Montessori Program for Preschool and Early Childhood (Ages 3 to 6)
The Children's House – Ages 3 to 6Our Primary Preschool Montessori classes are communities of 25 to 28 children from age 3 to 6. Classes are taught by two certified Montessori teachers. They tend to be fairly stable communities, with the oldest third moving on to the next level each year. With many children growing together over several years, very close relationships develop among the children and adults. They become close-knit communities.
Many preschools are proud of their very small group sizes, and parents often wonder why Montessori classes are so much larger. Schools that place children together into small groups assume that the teacher is the source of instruction; a very limited resource even in a small class. These schools reason that as the number of children decreases, the time that teachers have to spend with each child increases. Ideally, we would have a one-on-one tutorial situation.
But the best ‘teacher' of a three-year-old is actually not an adult, but other children who are a bit older and has mastered a skill. This process is good for both the tutor and the younger child. In the Montessori approach, the teacher is not the primary focus.
Montessori encourages children to learn from each other. By having enough children in each age group, all students will find others at, above, and below their present level of developmental. This also makes Montessori schools economically more viable, allowing schools to attract teachers with far greater training and experience.
Some parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one age group or the other will be shortchanged. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers' time and attention, or that the importance of covering the kindergarten curriculum for the five-year-olds will prevent them from giving the three- and four-year-olds the emotional support and stimulation that they need. We can't imagine teaching in any other way.
The Prepared EnvironmentMontessori classrooms tend to fascinate both children and their parents. They are bright, warm, and inviting, filled with plants, animals, art, music, and books. They are filled with intriguing learning materials, mathematical models, maps, charts, artifacts, scientific materials, a natural science center, and art.
Montessori classrooms are commonly referred to as a prepared environment. This name reflects the care and attention that is given to creating a learning environment that will reinforce the children's independence and intellectual development.
You will not find rows of desks in our classrooms. They are set up to facilitate student discussion and stimulate collaborative learning. One glance and it is clear that children feel comfortable and safe.
The classrooms are organized into several curriculum areas, usually including: language arts (reading, literature, grammar, creative writing, spelling, and handwriting), mathematics and geometry, everyday living skills, sensory awareness exercises and puzzles, geography, history, science, art, music, and movement. Each area is made up of one or more shelf units, cabinets, and display tables with a wide variety of materials on open display ready for use as the children select them.
Students are typically found scattered around the classroom, working alone or with one or two others. They tend to become so involved in their work that visitors are immediately struck by the peaceful atmosphere.
It may take a moment to spot the teachers within the environment. They will normally be found working with one or two children at a time, advising, presenting a new lesson, or quietly observing the class at work.
This is the children's community. They move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest, rather than participating in all-day lessons and projects selected by the teachers.
In a very real sense, even very small children are responsible for the care of their own child-sized environments. When they are hungry, they prepare their own snack and drink. They go to the bathroom without assistance. When something spills, they help each other carefully clean things up.
Four generations of parents have been amazed to see small children in Montessori classrooms cut raw fruits and vegetables, sweep and dust, carry pitchers of water and pour liquids with barely a drop spilled. The children normally go about their work so calmly and purposely that it is clear to even the casual observer that they are the masters in this environment: a “Children's House.”
Montessori's first “Children's House,” opened in 1907, was made up of 60 inner-city children who largely came from dysfunctional families.
In her book, The Montessori Method, Dr. Montessori describes the transformation that took place during the first few months, as the children evolved into a “family.” They prepared and served the daily meals, washed the pots and dishes, helped the younger children bathe and change their clothes, swept, cleaned, and worked in the garden. These very young children developed a sense of maturity and connectedness that helped them realize a much higher level of their potential as human beings.
While times have changed, the need to feel connected is still as strong as ever. In fact, for today's children it is probably even more important. Whether it's an inner-city child or a child from an affluent suburb, the sense of community has all but disappeared from our children's lives. Families regularly move from house to house and from town to town. Grandparents usually live in other cities or other states. Both parents work out of necessity, and when they are at home, they are very, very busy. The “latch-key” child has become the norm for this generation. Many children have the sense that they do not belong to anything or anybody, which is why gangs, which give a sense of belonging, have always had a certain appeal for some children.
