Last month, we focused in on the Infant/Toddler Classrooms. When we look at the Children’s House classroom, we see many similarities:
- Everything in the environment is CHILD SIZED,
- the adults RESPECT the child and their development,
- the environment is designed to FOSTER DEVELOPMENT and INDEPENDENCE, and
- all materials are HANDS-ON for the child to “absorb” information
In Children’s House we add more elements… the work on the shelves is now PRESENTED by the lead teacher (guide) before the child can work with it (as opposed to Infant/Toddler, where all work is immediately available for choice). This is because each piece of material in the Children’s House classroom has a specific PURPOSE, and that purpose is revealed to the child through the teacher’s demonstration of correct use (presentations).
Focusing again on the 3 components of the classroom as we did last edition, these are:
- the child,
- the aware adult and
- the prepared environment.
First, the child is the base. Montessori felt that each child is unique and that the child’s mind and process of learning varied throughout the stages of the child’s development. During the Birth to age 6 stage (AKA the first plane of development), the child constructs themselves and absorbs their environment.
Second, the teacher is a guide and an observer; he/she protects the child’s right to learn, models desired behavior, prepares the environment, and accommodates the needs of the child by presenting material. The Children’s House teacher also observes the children, looks for readiness for more challenging work, records each child’s progress, and plans and conducts group activities and special projects (units of study).
Third, the prepared environment encourages exploration, movement and allows “freedom within limits.” The child is shown how to respect the environment, how to make choices and can develop the abilities of concentration, coordination, and a sense of order and independence.
Five Main Areas of Activity in Children’s House
1. Practical Life
The activities in this area of the classroom resemble many of the adult tasks and objects that a child sees at home. These activities become very imitative and exciting to a child. Some practical life activities include washing, pouring, sorting, polishing and dressing frames. The Practical Life Area also encompasses gross motor skills including walking the line and peace activities such as the silence game.
The purposes of the activities are:
- Mastery of the activity itself – the child grows in self-confidence and ability.
- Development of fine motor control.
- Learning good work habits.
- Increasing the child’s attention span and ability to concentrate.
- Preparation for future learning through learning to concentrate, work independently.
Since young children absorbs information from their environment through the senses, the materials in this area help them sharpen and develop these senses. The sensorial exercises deal with the physical characteristics of smell, sound, texture, color, weight and size (length, width, thickness, etc.). Many of the sensorial activities prepare children for future math and language experiences they will encounter. The activities help to develop visual discrimination and strengthen fine motor control in preparation for writing.
Dr. Montessori discovered that the child first interest in the written word is by writing his/her own words. To do this, the child must have in their memory the shapes and sounds of the letters and must have the muscular ability to use a pencil. Having worked through the practical life and sensorial activities, the fine motor control is well developed. The child is introduced to the alphabetical symbols with the sandpaper letters. By tracing the letters with fingers, the child learns the sound it represents, both visually and through muscular memory. We use the phonetic approach to language acquisition and complement this with language experience activities. The age at which children begin to read varies with each child… it is important that a child learns when he/she is ready and motivated.
The Montessori mathematic activities offer the child materials that help move from the concrete to the abstract. Various materials, such as number rods and spindle boxes, are used to teach counting, recognition of numerals and the concept of zero. By working with gold bead material, the child becomes aware of the decimal system. Materials that help the child understand the concept of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are available to the child who masters the decimal system. Children in a Montessori classroom can expand their understanding of mathematics to a practically limitless degree. Each child must proceed at his/her own speed and according to interests.
Montessori classrooms include a cultural area where the child studies cultures (how and where people live) around the world. The child uses beautiful globes and maps to learn geography and the location of capitols, rivers, and mountains and then associate culture with the various geographic areas. The child studies landforms and how those landforms originated, and how the landforms impact daily living. As the child acquires the geography skills necessary to understand the Earth, he/she desires to know what everything is. We use this natural curiosity to introduce the child to a plethora of new vocabulary. The young child also learns concepts of the whole and then the parts. For example, we introduce a particular animal to the child (we always start with the REAL, but if we cannot we use representation such as pictures), and then we introduce the parts of the animal. The cultural studies seek to help the child answer their own questions about the world and their place in the world.
