Our Elementary Program
Our elementary program includes the first through the sixth grades and spans the ages of six to twelve. The program focuses on respecting the continuing social and intellectual development of the child and engaging him or her with the continued use of multisensory materials. Maria Montessori summed up the elementary classroom when she wrote, “The elementary child has reached a new level of development. Before he was interested in things: working with his hands, learning their names. Now he is interested mainly in the how and why…the problem of cause and effect. “
Whereas in a Montessori preschool children work individually and focus on their own rich, inner development, the Montessori elementary student is considered a “child of the world.” These children are newly interested in developing and sustaining personal relationships with others and are beginning to look outside of themselves to find their place in the world. They are keenly interested in the world around them. This leads naturally to more group work, more collaborative projects and more emphasis on community involvement.
These ideas are most apparent in the following four aspects of our Montessori program:
Cosmic Education and Peace
As far as we know, Montessori is the only educational philosophy that actually provides specific curriculum for teaching peace. We believe, as Maria Montessori once said, “Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education. “Our peace curriculum emphasizes respect and responsibility for ourselves, our fellow community members and our environment. We have an organic garden that we plan and tend. We have daily group meetings that allow us to discuss community issues as they arise as well as plan how to use the (considerable!) energy of the students to better our classroom community. The teachers model positive conflict resolution and facilitate when conflicts arise between students. Montessori lessons emphasize the interconnectedness of all things and invite the students to express gratitude for the people of the past who have helped our world, and hope for the work future generations will do. Daily lessons on conflict resolution and peacemaking emphasize empathy, active listening and compromise.
The Five Great Lessons
The Five Great Lessons are at the heart of the elementary curriculum and are five stories, told over several months, which start with the broad, sweeping topic of the universe and become more specific in focus with each story told. The First Great Lesson, “The Beginning of the Universe and Earth,” tells the story of how the universe came to be; the Second Great Lesson, “The Coming of Life,” investigates how life came to earth (beginning with bacteria and continuing through mammals, but not yet including human life); the Third Great Lesson is called “The Coming of Humans” and tells how humans evolved and brought their gifts to the world. The Fourth Great Lesson is “The Coming of Language” and the Fifth Great Lesson is “The Coming of Numbers.” The Five Great Lessons are also directly linked to our peace curriculum. They begin, for example, with study on the grandest scale—the entire universe—and continue as the focus becomes more and more specific, ending with humans and their history. The objective of these lessons is to nurture gratitude within the children—gratitude for their environment, forth people around them, for the people who came before us and for the opportunities we all will have to make the world a better, more peaceful place. We believe that gratitude is the basis for finding peace—both within ourselves and our community. A child who feels this gratitude and peace is open to learning new things with a tremendous passion and energy.
We don’t give tests. As Maria Montessori said, “Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core.” We believe that the purpose of education should be to inspire a lifelong love of learning and that testing can seriously impede the development of this love within the child. Additionally, we question the validity of tests as an accurate measure of ability or knowledge. Without the artificial deadline of test, students are free to explore ideas and concepts for as long as they need to fully understand them. Instead of using tests as a measure of student achievement or ability, our teachers closely observe the students as they work and keep detailed notes and records of where each student is within the Montessori curriculums. Our teachers truly know each student as an individual and have an in-depth knowledge of their academic abilities—both areas of strength and those that need further attention.
A central tenet of our Montessori philosophy is that the world is an important classroom—or laboratory—for the elementary child. We don’t assign homework for several reasons. First, we encourage our students to spend time with their families. This can be time at home, learning the work of running a household and enjoying each other’s company; time exploring the world through family outings and trips; and time spent engaging in sports activities. Additionally, the materials used in the Montessori elementary classroom are unique and specialized. They are usually multisensory (that is, they are tactile, visual and even auditory), so there are difficulties replicating the experience of these materials at home. And, finally, the benefits usually derived from homework (self-discipline, time management skills and the repetition of key concepts) are developed in our classroom, as students decide how to balance their time between their various academic subjects. They keep records of where they are within each subject and make plans with their teachers each day about how they will spend their time.
Our Adolescent School Program
In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori:
“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that verification from that secondary school to the university, but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher [one], by means of their own activity, through their own effort or will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.”
It isn’t what we’re used to in today’s world, but Einstein certainly agreed:
“Precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not – or at least not in the main – through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture.”
In a traditional Erdkinder program (which is German for “Earth Children” and what Montessori adolescent schools are called), the children live on a farm and their ‘schooling’ consists of running the farm as a business, including caring for the animals and tending the crops. Interspersed with these weighty tasks are academic studies based on real books and field trips. The goal of Erdkinder (German for Earth-Children) is to produce adults who are equipped with the confidence in themselves and actual skills to live in the real world. Of course, each school that aspires to create a Montessori adolescent school program must work in tandem with its environment. Without the acreage to run a farm, we look to the natural environment we have and work to create a rich curriculum that is deeply connected it.
