Preschool & Kindergarten at Children’s House
(3 years old - Kindergarten)
Children from three to six years old are so excited to learn. As toddlers they absorbed everything in their environment unconsciously, not knowing what was important and what was not. Now, they consciously absorb knowledge as they sort and categorize their experiences in the world.
The more experiences children have, the richer their vocabularies and more detailed their thinking. That is why our classrooms at West Side Montessori are enriched with colorful, exciting, and stimulating Montessori materials that offer children a learning environment in which they are able to reach their fullest potential. The prepared environment provides each child an opportunity to explore, discover, and follow personal interests.
Children's House teachers encourage sensory development, introduce math and language concepts, and help the children develop practical skills they need in everyday life. We enrich this curriculum with an assortment of science concepts and cultural explorations.
Practical Life Area
The Practical Life Area of the classroom is very enticing to young children. Dr. Montessori created what she called “Practical Life Exercises” to allow the child to do activities of daily life and therefore adapt and orient to society. The curriculum is designed to increase a child’s sense of order, concentration, and coordination through activities such as: pouring, sweeping, tweezing, and buttoning. Through these activities children learn to become more independent and feel proud that they can do things for themselves. Lessons on grace and courtesy are provided. Children learn to say “excuse me” and “thank you” and to make requests politely. Classroom maintenance becomes, by and large, the children’s responsibility as they put materials away and care for plants and animals.
The Sensorial Area contains numerous activities that assist children in refining their senses. Pre-school children are aware of their senses but need to bring order to them. Sensory experiences include color matching; color grading; discrimination of size (width, depth, height); matching items by sound, smell, pressure; organizing items by weight; and grading items by touch. This refinement helps children make finer distinctions and sharpens their perceptual skills. As a child works with the sensorial materials, he begins to classify the things around him, which leads to the child constructing his own knowledge of his environment. Through this acquired knowledge of classification, the child is given the first tools in organizing his intelligence, a step towards adaptation to his environment.
Mathematics exploration uses real objects to demonstrate abstract ideas. The Montessori math curriculum consists of incredible hands-on learning materials, detailed lessons, one-on-one instruction, life application, and deep levels of understanding processes, not memorizing products. Children begin learning math concepts with hands-on materials and gradually progress to abstract concepts. They learn to recognize, recite, and eventually write the numerals 1-9,999 and to associate those numerals with the appropriate quantities. For example a child will learn to add four-digit numbers together before adding 1+1. If a child can succeed with four-digit numbers, the concept of adding single digit numbers comes effortlessly. Another favorite is the bead cabinet which contains chains of beads in quantities from 1-10. The longest chain is 1,000 beads consisting of 100 bead bars with each containing 10 beads. Children, particularly 5-year- olds, love big numbers and the opportunity to count that high is thrilling. The bead cabinet work also introduces the concepts of skip counting, squaring, and cubing and is used more extensively in Lower Elementary (grades 1-3).
Language activities are audible and visible everywhere in the Children's House classroom. Detailed vocabulary is used to stretch young minds. The children don’t know that the concept of a hexagon is any more difficult than the concept of a square, or that geometric solids such as a cube or rectangular prism are not generic terms most 4-year-olds learn. Children build their language and literacy concepts through music, memorization, patterns, and repetition. They learn vocabularies of animal and plant names and how words function in our speech. Your child will analyze sounds in our language by matching sounds to sand paper letters, and eventually using the letters to compose words and sentences using movable alphabets. Often children form words phonetically before they can read them independently. A world language, Spanish or French, is also introduced to the Children's House children beginning at age 3. Hearing and repeating new sounds and words excite the pre-school child’s absorbent mind and expand learning.
Working with the moveable alphabet is a big part of the language curriculum. The moveable alphabet is a large wooden box with compartments for each letter of the alphabet. This Montessori material gives the children the greatest sensorial experience possible; they hear the sounds, feel the shape of the letter in their hands, and manipulate each sound as they construct the words. The moveable alphabet gives the child’s mind the ability to express itself in written words, without the need to be able to manipulate a pencil. Beginning lessons include learning to carry the work to an appropriate work space and manipulate the letters. Later lessons include building words, phrases, sentences, and even stories!
Cultural Experiences include Art, Music, Geography, Earth Science, History, Botany, and Zoology. These areas of study help children orient themselves to the world around them. Art, music, movement, and a variety of cultural activities are an integral part of this joyful learning experience. Parents often share their family traditions, food, costumes, and religious festivals in a spirit of friendship. Individual classes may study a topic in depth as the children’s interests dictate, such as developing a rainforest or Native American village.
Every day your child will discover new creative expressions in a classroom of mixed-age children, learning from and teaching each other. The role of the teacher is simply to prepare an environment that will accommodate the needs of all children and to link each child to it - in order for the child to build a strong foundation for learning. The Montessori prepared environment changes daily as the teachers observe the needs of the children and work hard to stay one step ahead of them!