A Child's Choice Montessori School
"Free Choice is one of the highest of all mental processes" -Maria Montessori
Purpose and Philosophy: A Child’s Choice Montessori School exists to create an environment that supports the development of children’s true nature as Dr. Montessori originally discovered it.
The Discovery of the Child’s True Nature: In Italy, 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori opened her first “Children’s House” for a group of ordinary, poor children ages about 2 to 6. Montessori gave the children specially designed, hands-on learning materials, showed the children how to use the materials, and gave the children freedom to work with them while she observed in an objective, scientific manner. Over time, she saw the whole class undergo an amazing transformation that consistently resulted in the same basic qualities in each child. Those qualities were as follows:
These qualities emerged as a result of following basic principles of preparation of the environment, freedom, and objective observation. Montessori hadn’t forced the children to act this way and didn’t use rewards or punishments in order to attain those results. Because of this she realized that she had discovered the child’s true nature; and it was far different from what conventional wisdom said the child’s nature was. When people found out about Montessori’s class they came from all over the world to see these amazing children.
Preparation of the Environment: Great care is taken in preparation of the environment at A Child’s Choice Montessori School because, as Montessori recognized, children unconsciously absorb what is in their environment and adapt to it.
Equipment: Children are naturally eager to learn through work with real objects in their environment so; A Child’s Choice Montessori School has lots of attractive, hands-on learning equipment in many different subjects for the children to freely choose. This is a list of some things children learn at the school:
The child’s Interest: One of Montessori’s most significant discoveries was that children have a tremendous ability to choose appropriate work for themselves. Children gravitate to certain activities at certain times, called “sensitivity periods,” and are able to concentrate on those particular things to a very profound degree. When children are given the ability to choose their work based on their interest they are much more likely to learn from it and concentrate on it. That is why teachers at A Child’s Choice Montessori School are trained to identify each child’s true interest in the present moment and show the student materials in those areas.
Adults in the Classroom: The adult influence on the environment is even more important than the physical aspects of the school. The staff at A Child’s Choice Montessori School is chosen for their love of children, patience, and reliability. Staff members are given extensive on-the-job training about Montessori principles and techniques to make sure they acting in a way that respects and promotes the emergence of the children’s true nature. The adults are also observed on a regular basis and given feedback about what they are doing well and what improvements they need to make.
Parents of children in the school play a vital role in its success so, staff members strive to work in cooperation with parents whenever possible. Feedback, questions, and suggestions from parents are always welcome. If parents also follow Montessori techniques and principles at home the children will benefit to an even greater extent.
Schedule: The schedule is an integral part of the environment. It includes long class periods when children can freely chose their work and concentrate on it. Instead of interrupting concentration with a group snack time, the snack is placed on a table, during class, for children to independently serve and clean-up after themselves at a time of their choosing, which also enhances their independence.
A Child’s Choice Montessori School implements a Montessori all-day program, which means that the school continues its commitment to Montessori principles and allows the children to use Montessori equipment beyond the 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM schedule, which is traditionally considered to be school hours. This gives continuity to the environment that is sometimes lacking in other Montessori programs.
At the same time, there is flexibility in scheduling that allows children to attend during hours that are convenient for the parents. For example, a child who is signed up for a half-day morning can come in at any time between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM. There is also a half-day afternoon option when children can be picked up between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. However, for the wellbeing of the children, they each should have their own set schedule because children need consistent routines.
There is also flexibility with respect to children’s rest. Children who fall asleep during nap are allowed to stay asleep during the afternoon class time. If children aren’t tired during nap they can look at a book and join afternoon class after rest time is over. The following is the daily schedule:
Morning Class Time 7:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Outside Time 11:30 AM - 12:00 noon
Lunch 12:00 noon - 12:30 PM
Rest 12:30 PM - 1:15 PM
Afternoon Class time 1:15 PM - 4:00 PM
Outside Time 4:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Late Afternoon Class 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Independence: In cooperation with the child’s true nature, A Child’s Choice Montessori School aims to enhance children’s independence as much as possible. One way independence is enhanced is through the physical aspects of the environment. The self-teaching materials are designed so that children learn through their own work, with minimal amount of teacher instruction. The materials have a built-in control of error so children can correct their own mistakes and they are arranged in an orderly way, on shelves, where children can easily get them out and return them to the correct places when they are finished. There are dressing frames that teach buttoning, zipping, tying, snapping, etc so children can learn to dress themselves.
There are stools that allow children to reach the sinks, drinking fountain, and toilet without adult help. Since children have a natural love of order, in addition to their desire for independence, they are given sponges, sweepers, towels, and scrubbers to clean up after themselves.
The teachers also enhance the children’s independence in their interactions with the children. They are trained to show the children how to do things for themselves and avoid doing things for them. Teachers are also trained in use of the Socratic Method to help children come up with answers to their own questions. If a child has a problem or asks a question the teacher will use reflective language and questioning to help the child come up with an answer or find a book or other material that will help the child research the answer to the question. If this doesn’t work, the teacher can suggest children get help from one another. This helps the children become more independent from adults and also fosters a feeling of community and social harmony between the children.
Mixed Age: Montessori had a mixed-age group of children at her school which was a big reason for her great success. A Child’s Choice Montessori School also has a mixed-age which provides a cooperative, socially harmonious, community atmosphere, which is a great advantage to both younger and older children. Younger children benefit because they are able to get help and instruction from the older children, they see older children’s work and become interested in learning to do it themselves, and the older children set a good example for the younger children to follow.
The older children benefit because they learn things much more thoroughly when they teach other children; and the older child’s interest is sparked by the younger child’s great enthusiasm for working with materials in the environment. Older children also learn to be helpful, responsible, leaders and role-models because they have younger children who look up to them and ask them for help.
Discipline: Our discipline policy is centered on creating an environment that allows the child’s natural self-discipline to emerge. Children concentrating on purposeful work don’t misbehave; so, the staff is trained to help children back to work whey they are losing their focus.
Some of the techniques that are employed to help children stay on track are eye-contact, moving closer to the child who is getting distracted, and giving the child a clear direction related to what they need to do. These basic techniques delivered in a friendly way, consistently, within the guidelines of basic Montessori principles are usually all that is needed to handle most discipline problems that arise. Touching the child, questioning, controlling objects, and repetition are also necessary, at times, to maintain an orderly class. The staff is taught to consistently evaluate their use of these techniques within the framework of Montessori principles.
Primary Program: The primary program includes children ages 2 through kindergarten. Children at this stage have absorbent minds that learn and adapt quickly and effortlessly to their environment. They are given brief, objective, concrete lessons with hands-on, self-teaching materials based on their present-moment interest.
Elementary Program: This includes children grades first through sixth. Children in this level are on a different plane of development from the primary aged children. They are more abstract in their thinking and it is necessary to support them in their development of reasoning and planning. They are given more abstract, advanced work with an emphasis on reading, writing, and math. One of the tools that are used at this stage is a daily log where children write a plan for the work they are interested in doing.
Director: Wendy Lieberman is the director of A Child’s Choice Montessori School. She has been working in Montessori education since 1998 and has owned Montessori Schools for 10 years. She has extensive training in Montessori Teaching through International Montessori Society and Montessori Teacher Preparation of Washington. She has attended several Montessori conferences and workshops as well as observing many different Montessori schools in the Treasure Valley and the northwestern US.