Completion of the Montessori preschool and kindergarten program does not mark the end of the Montessori experience. In fact, it is a new beginning in the child’s learning potential. By age six, the child is ready to build upon the concrete learning pathways of preschool and move to the more abstract concepts in the elementary program. These new concepts include thinking about the big ideas of the universe. Student trace the timeline of all living things through geology, physical science and biology demonstrations, and experiments. These lessons provide a framework for our curriculum and carry a common theme that all living things have a cosmic role in life and are all interconnected. As humans, our job is to strive for our potential, carrying out our role, just as the sun does its best job to warm and protect us, or a plant does its job to provide oxygen and food. Stories, activities, and lessons continue to provide the important theme to the students. In time, they discover their potential and cosmic place. Helping children to see their importance on earth is a central theme. Once a child realizes his or her significance, everything else we do in class becomes easy and rewarding.
Of course, the program also offers the same benefits of the preschool program: individualized education, cooperative group work, choice of activity, and independence. The children also learn how to manage their time and resources, as they are held accountable for completion of daily, weekly, and long-term assignments. They quickly learn that privileges are earned and consequences experienced when time is not utilized efficiently. Because we cannot predict what our ever changing world will require our children to know 15 or 20 years from now, our goal is not so much what the children learn, but rather what to do and where to go for new knowledge. Study skills, presentation techniques, computers, and reference books are all part of the program.
Our broad curriculum absolutely exceeds state standards with areas of study including:
- Language: Reading, Spelling, Grammar, Word Study, Creative Writing, Literature, Handwriting, Poetry
- Mathematics: Counting, Place Value, the Four Operations, Decimal System, Fractions, Time, Money, Geometry, Graphing, Logic, Problem Solving, Probability, Squaring, Cubing, and Alegebra
- Science: Botany, Zoology, Ecology, Geology, Nutrition, Human Body Study, Chemistry, Physical Science
- History and Social Studies: Physical and Political Geography, Economics, Timeline of Life, Early Humans, Ancient Civilizations, Native Americans, and American History
- Advanced Practical Life Skills: Cooking, sewing, weaving, plant and pet care. We maintain a well-kept classroom thanks to the weekly student jobs such as table washing, dusting, sweeping, recycling, and taking out the trash.
- Enrichment: Art, Drama, Music, Music History and Appreciation, Computer, Physical Education, and Foreign Language. Optional classes include: Dance, Sports, Gymnastics, Science, and Spanish.
Assessment: The Montessori curriculum is carefully sequenced. Teachers record all student progress through careful observation. Each child’s progress is assessed individually and he or she is not compared to performance of other children. Therefore, traditional letter grades are not necessary. Children are simply presented the next lesson as they master the one before. This creates a noncompetitive environment of safety and acceptance. Children thrive when they do not feel rushed and stressed. Teachers have conferences with parents twice a year, in which they discuss the child’s progress and areas of growth. Students are actively involved in preparing for these meetings. Teachers are available year round for additional meetings.
Homework: Children are especially focused and productive during our three-hour stretch of work time each morning. Teachers stay in close touch with their studies and carefully look over all work that is accomplished each day. For this reason, we do not find reason to send home repetitive work. Therefore, homework for our students is very light. Daily reading is expected. Weekly spelling and practice with new math facts are practiced. We also invite active participation in home life – shopping, making dinner, a share of family work, etc. We support the participation in team sports and many of our students play musical instruments. Occasionally, a student may need some reinforcement of a skill, at which point the parents and teachers discuss a home plan. As the students transition into upper elementary grades, a light amount of homework is expected to help the children develop the skill of accountability. This homework includes practical daily living skills, journaling, and high level thinking games and logic.
Nutrition: Our schools feel strongly about the whole child – body, mind, and spirit. Our wonderful materials address the mind, and our community building addresses the spirit. But neither will be at their best if we do not take care of the body. Therefore, we have a low-sugar policy and encourage healthy lunches and snacks free of sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.
Long Term Benefits
Many people ask how well a child will later transition to a traditional school. Because our teachers blend the Montessori math, language, science, and geography materials with the use of some traditional materials, the children are well equipped at any age to transition out of Montessori. In fact, they leave our school with skills that will aid them the rest of their lives: flexibility, problem solving, questioning strategies, research experience, and high academic skills. We expose the children to a vast variety of learning materials and also emphasize life-long learning, respect, and cooperation. A typical Montessori elementary child is not only intellectually very competent, but also possesses leadership, collaboration skills, and a love of learning that far surpasses most others.