The Hilltop Montessori School curriculum has been developed to foster a child’s love of learning and promote respect for self, others, community and the world. Maria Montessori believed that, once the child’s basic needs of security, love, food and shelter were met, learning was a natural, inherent and spontaneous activity. The education process depends on the child, the prepared environment, the teacher/facilitator and the parent. Students learn in different ways and at different rates. Learning is enhanced through direct hands-on experiences rather than from a textbook. Exploration is vital to sustain curiosity, choice is necessary for self-motivation, and discovery requires trial and error. The education process encourages a child to be responsible for self and the world, and, consequently, education is dramatically more than simply learning facts.
At Hilltop, each child learns to work and play with others in a peaceful, caring community. Tolerance, acceptance and encouragement are embodied within all activities. Students develop and identify a clear sense of values and a social conscience. Everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
The Montessori curriculum is organized to present concepts and ideas appropriate to the child. Initially, lessons are introduced simply and concretely and are reinvestigated throughout future school years to increasing depth, breadth and complexity. The curriculum is tied together by thematic studies (such as the physical universe, the human experience, nature, culture, etc.) and not presented in the traditional subject-content approach (such as math, history, English, etc.) Rather, when the child studies a country, he reviews and researches its physical geography, climate, ecology, cultures, historical timeline, government, family life, etc. Reading and writing activities might highlight that country’s literature. Music might reflect that country’s musical style, and so on. Thus learning occurs in context. The curriculum seeks to integrate experiences across traditional subjects and to facilitate the child’s ability to locate whole-to-part perspectives, constantly identifying the individual’s place in the world.
Maria Montessori believed that there are “sensitive periods” in a child’s development, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to facilitate these learning opportunities. The curriculum also takes natural advantage of this and has the child make choices regarding the lessons of the day. There is a whole-language approach to reading, composition and literature, which immerses the child in the activity, and refinement is an ongoing process. Math moves from concrete to abstract ideas and is noted for its use of high-quality hands-on, self-correcting learning materials. The child crystallizes a clear image of how math works and can readily understand symbolic math with no particular need to memorize rote math facts. Many math concepts are introduced at an early age (plain and solid geometry, logic, etc.), and students enjoy the regular application of math across the daily curriculum.
Montessori also promotes early exposure to the study of the world, again within the perspective of self to world. From the toddler to elementary years, the child regularly relates self and family with earth history, with other cultural lives and histories and with all periods/time within history. Science is a normal part of the day, with attention drawn to naturally occurring experiments (such as cooking, mixing, nature studies, etc.). The scope of science includes botany, zoology, geology, astronomy, chemistry and physics.
Practical life learning is a cornerstone of Montessori education, and all learning is attached to some functional use in the normal day. The young child duplicates adult tasks (dusting, cleaning, washing dishes, etc., with items to their physical scale), which teaches motor skills and respect for materials simultaneously. Older students plan and buy snacks, working with budgets/money rather than just managing money math, and recognize relationships (for example, economics and government) that affect this snack purchasing.
Hilltop Montessori additionally has strong commitments to foreign language and the fine arts. Spanish is taught daily, even at the toddler age. Music expands beyond appreciation to performance and music theory, and art encompasses media exploration with geometrical concepts of perspective, etc. Technology is also woven purposefully through the curriculum so our children are better prepared for the 21st century.
The teacher’s primary role is a facilitator. The teacher establishes the “prepared environment,” which encourages, entices, challenges and rewards the curious nature of the child. Additionally, the teacher constantly assesses, challenges and reassesses the child and promotes learning within the preferred style and personality of the child. Teachers communicate and work with parents, keeping the needs and potential of the child in perspective. Parents reinforce learning, mostly by understanding and participating in the Montessori philosophy.
The following pages illustrate the global content presented within Hilltop Montessori. While each age (toddler, preschool/kindergarten, lower elementary, upper elementary and middle school) is exposed to the same curricular elements, teachers offer individualized education so that each child is challenged to the best of his/her ability.