Our Primary (Preschool) Program: For the Absorbent Mind
You may have noticed that your child appears to pick up facts and knowledge without even trying—to simply absorb it like a sponge. In Montessori education, we refer to this period of intense mental activity from birth to age 6 as “The Absorbent Mind”. This unique capacity is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon crucial to the foundation of your child’s developing mind and personality.
Recent brain research identifies the period from 2.5 to 4 as the time the brain is capable of learning more than any other time in one’s life, including high school and college! Children in this period learn best by exploring, learning with their hands, physically moving objects, and repeating actions to obtain mastery of skills.
These natural learning tendencies are what allow your child to grow from dependency to independence, not only learning how to walk, feed himself, talk, but to read, understand mathematical concepts, and participate responsibly in a social setting.
Montessori classrooms for children ages 3 to 6--known as Primary or Children’s House classrooms--are scientifically designed to promote character development in an atmosphere that nourishes the human spirit and allows the unfettered natural formation of the intellect. Children enjoy the learning experience, which spurs them on and sets the stage for life-long learning.
The Classroom as a Peaceful Community
When you first walk into the Primary classrooms, you may be surprised at the peaceful atmosphere. The classroom and its atmosphere is specifically designed to allow your child to reach his or her fullest potential. Parents often hear their children say “let me do it myself”-- in the Montessori classroom, this urge is satisfied through freedom to choose activities that interest and inspire, and being allowed to work for as long as desired, without the intrusion of time limits. Children learn how to resolve conflicts appropriately, to use manners, and to treat friends with kindness, caring, respect, and helpfulness through lessons of “Grace and Courtesy”. The seeds of social skills are planted and begin to grow.
A Child-Centered Environment
Many of us associate school with a teacher standing in front of the class giving a lecture to everyone, or writing on a blackboard. So it is often a surprise for parents entering a Montessori classroom that the teacher might not be obvious at first glance. Often, the teacher is sitting on the floor, giving a lesson, one-on-one. Or she may be observing, preparing to provide the very thing each child needs at the right moment. This is what she has been trained for--the scientific observation of children in order to prepare the environment, so the children may flourish at their own pace.
Within the mixed-age classroom, your child learns at his or her own rate, receiving inspiration from older students by observing their work, and from receiving gentle guidance in social situations. As each child moves through their three years in the classroom, they gain leadership skills and responsibility skills, which reflect in the development of their self-confidence. The non-competitive atmosphere allows children to work both independently and collaboratively.
It’s sometimes difficult for parents to know when the best time is for their children to try new things for themselves. The Montessori classroom is scientifically designed to make it possible for your child to safely receive lessons of self-care and care of the living environment, under the careful guidance of our credentialed teachers. Successfully practicing these important, practical life skills allows your child to enjoy a sense of accomplishment and helps to further develop self-confidence.
Curriculum Designed for Each Child
Your child will receive the benefit of the Montessori practice of “following the child”. We know that when your child is interested in something is when learning will most easily and readily be achieved. Our Montessori teachers learn about your child’s distinct potential through careful observation. She then prepares the environment with specific activities which are simultaneously aligned with your child’s interests and just the right amount of difficulty to keep them challenging, but not discouraging. Lessons are given individually, at the moment that is right for each child. Once your child has received a lesson, he or she is free to independently return to it, which is when the real learning begins. Repetition and discovery, and finally mastery, helps to develop concentration and focus.
Unique, Scientifically Designed, Hands-on Learning Materials
Children learn by doing. One of the hallmarks of Montessori education is the hands-on method of learning. Your child will explore the world through his senses, discovering new concepts and developing skills by using a wide variety of inviting, colorful, scientifically designed manipulative materials. The human mind at this age (3-6) has enormous capacity to absorb information through concrete experiences. These learning materials introduce abstract concepts through all five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. There are materials which cultivate your child’s interests and skills in building vocabulary, in writing, and in reading. There are materials which expand on her fascination with numbers, introducing the concepts of place value and the four mathematical operations. Still other materials nurture creative self-expression, ability to care for one’s self, or scientific thinking. Materials for geometry, geography, physical science, botany, zoology, the study of different cultures, foreign language, art, and music are also integrated into the Primary classroom.
