Children’s House classes at Oak Meadow are multi-age groupings of up to twenty students, ages three through six, led by a trained and certified Montessori teacher and a classroom assistant.
Classes are balanced by gender and age. Children entering this program must be three years old by September 1 of the year they begin attending Oak Meadow. Students in our Children’s House program benefit from the Montessori practice of a three-year cycle of study with the same teacher. Prior attendance at a Montessori school is not a prerequisite for admission.
The program prepares children for readiness for our Lower Elementary program, which is comprised of first through third grades. Students explore a myriad of ways to engage deeply and meaningfully with concrete manipulative Montessori materials that enable students to develop language, order, movement, and refinement of senses.
The classroom environment is arranged to support the child’s development of independence, concentration, coordination, and order. Montessori materials used in the Children’s House program promote curiosity, awaken the senses, and inspire self-motivation. Through repetition with the materials, children experience opportunities for greater challenge and deeper understanding.
Areas of Learning
The use of engaging Montessori materials in the math program enables children to internalize concepts of numbers, symbols, sequences, operations, patterns, and basic facts. The inviting and multisensory materials, carefully laid out from simple to complex, offer a concrete representation of abstract mathematical concepts such as simple operations, area, volume, and measurement. While children are learning addition and subtraction, the materials are reinforcing rudimentary understanding of the decimal system. Children’s House students develop number fluency and apply their skills in enriching ways. By the time they complete the Children’s House program, most students will have a solid understanding of numbers to 100 and many will grasp concepts far beyond.
The Spanish program at Oak Meadow begins in Children’s House with classes held once a week. Research has shown that early language acquisition is the key to fluency. Through movement, imitation, chanting, and singing, children become familiar with the Spanish language, develop a natural intonation, and engage in a comfortable interaction with the teacher.
The Children’s House music curriculum emphasizes group singing and movement, rhythmic training, individual confidence, and imaginative play. Classes incorporate songs and dances from many cultural traditions. Through melodic and rhythmic games, students gain confidence to sing alone in front of others and to read simple rhythms. Solfege singing is practiced with the simultaneous use of the Kodaly/Curwen hand gesture system, increasing the cognitive areas of multisensory engagement by combining attentive listening with singing, verbal and pitch memory, and hand-eye coordination. Musical instruments from around the world are introduced in hands-on lessons, which include principles of instrument construction and sound production. Students also enjoy performing at school assemblies and special events.
Children discover the physical world around them through their senses. Montessori sensorial materials help students develop powers of focus and observation. Students 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. Students come to distinguish, categorize, and relate new information to information they have already acquired, skills critical to the development of judgment and decision making. This area of study results in the acquisition of new vocabulary, as well as the expansion of the language of labeling (color, size, texture, sound, etc.) and comparative language (e.g. small, smaller, smallest).
The language curriculum is a sequential, systematic program designed for the acquisition of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Using sandpaper letters, the moveable alphabet, metal insets, and other materials, children learn to recognize the shape and phonetic sounds of letters and the construction of words to develop skills in reading and writing. Children are exposed to rich literature and a wide assortment of reading materials to match their developmental stage. In doing so, they learn the joy of reading and the power of the written word. A highlight of our language arts program is Wilson Fundations, a research-based sequential phonetic approach to learning language, which complements the Montessori language curriculum.
Social and emotional learning includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. The development of these skills helps to promote prosocial behavior, reduce violence and bullying behaviors, and increase ability to learn and achieve in the school environment. Children’s House students explore developmentally appropriate concepts of social and emotional learning. Topics may include personal greetings, personal space, friendship, conflict resolution, feelings, coping skills, and self-control. Lessons are taught through hands-on activities, themed stories, visual cues, role-playing, and guided discussions.
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.
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 acceptance. Students learn philosophies of peace when they study the lives of historical peacemakers. Oak Meadow hopes that each graduate of the school will exemplify this fundamental Montessori practice along every path followed.
Children’s House students attend physical education classes once a week. The curriculum emphasizes the development of gross motor skills, body awareness, control, coordination and balance. Students are encouraged to explore new movements through the use of music, and acquire a greater sense of direction and spatial awareness.
Students participate in a variety of adventures, exploring Oak Meadow’s dynamic outdoor classroom. As much as possible, the nature program follows the seasons guided by the 13 Native American moons of the turtle’s back, integrating Native American wisdom with a Three Sisters garden, snowshoeing, and vernal pool exploration. In the fall, children are guided by the harvest moon in activities such as working in the garden, digging potatoes and carrots, and harvesting corn. As the leaves change, we move toward the forest to study seed dispersal and the transition to winter. Students learn to appreciate the magical rhythm of nature. Like the seasons, nature-based learning is full of the expected and the unexpected.
The study of history, science and geography within the Children’s House cultural curriculum is designed to inspire a sense of awe in the child. In Children’s House, the study of physical geography begins with the use of materials such as sandpaper globes and puzzle maps, which help children visualize the continents of the world, the countries within the continents, as well as the states of the United States. Through age-appropriate activities, experiments, and exploration, students are exposed to a rich curriculum of history and culture.
Children approach the sciences through hands-on exploration and experimentation. Children begin to understand the basic concepts of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. From the study of vertebrates and invertebrates to identifying the parts of a tree, and understanding the difference between a liquid, solid, and a gas, the Children’s House science curriculum is expansive. Students sprout seeds to learn about roots, stems, and leaves, and build a circuit using a battery to make a light bulb light up among other project-based exploration.
During the first two years of Children’s House program, the students have the opportunity to try a variety of art and creative materials in the classroom, including painting, collage and glue, cutting with scissors and hole-punching. Beginning in the third year of the Children’s House program, students attend art class once a week in small groups. Students are introduced to a wide variety of materials, concepts, skills, techniques, and projects. Emphasis is placed on the process of creating art in a personal way. Students work independently on their own ideas, within a framework set up by the teacher. Lessons are given on the care and use of materials, specific methods of creating art, and on the works of specific artists, both past and contemporary. Projects often tie into classroom curriculum or cultural celebrations. The goal of the Children’s House art curriculum is to allow each child to explore their own creativity through a variety of projects.
This area of study most intrigues the younger students who want to acquire the life skills that 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. 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 are natural engineers and scientists, as they explore the world around them as a means to understand their world. Bi-weekly STEM classes provide the opportunity for children to investigate science, engineering and math concepts through hands-on activities, use of science equipment (scales, microscopes, lenses, thermometers and more), and a collaborative approach. Children are introduced to the scientific and engineering process during their investigations: identifying problems to be solved, making predictions, taking data and representing data visually are practiced regularly.