. Physical punishment, repetitive, rote learning, and harsh treatment of children were very common, and education was limited only to the children of the very wealthy. Now, however, we commonly believe and practice that childhood is a worthy, important stage that deserves as much respect as adulthood, and should not be rushed through, and that every child deserves opportunities for learning.