The Montessori Toddler House environment is designed to meet the growing and changing needs of the child from 18 to 36 months of age. The Toddler classroom includes opportunity for physical, intellectual, and emotional growth. The environment provides opportunity for development of gross motor movement which helps toddlers gain balance, coordination, and spacial awareness. Fine motor skills are developed through carefully selected activities designed to emulate the practical skills of everyday life, thus fostering independence and promoting self-esteem. Intellectual growth is fostered through experiences with materials and activities specially constructed to prepare students for further work in the areas of sensory discrimination, math, language, and the arts. All of this is accomplished by offering loving support and respect to the child, while consistently giving the child opportunities to do things on his or her own.
The Montessori primary classroom is a vibrant, thriving environment. Children choose their work from among the self-correcting materials displayed on open shelves, and they work in specific work areas. Over a period of time, the children develop into a “normalized community”, working with high concentration and few interruptions. ”Normalization”, in Montessori terms, is the process whereby a child moves from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disordered to ordered, from distracted to focused, through work in the environment. The process occurs through repeated work with materials that captivate the child’s attention. For some children this inner change may take place quite suddenly, leading to deep concentration. In the Montessori primary classroom, academic competency is a means to an end, and the manipulatives are viewed as “materials for development.” The curriculum contains four components, sensorial, cultural, language, and math, in addition to the work of Practical Life.
The Sensorial curriculum is the key to knowledge in the Montessori classroom. It builds on the foundation of the Practical Life curriculum and prepares the way for children to progress into academic work through the development of observation and problem-solving skills. The sensorial materials are designed to develop skills that help young children learn how to think, reason, make distinctions, make judgments and decisions, observe, compare, and better appreciate their world. The is the beginning of conscience knowledge.
The Primary classroom includes cultural studies, activities, and materials which Maria Montessori defined as history, geography, physical science, botany, and zoology. These are designed to introduce the young child to our world and its diverse peoples. In addition to learning about the world we live in, the curriculum strive sto foster and nurture the young child’s curiosity, encourage exploration, and develop observation skills. Age-appropriate activities and materials are presented throughout the three-year cycle.
Children are learning language long before entering the Montessori classroom. By using their own tools of hearing, vision, and speech, children absorb information about their native language. During the first two years of Primary, students prepare themselves for language study by working with materials that refine auditory, oral, visual, and sensory/motor skills which are necessary for writing and reading. Language spans every other area as an integrated source of preparation for a well-planned approach to further learning.
Maria Montessori proposed that logical thought stems from the human mind’s ability to organize and categorize. The other powers of the mind, such as memory, imagination, and abstraction, develop from the power of order. This is the basis for including math in the curriculum for the 3-6 year olds. The purpose of the math curriculum at this level is to help children develop their thought processes, not to teach math facts at an early age. With hands-on materials, students make discoveries as they begin to move from the concrete to the abstract through manipulation, experimentation, and invention.
The elementary experience meets the developmental needs of the 6 to 9 year old student. Lower elementry integrates the arts, sciences, geography, history, and language in a way that evokes the imagination and abstraction of the elementary child. The presentation of knowledge is given as part of a large-scale narrative that presents the theories of the origins of the earth, life, human communities, and modern history, always in the context of the wholeness of life. Elementary life also begins the process of “going out” to makeuse of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom. The elementary curriculum includes lessons in math, geometry, language, and cultural (history, geography, physical and life sciences).
With intelligent simplicity, the Montessori math materials give children a sensorial experience of the abstraction that is mathematics. The math curriculum allows students to do hands-on work with concrete materials. While stressing the importance of computational proficiency, this process leads to a conceptual understanding of math and lays a foundation for eventually working in abstract terms.
Traditionally, the study of geometry is undertaken in later years as an abstract series of rules, theorems, and propositions. Montessori saw geometry as firmly rooted in reality and built a curriculum that uses concrete, sensorial experimentation, leading students to concepts through their own creative research. The point of the work is not so much determined by the result as by all the work the child has done to reach that result. The essence is in the journey, not in the destination.
As the basis for all communication, there is no area integrated with the balance of the curriculum more than language. And so, while still presenting the child with the practical tools for encoding and decoding words, sentences, and paragraphs, the study of language is never seen as an isolated exercise. In this way, children never lose sight of the power of language as a means of conveying ideas.