In older societies, peoples mark the passage into adulthood by various ceremonies. Inuit boys go on a vision quest. In other cultures, taking part in one’s first game hunt marked the entry into adulthood. After this, the boy was considered a man by the culture and expected to assume all of the responsibilities of manhood.
Most modern societies are now virtually without any meaningful markers of this kind. Instead, we have created something new called ‘the teen years’, where someone is not really a child but not yet an adult. Maria Montessori was astonished that during the time of physical, emotional, and intellectual turmoil called adolescence, most cultures immobilize children behind desks rather than let them put their energies into meaningful projects.
It is little wonder, then, that so many young people, lost in this vague, enforced limbo, turn to drugs to distract themselves from the purposelessness of life, or become suddenly violent as do wild animals who are kept in cages. Human family systems are destroyed every day because someone refuses to be faithful to the family unit, to care for a sick family member, to care for a home, to care for children, to handle family money responsibly. Irresponsible people make life miserable for everybody, and I believe our current system of education, and the unthinking approval it has from the majority of society, is largely to blame for this.
While traditional school places young adolescents behind desks, which counters their natural, developmental needs to move and interact with each other, our adolescent school environment allows students to move their bodies, experience the tangible world and interact with other children in significant ways.
The Erdkinder method, by contrast, empowers adolescents with the knowledge that they must take responsibility for their own care and that their activities, pursuits and actions have a very real effect on their fellow students, instructors, home and community. Lessons about economics, environmental sciences, domestic arts are acquired through hands-on work and the intellect is developed by reading, by community discussion, by enriching interactions with art, music and nature.
The Montessori approach to adolescent development addresses the most fundamental needs of the 12 to 15 year-old child: community and identity. The adolescents can develop a sense of who they are while they study and work in a place where their strengths are recognized. In this diverse community where adults and students collaborate, passions are uncovered, intellects are stimulated and contributions have real meaning. Adolescents thrive in an environment where the use of the brain is partnered with the work of the hands. They develop true responsibility in a culture that models respect and expects hard work.
Adolescents are introduced to the workings of adult society: division of labor, commerce and exchange, discovery and innovation — while still immersed in the beauty of natural surroundings. They learn by living and by doing, as well as by studying. They connect what they learn to the solving of real problems and tasks. Our adolescent School curriculum includes work in history/social studies, science, basic math/geometry/algebra, language arts, world cultures, literary studies, peace studies and nature studies/ecology. Much of the work in these subjects will cross over with the work they do outdoors in nature studies and the business that they run. We also have plans for a peace curriculum that is a continuation of the peacework they completed at the elementary level, as well as time devoted regularly to self expression and the arts (including music).
By the end of this stage of development, adolescents have developed a confidence for public speaking and making presentations; they have learned that work is serious and noble; they have discovered the importance of disciplined work and study habits; they have come to understand their own gifts and interests. They have gained both practical and emotional independence, and they still love to learn.
In short, they can depend on themselves to create a life which honors their unique needs while at the same time honoring the needs of others.
Our adolescent school students run a plant business. With staff and parental support, they plan, manage and run all aspects of the business, including crafting a mission statement, creating an implementing a budget, planning venues, propagating plants, marketing and sales. All proceeds from Montessori Gardens go to adolescent school materials and planned outings.
Our Summer Program
The International Montessori School Summer Program combines the nurturing and respect for children inherent in the Montessori philosophy with a fun and enriching day camp experience. Our
program includes abundant opportunities for summer fun, personal growth and learning in a vibrant and caring community that encourages team building, independence and self discovery. Our Staff Children are cared for and led by our own Montessori staff, so the children are greeted each day by the same caring education professionals they have known all year-long. Visiting Programs/Special Day Trips We sometimes book special summer visitors. In the past, the children have enjoyed such entertaining and educational programs as Bubblemania, KidSpace Museum and the Animal Guys. We also take trips to nearby parks, gardens and activity centers. Sign ups for these special events will be posted in the office. Extra fees apply.
Children are cared for and led by our own Montessori staff, so the children are greeted each day by the same caring education professionals they have known all year-long.
Visiting Programs/Special Day Trips
We sometimes book special summer visitors. In the past, the children have enjoyed such entertaining and educational programs as Bubblemania, KidSpace Museum and the Animal Guys. We also take trips to nearby parks, gardens and activity centers. Sign ups for these special events will be posted in the office. Extra fees apply.