Along with whatever else Montessori gives our children, it definitely gives them the message that they belong — that their school is like a second family.
Practical LifeOne of the first goals of NewGate is to develop in the very young child a strong and realistic sense of independence and self-reliance. Along with love and a stable environment, this is the child's greatest need. This area of the curriculum focuses on control and deals with the social and physical environment in which he lives. There is a growing pride in being able to “do it for myself.” Practical life begins as soon as the young child enters the school and continues throughout the curriculum to more and more advanced tasks appropriate for the oldest students. This process continues logically so that the older students learn more complex life skills like running a small business, cooking complex meals, budgeting their money, and making consumer purchasing decisions. >> Click here to read more about Practical Life.
Sensory DevelopmentExercises in perception, observation, fine discrimination, and classification play a major role in helping our students to develop their sense of logic and concentration. At the Early Childhood level these experiences includes activities which assist the student in developing fine discriminations and categorizations using their visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory and olfactory senses. Through activities in this area students prepare for science as well as geometry and algebra. Elementary students refine the use of their senses by making precise observations of the natural world, and through culinary, artistic, architectural and musical appreciation. Click here to read more about the Sensorial Curriculum.
Language ArtsBecause of our multi-age classroom design, our youngest students are constantly exposed to the older students in the class who are already reading. Every curriculum area of the Early Childhood and Elementary classrooms creates and reinforces in our young children a spontaneous interest in learning how to read and write. We begin to teach reading as soon as that interest is first expressed.
In the earliest years at NewGate School, students develop sophisticated vocabulary and a command of the English language. Literature is introduced by reading aloud to young students and discussing a wide range of classic stories and poetry. Later the students are introduced to the world's classic children's literature at increasing depth and sophistication.
Pre-Reading Young students learn to recognize the shape and phonetic sounds of the alphabet through the Sandpaper Letters, a tactile alphabet. The concept that written words are actual thoughts set down in print begins to form as young students work with the easily manipulated letters of a Moveable Alphabet. As students start to read they demonstrate their understanding of the parts of speech through games and activities.
Writing Students practice handwriting through a series of activities that require increasing levels of fine motor precision. Such exercises begin with very young children and extend over several years so that mastery is gradually, but thoroughly, attained. Once handwriting is fairly accomplished, the students begin to develop their composition skills. Creative and expository composition skills continue to develop and become more sophisticated as the students advance from level to level. Students are typically asked to write on a daily basis, composing short stories, poems, plays, reports, and news articles.
Reading Children begin to sound out and write words using the Moveable Alphabet as they are first learning to read. The sequence of spelling, as with all language skills, begins much earlier than is traditional in this country, during a time when children are spontaneously interested in language. It continues throughout their education. The Moveable Alphabet is used for the early stages of phonetic word creation, the analysis of words, spelling, composing sentences, stories, and poetry. This work facilitates early reading and writing tasks. Interpretive reading for comprehension at ever increasing levels of difficulty begins in the early Elementary grades and continues until high school graduation. Library and reference books are used on a daily basis for both research and pleasure.
Grammar The study of grammar begins almost immediately after the child begins to read, during the sensitive period when he is spontaneously interested in language. It continues over several years until mastered. The idea is to introduce grammar to the young student as she is first learning how to put thoughts down on paper, when the process is natural and interesting, rather than waiting until the student is much older and finds the work tedious. This study includes reviewing as well as engaging in new concepts and skills: tenses, moods, irregular verbs, person and number, and the study of style. The study of language continues throughout the student's experience at NewGate School.
Research Research skills and the preparation of reports are major components of the educational program at NewGate School. Students do in-depth research in areas of interest or topics that have been assigned, and they prepare both formal and informal written and oral reports.
Click here to read more about our Language Arts Curriculum.
