Children’s House (Preschool)
Ages 2 ½ to 6
The Children’s House is designed for the mixed age group with children typically entering the program between the ages of 2 ½ and 3 ½ . The classroom is based upon Maria Montessori’s observations of children’s developmental needs at these ages and their natural tendencies toward self-motivation, relationship with others, mastery of their environment, and independence.
The carefully prepared environment, the lead guide, 2 assistant guides, and the attuned sensitivities of the child together produce a community of self-sufficient, curious, and joyful children who eagerly participate in their education. Your child has an amazing little mind and we’d LOVE to keep it that way.
Our classroom is divided into five main areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Cultural.
Developing new skills that will enable us to live full and productive lives is something that all of us encounter throughout the years. It’s not just a process for the very young.
Think about the last time you started a new job, took up a new hobby, moved to a new city, upgraded your computer’s software, or faced the need to re-learn old skills, as you recovered from an injury or illness. Life is familiar in the sense that you see others around you functioning, but you are not quite up to speed. You are not yet competent with the new set of circumstances, but you very much want to be!
Competence, independence, willingness to embrace the challenges of change are, quite possibly, the most important building blocks of the Montessori Method. These skills will enable children to thrive – and not just survive – in their lives. We can help our children learn to read, do math, and understand science, but how can we prepare them for the changes, life experiences, and new technology they will face throughout their lifetime, when we can’t even begin to imagine what the future will hold?
And so, in Montessori, we provide opportunities to help our children learn these skills at the most basic level: Practical Life.
Knots Happen. Shoelaces learn to be tied; however, knots do happen. Liquids get spilled during pouring. Spooning exercises might run amok at the beginning with beans or marbles strewn on the floor. But that’s OK in a Montessori classroom. It’s not failure; it’s an opportunity to practice and refine skills, while taking responsibility for restoring order and caring for the classroom environment.
Montessori provides a safe environment to experiment and learn without fear of embarrassment or reprimand. The ‘oops factor’ is an expected, and necessary, part of the process. As adults, we know how tempting it is to play it safe and only do what we know how to do well. It takes courage and self-confidence to risk the awkwardness of trying something new: whether it’s pouring water from a child-sized pitcher or learning to play tennis as an adult.
One outcome of Montessori education for children, who are now adults, is their ongoing willingness to adapt to change, while pursuing new ideas and new ventures. They understand that it is not always possible to be the best at everything when they first begin, but, when they are able to measure their efforts against their own sense of self, instead of looking for validation from others, there is a greater internal satisfaction and joy in their progress and accomplishment.
Exercises in perception, observation, fine discrimination, and classification play a major role in helping our students to develop their sense of logic and concentration. At the Early Childhood level these experiences include activities which assist the student in developing fine discriminations and categorizations using their visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory and olfactory senses. Through activities in this area, Amazing Little Minds prepare for science as well as geometry and algebra.
LANGUAGE & GRAMMAR
Because of our multi-age classroom design, our youngest students are constantly exposed to the older students in the class who are already reading. Every curriculum area of the Early Childhood and Elementary classrooms creates and reinforces in our young children a spontaneous interest in learning how to read and write. We begin to teach reading as soon as that interest is first expressed.
Literature is introduced by reading aloud to young students and discussing a wide range of classic stories and poetry. Later the students are introduced to the world’s classic children’s literature at increasing depth and sophistication.
Pre-Reading Young students learn to recognize the shape and phonetic sounds of the alphabet through the Sandpaper Letters, a tactile alphabet. The concept that written words are actual thoughts set down in print begins to form as young students work with the easily manipulated letters of a Moveable Alphabet. As students start to read they demonstrate their understanding of the parts of speech through games and activities.
Writing Students practice handwriting through a series of activities that require increasing levels of fine motor precision. Such exercises begin with very young children and extend over several years so that mastery is gradually, but thoroughly, attained. Once handwriting is fairly accomplished, the students begin to develop their composition skills. Creative and expository composition skills continue to develop and become more sophisticated as the students advance from level to level. Older students are typically asked to write on a daily basis, composing short stories, poems, plays, reports, and news articles. You will see young students participating in creating their own works with a guide.
Reading Children begin to sound out and write words using the Moveable Alphabet as they are first learning to read. The sequence of spelling, as with all language skills, begins much earlier than is traditional in this country, during a time when children are spontaneously interested in language. It continues throughout their education. The Moveable Alphabet is used for the early stages of phonetic word creation, the analysis of words, spelling, composing sentences, stories, and poetry. This work facilitates early reading and writing tasks. Library and reference books are used on a daily basis for both research and pleasure.
The study of grammar begins almost immediately after the child begins to read, during the sensitive period when he is spontaneously interested in language. It continues over several years until mastered. The idea is to introduce grammar to the Amazing Little Mind as she is first learning how to put thoughts down on paper, when the process is natural and interesting, rather than waiting until the student is much older and finds the work tedious.
Concepts of mathematics are introduced through the use of hands-on learning materials. These materials allow students to experience such concepts as linking quantities to numerical symbols (numbers), linear counting, zero, the decimal system, and the operations. The objective is for students to actually understand the mathematical concepts rather than just memorize facts and figures.
The use of sophisticated concrete materials helps students understand complex mathematical concepts introduced during the Elementary years. The use of concrete materials allows students to eventually move into abstract mathematical thinking, generally of their own accord. Some math concepts presented include: time; money operations; whole number operations; multiples and factors; fractions; decimal fractions and problem solving techniques.
A vital part of NEIM curriculum is the study of the Earth, plants, animals, and people. As our world becomes smaller through technological and economic connections our students are better prepared to meet the global challenges of the 21st century because of their deep interest in and understanding of scientific as well as cultural and religious ideas regarding the formation of the earth.
Countries are studied in many ways at all levels. Students engage in detailed studies of one nation at a time. Focus moves over the years from one continent to another, as the student’s interest leads them. All aspects of the nation are considered: geography, climate, biomes (biological homes), major rivers and lakes, cities, mountains, people, food, religions, and much more depending on the skill level of the students.
A number of learning festivals are held every year to focus on specific cultures and to celebrate life together: an example being Chinese New Year, when the entire school might study China, prepare Chinese food, learn Chinese dances, and participate in a special dragon dance parade. Anything that the students find interesting is used to help them become familiar with the countries of the world: flags, food, climate, traditional dress, houses, major cities, children’s toys and games, stamps, coins, traditional foods, art, music, and history. This interweaves through the entire curriculum.
During the three or four-year cycle, a child grows from being the youngest, to being in the middle, to being a community leader. Central to this process is the opportunity to experience, discover joy in learning and then to abstract and solidify knowledge through teaching, working, sharing and cooperating with others. At the completion of the primary years, the child is ready to move on to an elementary program with established confidence and leadership skills.