The Three Year Curriculum
In the Montessori environment, your child is constructing himself. This takes time. The period from 3 to 6 is one of profound change--children grow from “playing beside” to more collaborative and complex social interactions; language development blossoms into beginning writing and reading skills; the dawn of mathematical thinking arrives; metamorphoses of physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development take place. For that reason, children remain in the same classroom community for all three years of the curriculum.
During the three years your child is in the Primary classroom (which includes “kindergarten”), the Montessori teacher will know and understand all aspects of your child’s learning style, personality, wants, needs, growth, and potential. The three-year continuity strengthens the sense of community for the children, and sustains a network of support among the parents and teachers.
Your child will grow from being one of the younger children, learning from the older ones, to eventually donning the mantle of responsibility and leadership in the third year (traditionally known as “kindergarten”). The third year is the culmination of all the work that has gone before, and deeper understanding emerges. You will notice an amazing transformation in your child in that third year--all the experiences, the lessons, the practicing--seem to come together and your child will seem to blossom before your eyes. Your child enjoys learning, the foundation for many abstract concepts has been well-established; it is time for the Lower Elementary program for 6 to 9 year olds.
Learn more about the importance of the third year in a Primary classroom (the Kindergarten year) by watching the video “Montessori Kindergarten: Empowering & Essential“.
- Language Arts
- Cultural Studies
Novel hands-on Montessori materials fill the 3-6 classrooms, which draw the child as young as three-years-old to investigate mathematical ideas. Through sensorial exploration, children identify geometric shapes, symmetry, patterns and other concepts which expand mathematical comprehension. Sandpaper Numerals, Teen Boards, Ten Boards, and the Hundred Board assist understanding of sequencing and numeral recognition. Montessori Golden Beads introduce the decimal system and place values. With manipulative materials, children are exposed to the four operations. Children create number sentences from operational concepts, and investigate place value by performing operations with the Gold Beads and there materials. Multiplication is presented through linear counting of the bead chains and their representation of the squaring and cubing of one through ten. Concepts of measurement explored include time, money, comparison, estimation, and fractions. Basic problem-solving skills are introduced through real life situations such as cooking and sharing.
The period from birth to age six is the sensitive period for the development of language and communication, which is marked by expanding auditory discrimination, increasing vocabulary, comprehension, critical thinking, and fluency. In the 3-6 classroom, language arts start with spoken language with lessons to practice and simulate social situations, enrichment of vocabulary, development and refinement of conversation skills. The simultaneous development of writing and reading, as well as appreciation of literature, is engaged through stories, songs, poems, creative movement, drawing, painting, writing and illustrating, and story dictation. Sound games and Montessori language materials develop phonological awareness. Exposure to the sounds of foreign language lays the groundwork for further foreign language acquisition.
Preparation of the hand for writing occurs by use of Montessori materials capitalizing on the three-finger grip across the curriculum. Cursive handwriting is introduced, as it aligns with the natural movement of the child's hand at this age. Print recognition develops as children are exposed to the printed word, and children transition naturally to manuscript.
Children’s developing interest in reading and writing leads to more focused instructions—letter recognition, consonant and vowel sounds, association of sounds and letters, sound blending and segmenting, basic punctuation, and handwriting practice.
In the 3-6 classroom, students compare, classify, hypothesize, experiment, analyze and draw conclusions as they study living and nonliving things. Children begin to understand the interrelatedness of people, places, and time as they create personal timelines and discuss personal and group events from the pat, present, and future. Puzzle maps, international artifacts, and visitors introduce children to world cultures. Social customs are reinforced through lessons in Grace and Courtesy.
3-6 Cultural Studies include: Life Sciences and Life Cycles; Living/Nonliving; Plants/Animals; Vertebrates/Invertebrates; Botany; Magnetism; States of Matter; Buoyancy; Volume; Weather; Time (calendar, seasons, intro to clock); Intro to past/present/future; Personal Timelines; Physical Geography (continents, countries, states, land and water formations); Cultural Geography