MathematicsIn the earliest years NewGate students are introduced to the concepts of mathematics through the use of hands-on learning materials. These materials allow students to experience such concepts as linking quantities to numerical symbols (numbers), linear counting, zero, the decimal system, and the operations. The objective is for students to actually understand the mathematical concepts rather than just memorize facts and figures.
The use of sophisticated concrete materials helps students understand complex mathematical concepts introduced during the Elementary years. The use of concrete materials allows students to eventually move into abstract mathematical thinking, generally of their own accord. Math concepts presented include: time; money operations; whole number operations; multiples and factors; fractions; decimal fractions; problem solving techniques; number patterns using figurate numbers; squaring and square roots; cubing and cube roots; ratios and percentages; graphing; statistics; measurement, both customary and metric; geometry, from nomenclature of solid figures to congruence, similarity, equivalence, tessellations, area, volume and the Pythagorean theorem; the history of mathematics and applied geometry.
Click here to read more about our Mathematics Curriculum.
Geography/Cultural StudiesA core component of the NewGate curriculum is the study of the Earth, plants, animals, and people. As our world becomes smaller through technological and economic connections our students are better prepared to meet the global challenges of the 21st century because of their deep interest in and understanding of scientific as well as cultural and religious ideas regarding the formation of the earth.
Countries are studied in many ways at all levels. NewGate students engage in detailed studies of one nation at a time. Focus moves over the years from one continent to another, as the student's interest leads them. All aspects of the nation are considered: geography, climate, biomes (biological homes), major rivers and lakes, cities, mountains, people, food, religions, and much more depending on the skill level of the students.
A number of learning festivals are held every year to focus on specific cultures and to celebrate life together: an example being Chinese New Year, when the entire school might study China, prepare Chinese food, learn Chinese dances, and participate in a special dragon dance parade. Anything that the students find interesting is used to help them become familiar with the countries of the world: flags, food, climate, traditional dress, houses, major cities, children's toys and games, stamps, coins, traditional foods, art, music, and history. This interweaves through the entire curriculum.
The Great LessonsIn the Elementary Montessori curriculum there are five Great Lessons that provide the foundation for history, science and geography, further reinforcing the interrelatedness of this expansive curriculum. These lessons are repeated throughout the Elementary curriculum in increasing depth of study.
HistoryThe concept of time and historical time is developed through many activities beginning at the youngest ages with a study of their personal history and the natural order of the seasons. The story of the evolution of the planet and its life forms over the eons is first studied at the Elementary level, along with an overview of human history. The basic needs of man are food, shelter, clothing, defense, transportation, culture, law, religion or spiritual enlightenment, love, and adornment.
The study of history in the Upper Elementary level (ages 9-12) continues with further in-depth study of the universe, human history and the study of Florida history. The next year the students focus on Ancient Civilizations, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In the third year of the three-year cycle the students will focus on Explorers, Colonial America, and American history up to the war of 1812.
Click here to read more about our Geography and History Curriculum.
ScienceThe Science area of the curriculum is closely linked to the study of Geography, Cultural Studies and History. Students are prepared to observe and make comparisons through early sensory development activities. They experience science in the natural surroundings of our beautiful campus. They develop a deep sense of the natural order of the planet and the life that exists on Earth. Through early exposure to nature they develop a reverence for life and a style of living which consciously makes an effort to conserve our natural resources and ecology.
In the Elementary curriculum the science lessons continue to stem from the Great Lessons (particularly in the lower Elementary ages 6 – 9). However, to maintain a comprehensive curriculum, units of study are grouped so that a student will encounter a particular focus in the science curriculum from year to year. This focus is designed to spiral from the lower Elementary into the upper Elementary and then into the Secondary curriculum. Once a student has finished a three-year cycle of study he will have covered the entire Elementary science curriculum and this will be repeated again during the next three-year cycle with increasing difficulty. All aspects of science are covered and these include: the scientific method; scientific classifications; earth science, including ecology; physical science; physiology (plant and animal) and chemistry.