Our Children’s House Teachers’ Montessori Journey
Children’s House Room 2
Nikki (Lead Children’s House Teacher)
- Nikki grew up in India and first found Montessori through her mother, a trained Montessori teacher
- After moving to America, Nikki sought to find a training program and found VMTEC (the training center associated with CMS)
- Nikki received her training and credential for Children’s House (ages 3-6) through VMTEC
- Before coming aboard as a lead teacher at CMS in 2018, Nikki taught at two different Montessori schools in Hampton Roads
- Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – The whole theory about how children absorb information and how their brains work, always amazed to see how quickly the children learn new things
Nichole (Assistant Children’s House Teacher)
- Nichole’s first encounter with Montessori started 8 years ago as a parent when she enrolled her first born in a Montessori school
- She then joined the teaching team at another Montessori school to gain more experience and knowledge about the method
- After moving to Chesapeake from VA Beach, Nichole research schools to find a true Montessori school for her children, and found CMS
- Nichole started training with VMTEC for a Children’s House teacher credential in June 2018 and will complete her training in June 2020
- Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – All components, especially the hands-on materials and learning abstract concepts in concrete way
Children’s House Room 3
Withney (Lead Children’s House Teacher)
- Withney first learned about Montessori when she nannied for a family whose children attend CMS
- When an assistant position became available, Withney applied, got the job and immediately fell in the love with the Montessori approach
- She was amazed at what the children could do with the work – Both the material and how the children learn hands-on prompted Withney to take her Children’s House training
- Withney completed her training and earned her teacher credential through VMTEC in June 2019
- Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – she gets to know and build connections with children for 3 years, watching them bloom and grow
Diane (Assistant Children’s House Teacher)
- Diane first found her way to Montessori in college in Colorado, where there was a school on campus
- Completing an observation assignment for a class, she observed this amazing classroom and was so impressed with the materials the children were working with and the way the classroom worked so well for all the children
- Fast forward 12 years ago, Diane saw a Montessori School on Albemarle Road (CMS’s first campus), walked in, met Shanna and the rest is history!
- Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – loves seeing children love to learn and become part of the kind and caring Montessori classroom
Children’s House Room 4
Jeannie (Lead Children’s House Teacher)
- Jeannie’s Montessori journey began with the enrollment of her son Danny at CMS
- She was immediately impressed with the school and started volunteering for class activities, which only increased her enthusiasm for Montessori
- Volunteering eventually led to subbing and then to being hired as an assistant
- A few years later, Jeannie took the training to become a Montessori teacher through VMTEC
- Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – loves watching the children grow physically, socially and intellectually. The highlight of any day is that lightbulb moment when you see that everything that you have shown them clicks and make sense.
Kristen (Assistant Children’s House Teacher)
- Kristen first discovered Montessori when she was looking for a change from teaching at traditional preschool
- She found herself having supplementing many of the traditional materials and was looking for something different
- When Kristen saw an advertisement for substitute teacher at CMS in fall 2018, she interviewed and was hired as a full-time assistant in Children’s House
- Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – the children’s self-discovery and ability to learn at their own pace
Karyn (Assistant Children’s House Teacher)
- Karyn was exposed to Montessori at a young age as her mother used Montessori materials to teach Karyn and her siblings at home (sandpaper letters and numbers, golden beads, and others)
- She was looking for a career change from the high-stress pharmaceutical industry and was unknowingly drawn to CMS
- When she began as a floater at CMS in the fall of 2018, Karyn was soon realized that Montessori had been a part of her for most of her life, never knowing that the materials she used at a young age were Montessori materials
- Karyn is now an assistant in a Children’s House classroom and enjoys having a home classroom
Favorite part of Montessori Children’s House – The fact that the children drive the work versus having limitations; they naturally go to what the material they are drawn to in the moment