A Montessori school is different in some very fundamental ways.
Children learn by doing
Since children receive information through their five senses via active engagement, each classroom is meticulously designed for optimal learning and contains developmentally appropriate materials, aesthetically pleasing arrangements and a structure that supports independence and nurtures each child’s natural curiosity. Through the use of Dr. Montessori’s scientifically-designed materials, the child achieves first perceptual and then cognitive understanding of concepts, building their competence and confidence.
Children learn at their own pace
Montessorians recognize that learning is natural and innate, that children have a natural desire (intrinsic motivation) to know about their world. Our classrooms are designed to promote engaged exploration and discovery. Students joyfully learn at their own pace, making choices that are right for them, with the support and guidance of their teachers. Because students are curious and excited about what they’re learning, they build a strong foundation of concentration, inner discipline and joy of learning.
Children see the connections
Due to our fully integrated curriculum, students see how our various curriculum areas are connected, leading to greater understanding of how our complex world works. They learn about why we count not just what or how we count. The spiraling nature of the Montessori curriculum, with each experience building toward successively complex experiences, scaffolds learning for the child. As an active participant in one’s education, with the teacher as a guide, each child becomes the builder of meaningful knowledge helping one learn how to learn.
Our multi-age classrooms support collaborative learning, where children not only learn from the teachers but also learn from each other. The students hone their cooperation and negotiation skills when working through choices with work partners, recognizing the strength of working together toward a common goal.
Children are responsible
Autonomy and freedom are balanced with responsibility, preparing students to follow their passions, yet understand how their actions impact the larger community (including our earth community). Students develop empathy, cooperation and personal responsibility within the context of being an actively engaged member of the community.
Children are peaceful
From the youngest to the oldest child, our students learn to interact with others with respect, compassion and kindness. Awareness that every living thing has a meaningful role in the larger system leads children to define for themselves how they will contribute toward creating a more peaceful world.
Montessori education has a rich and long history. Founded by Italy’s first female physician, Dr. Maria Montessori devoted her life to understanding human development/universal needs, with a keen interest in how children learn. After years of scientific research, she founded a philosophy of education that is over 100 years old, with schools all over the world. Modern science is validating what Dr. Montessori knew intuitively, that children learn through their senses, that children have an innate natural desire to explore the world around them and that a properly prepared environment is critical for optimal learning and the development of independence and autonomy.
Dr. Montessori instructed us “to follow the child”, and we take this message very much to heart. Following in Dr. Montessori’s footsteps as authentically as we can, we know that a full-week model best serves individual children, particularly pre-school and Toddler age children, by providing greater consistency during a time when order and consistency are paramount to their development. Also, full-week attendance creates continuity and a stronger sense of community. With strong connections between and among children and teachers, children feel safe and secure in their school setting.
Usually parents seek out our school because they’ve heard good things about us from a friend or colleague. Unless they have prior personal experience with Montessori, they typically don’t know a lot of details about the qualities of a Montessori education or the child-centered education that awaits their child. After parents tour our school, they comment about our:
- high-quality academic programs individualized to each child’s developmental needs
- engaged and focused students who exhibit curiosity and a joy for learning
- peaceful, calm and safe classrooms where children cooperate and collaborate
- caring teachers who provide just enough help – intelligent help – so the child can learn to “do it all by myself”
- beautiful, 8-acre campus in a serene neighborhood setting where children daily explore and connect with the natural world
As we all know, the teachers make all the difference at a school. At our Montessori school, all of our lead guides (our teachers are called “guides”) have earned Montessori certifications for their particular level. For example, our Toddler lead teachers have attended a Montessori-certified training center and have successfully completed a rigorous training program specifically geared to the Toddler-aged child. The teachers join our school with an in-depth understanding of child development and Montessori philosophy, as well as mastery of a comprehensive, fully-integrated Montessori curriculum.
Our classrooms are ‘real world’. In the ‘real world’ people work together to solve problems, resolve differences, make contributions to the larger community, follow their passions and make choices and learn from their mistakes. Our students practice, nurture and fine-tune these same qualities in our school community. Our students are becoming confident collaborators, independent thinkers, knowledgeable about their strengths and weaknesses, intrinsically motivated, and responsible global citizens and embody these qualities when they graduate from our school.
Assessments are an integral part of a Montessori setting and are viewed as a means to support continual learning and development. In a Montessori school, assessment is an on-going continuous process that manifests in several ways:
Teacher Observations: Dr. Montessori knew that observation was key to being able to serve the child. Our teachers are meticulous in observing each child’s behavior and keeping detailed assessments of each student’s progress. The information gleaned from these observations guide the teacher in preparing and presenting lessons, knowing when to move to the next concept in the sequence or when a child needs additional reinforcement on a current concept. Depending on the age of the child, teachers guide the students in self-assessment through regularly scheduled teacher/student conferences, use of work portfolios and projects which culminate in presentations, dioramas
Parent/Teacher Conferences: Conferences are held 3 times a year, the first and last are preceded by comprehensive written progress reports. Conferences are an opportunity for mutual sharing between the parents and the guides, with the guides providing parents with detailed information about their child’s progress in all developmental areas.
Standardized Achievement Test: Students take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) in the 3rd and 6th grades. The assessments provide a snapshot of a child’s performance in language, reading and math at the time of testing. The test data, combined with the teacher’s comprehensive records and knowledge of the student, provide a full perspective about a child’s academic strengths, areas of challenge and areas of continued learning and development. These tests can also used for diagnostic purposes for individual students and to identify programmatic strengths and areas for development.
Students do very well when they transition out of our school. We remain in contact with our alumni to hear about their post-graduation experiences. Alumni believe they possessed the skills – confidence, independence, motivation – to adapt effectively. Since these former students developed self-awareness, were self-directed and took responsibility for their learning while at our school, they were well-prepared and adjusted quickly to their new school setting.
As with all transitions, there is an adjustment period and our alumni mention things like: They receive assignments from multiple teachers who don’t talk with one another or that they are required to sit in one place for stretches of time.
Our students chose a variety of different school settings after graduation. Many students attend the local public schools, including the county’s public charter schools (Arts Based, Downtown). Other students attend one of the area’s faith-based schools or independent schools. No matter the school, our graduates excel in their new environments, drawing on their solid academic foundation, intrinsic motivation, ability to adapt and self-confidence.
Dr. Montessori’s deep respect for children is reflected in the language she used to describe their exploration and discovery. She recognized that the students were in a process of self-construction, continuously building themselves from within. The various lessons, materials and way of being in community (aka “work”) support each child’s natural development.
When the number of applicants exceeds the number of spaces available, a child is added to our wait pool. Wait pools remain active throughout the school year as unexpected circumstances may arise at any time. When a place becomes available, all applicants for that particular program are given full and careful consideration by the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee considers several factors (e.g., age balance, gender balance, diversity, learning styles and needs) in determining placement.