Cultural studies in the Lower elementary classroom flow from themes developed in what Maria Montessori called the Great Lessons. These lessons, presented with highly impressionistic stories and materials,offer the cild a panoramic view of the universe and a sense of humanity across time. The great questions that arise serve as a blueprint for further study in all cultural areas. The use of hands-on materials, coupled with developing reading, writing, and research skills allow the elementary child to ask and attempt to answer questions no less profound than, “How did the world begin?” ”Where did we come from?” and “Why..?”
Upper Elementary curriculum is a continuation of the elementary experience that honors the unique developmental phenomena of the nine to twelve year old student. The Practical Life curriculum of Upper Elementary involves more “going out” but also add an element of trip planing and coordination of the student’s work. The main curricula areas of math, geometry, language, and cultural studies (history, geography, physical and life sciences) are present here, but in more refinement and greater depth.
In math, students continue to use materials to work toward the abstraction of math concepts, naturally formulating rules and formulas on their own through use of the materials. In contrast to traditional methods of teaching math, with starts with the rules and then concludes with memorization and tests, in the Montessori method, the rules are points of arrival, not departure. Through the student’s own effort, internalization of abstract concepts is achieved.
Although sophisticated in content, geometry at the Upper Elementary level continues to be well-grounded in concrete experiences with manipulative materials. In this way, etymology is discovered, relationships and concepts are explored and researched, and the child’s conclusions serve as a basis for theorems, proofs, and formulas.
With a more sophisticated level of language comes greater refinement in its use. While students continue to benefit from concrete experience with concepts in grammar and mechanics they use cultural subjects as the primary source for expanding language skills. As students explore the world of history, biology, and geography, the study of language becomes an ongoing creative process of research, ideas, and imagination.
As the older child’s mind develops, so does the ability to think more abstractly. Spanning both space and time, the child’s imagination can now understand that which is not directly contacted by the senses: Neanderthals, Ancient Greece, velocity, bacteria, etc. Teachers present ideas, spark motivation, and introduce materials that allow the child to access the richness of the world’s knowledge. In this way, the cultural subjects also serve as vehicles for a variety of language skills which include research, outlining, report writing, public speaking, and project work.
The Junior program ushers in a new level of independence which must be provided for in the Montessori environment by increasing activity from the point of view of work level, choices, and planning. In the Junior Class, the Great Lessons, timelines, and charts are replaced with overviews of general sequences of learning for which the student becomes responsible in the context of an integrated whole. Within this overview, the student has open time to collaborate on both self-initiated and instructor-initiated projects. Open time allows for individualized instruction, a natural pace for absorption of material presented for both mastery and emotional understanding, unlimited depth of pursuit based on student interest, and time to study art, science, music, business, and other topics students choose. “Going out” includes larger and longer trips, more complex planning to farther destinations.
Music and Art
Artistic expression is weaved throughout the entire Montessori curriculum. Self-expression through problem solving and experimentation with the elements of art and music are ever present at Cornerstone. Students receive direct instruction in art concepts, art appreciation, and art media. The production of art is viewed as a process-based experience and is inspired by the work in all areas of the curriculum as well as through sharing a love of art for art’s sake.
Music is part of the curriculum at Cornerstone at every developmental level. All students are provided a baseline of music literacy through listening and participation. Students have opportunities for practice and performance throughout their Cornerstone years. A full complement of Orff instruments, theatrical equipment, private instruction, and venues and opportunities that allow for musical expression at school are all part of an education at Cornerstone.
After School Care
Through the “Children’s House” program, The Cornerstone School offers a continued Montessori experience throughout the day for Primary students who are dismissed at 11:30 or 1:30 from the classroom as well as for elementary students from 3:00 to 5:00. The program is designed to provide age appropriate opportunities for continued acquisition of skills in the areas of social abilities, self-care, practical life tasks, and continued work with Montessori materials. Students attending “Children’s House” can participate in a wide variety of activities both outside on our beautiful playground as well as in the large, well-furnished and well-equipped “Children’s House” classroom space.
Children’s House fees are affordable to allow parents who need after-school care to provide their children with continuity and quality throughout their day. Students may sign up for a full week or a partial week and may be dismissed at 1:30, 3:00, or 5:00 depending upon age and family needs. Children’s House sign ups begin in July for the following school year.
Please call the school if you have questions or need more information.