Children ages 3-6 years meet from 8:30-11:30 am (M-F)
“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.”
~ Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Dr. Maria Montessori characterized the three to six year old child as possessing an extraordinary capacity to absorb information from his or her environment – an ability she termed “the absorbent mind.” A young child can learn his or her native language without the formal instruction and conscious effort an adult must make to learn a foreign language. They are like little sponges, using all their senses to soak up information from their environment. The Montessori method of education allows children in this sensitive period to learn to read, write and calculate in the same natural way they learn to walk and talk.
A typical three-year Children’s House Program begins when a child is about three years old and develops readiness through increased interest in socialization, independence in dressing and toileting, a strengthening in focused attention, and growth in emotional maturity. The mixed-age classroom provides an opportunity for younger children to learn from older peers, while older children learn patience and nurturing as well as gain great satisfaction in teaching a younger child how to complete a “work.” Ideally, the child will then remain with the same teacher in the same classroom for the three-year program, which includes completion of the traditional “kindergarten” year. This allows the child to work at his or her own pace, learning from others along the way and to finally become the older child who passes on knowledge to the younger children, thereby reinforcing his or her own knowledge and boosting confidence.
Students enrolled in the Children’s House Program spend every weekday morning from 8:30-11:30am in a beautiful environment prepared especially for this developmental stage. The classroom is appealing to the eye, orderly and stimulating. The materials encourage hands-on exploration. The table, chairs, sinks and shelves are all sized for children so they can easily and comfortably complete their work.
Children in a Montessori classroom have great freedom; however, respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment forms the basis for all classroom rules. Children may have a snack when they are hungry, go the bathroom when they determine the need, work independently to complete a task or work quietly with another child. A child may choose to watch birds or other wildlife from the window, have some quiet time with a book or paint a picture. They may also choose to complete a work from any of the five main areas of the classroom:
- Practical Life: This area enhances development of task organization and cognitive order through care of self; care of the environment; exercises of grace and courtesy; and coordination of physical movement. Activities in this area may include preparing and serving a snack for the other children, arranging a vase of flowers, watering plants, scrubbing a table clean or polishing their shoes.
- Sensorial: This area enables children to order, classify and describe impressions in relation to length, width, temperature, mass, color or other characteristics. Activities in this area may include stacking cubes to make a tower, comparing wooden rods and arranging them according to length, or arranging cylinders of varying diameter.
- Language: Language arts include oral language development, written expression, reading, grammar, and children’s literature. Reading and writing skills are developed through the use of sandpaper letters, alphabet cut-outs and various presentations allowing children to link sounds and letter symbols effortlessly and to express their thoughts in writing.
- Mathematics: The Montessori math program makes use of manipulative materials that allow children to better internalize concepts of number, symbol, sequence and operations. Activities in this area may begin with many materials to introduce and solidify the concept of 1-10 and the meaning of zero.
- Social Sciences: This area of the classroom exposes the child to basics in geography, history, culture and life sciences. Activities in this area may include making a map of the continents, working with land and water models to create a lake or playing bells. Music, art and movement education are part of the integrated cultural curriculum.
The certified Montessori teacher in each classroom serves not as the center of attention, but as an observer and facilitator who assesses each child’s unique interests and progress. The teacher demonstrates a work, spends one-on-one time with a child to overcome a problem, or leads a small group activity. The teacher directs children to an activity appropriate for their development or redirects children whose actions may be disturbing the other children at work. A teaching assistant also helps maintain harmony in the room and ensures the classroom materials are prepared and correctly ordered each day. The child will also have the opportunity to interact with other teachers of music, creative movement, and enrichment classes such as foreign language.
Music education is integrated in to the daily classroom line time and works introducing the children to music through songs, instruments and activities. Before Winter Break and on the last day of school the children perform a special program for family and friends. Private music lessons may also be arranged at the school.
Rock Prairie Montessori also offers children a variety of opportunities to learn and grow outside the Children’s House classroom. Every day, Children’s House students are encouraged to play outside, weather permitting, or in the school’s gymnasium. Through such activities as running, skipping, throwing balls, raking, shoveling, tumbling and jumping, children develop large motor skills, enhance muscle development – and have fun! In addition to regular playtime, Children’s House students have a once-per-week Creative Movement (Physical Education) Class.