Children’s House (continued)
The Children’s House Curriculum
The Children's House curriculum is presented through materials that were designed by Dr. Maria Montessori, who was inspired by her observation of how children go about acquiring knowledge. Children move from one lesson and material to the next as each is mastered. Montessori materials can be used over and over again, each time presenting greater challenge and deeper understanding. The curriculum encompasses the following five areas of study:
A child's introduction to the Montessori curriculum and materials begins in practical life. This area of study most intrigues the younger students who want to acquire life skills which they observe in the adult world. Children prepare food, dust furniture, or cut and arrange flowers. They master personal care, learning to button, tie, zip and snap. The children choose their work and complete the sequential steps of a task. This appeals to the young child’s innate sense of order. Practical life work cultivates independence, building students’ self esteem as they become confident in their abilities. Children learn to concentrate and focus on the materials, laying the foundation for all other classroom work. Their excitement for new-found abilities encourages a desire for more challenges.
Children discover the physical world around them through their senses. The sensorial materials help students develop powers of focus and observation. Children learn to order, classify and describe sensory impressions of length, width, height, temperature, mass, color, scent, taste, touch and pitch. The materials create an awareness of variations, such as the wide spectrum of color in nature, the broad range of sound, the feel of rough and smooth, heavy and light, warm and cold. Children come to distinguish, to categorize, and to relate new information to information they already have, skills critical to the development of judgment and decision making. This area of study results in the acquisition of new vocabulary as well as expanding the language of labeling (color, size, texture, sound, etc.) and comparative language (such as, small, smaller, smallest).
The use of manipulative materials in the math curriculum enables the child to internalize concepts of numbers, symbols, sequence, operations and basic facts. The colorful and inviting Montessori math materials offer a concrete representation of abstract mathematical concepts. While the children are learning simple addition and subtraction, the materials are subliminally introducing rudimentary understanding of the decimal system. Through manipulating math materials, the Children’s House student begins to develop a mathematical mind without the tedium and rote of table memorization.
The language curriculum is a sequential, systematic program designed for the acquisition of listening, speaking, reading, writing and spelling skills. Using the sandpaper letters and other materials, children learn to recognize the shape and phonetic sounds of the alphabet. They learn the construction of words with the moveable alphabet. Children work with a variety of materials designed to help them gain control of the hand in preparation for writing. By tracing letters in a tray of sand, then by writing on a small chalk-board and finally, with a pencil and paper, children acquire and practice their handwriting skills. Teachers emphasize all the processes that contribute to growth in reading including phonics, fostering interest in reading, and comprehension of material read to them. Children are encouraged to select books that match their development. In doing so, they learn the joy of reading and the power of the written word to answer their questions.
The study of history, science and geography within the cultural curriculum is designed to inspire a sense of awe in the child. It helps students answer such questions as “Who am I?”, “Where did I come from?” and “Why am I here?” In Children’s House, the study of physical geography begins with the use of materials such as sandpaper globes and puzzle maps, which teach children the continents of the world, the countries of Europe, North and South America, as well as the states of the United States. Through age appropriate activities, students learn about the history and culture of people throughout the world. Children approach the sciences through hands-on activities. In our cultural curriculum, Children’s House students enjoy music, art and movement. The children begin to learn Spanish through songs, games, and activities.
In the Children’s House classroom, we promote each child’s individuality while encouraging a balance of self-expression with responsibility and respect for the classroom community.
Lessons in grace and courtesy are intermingled with academics and are presented with equal importance. Children’s House students are taught to behave with grace and courtesy, the foundation of conduct at Oak Meadow. In the resulting environment of peace and safety, students are able to calmly concentrate and move toward greater self-confidence and independence.
Our students are greeted by their teacher each day with a handshake and a smile. This warm and respectful welcome characterizes the nurturing setting they enter as their day begins. Each child is nurtured and encouraged by the teacher to develop as an individual.
At Oak Meadow, there is respect for the uniqueness of each child. Students learn to appreciate the many differences within their diverse community. As our young learners work side by side in a cooperative and supportive manner, the seeds of harmonious living are sown. This fundamental and highly ethical precept of the Montessori experience is one of the greatest gifts of an Oak Meadow education.
The Montessori teacher presents lessons to an individual, a small group, or to the entire class, depending on the particular topic. The teacher continuously observes the students, noting each child’s interest and progress in all disciplines. By being respectful of the child’s developing intellect, the teacher knows when to offer a child new lessons. During work periods, the children are empowered by their freedom to choose their work based on the lessons that they have already received.
Classrooms at Oak Meadow are bright and cheerful. Children are excited to be here. They have fun working on lessons in the classroom and playing outdoors. Their social life is enhanced by working in pairs or small groups. Children learn to be supportive and to help each other. Strong friendships develop as students enthusiastically work side by side toward success at a task. The Montessori tradition of multi-age (three year) groupings allows for older students to model good conduct for the younger students and in doing so, to reinforce what has been learned. The inclination of the younger students to be like older classmates makes for natural imitation of these behaviors.
Maria Montessori knew that there was much to be learned from the world outside the classroom. Classrooms at Oak Meadow have been architecturally designed with windows that allow the children to see beyond the lesson at hand and to gaze out to the world for which their lessons are preparing them. Each class has its own garden plot where students marvel at the wonders of nature.
Maria Montessori believed that the promise of the future lies in today’s children. “It is the spirit of the child that can determine the course of human progress and lead it perhaps even to a higher form of civilization”, she said and it is through education that she hoped to effect this change. “Preventing conflicts is the work of politics”, Dr. Montessori claimed, “establishing peace is the work of education.” (Maria Montessori, Education and Peace). Oak Meadow is committed to the Montessori tenet that each person can play an effective role in bringing peace to the world. In Children’s House, students learn conflict resolution as a way of achieving peace within the classroom. Cooperative living is put into practice as students complete daily chores with the common goal of keeping their classroom neat and tidy. The concept is extended to the world outside when these young students participate in caring for their planet. Children’s House classes host guests who awaken awareness of differences as the school promotes tolerance. Students learn philosophies of peace when they study the lives of historical peacemakers. It is with an eye toward world peace that the school has the expectation that each member of the school community will act with grace and courtesy. Oak Meadow hopes that each graduate of the school will exemplify this fundamental Montessori practice along every path followed.
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