Food PreparationPractical life skills such as the preparation of food are important aspects of the Montessori preschool curriculum. Shown here with Chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, the students slice, dice and create healthy recipes from the garden. Favorites are Swiss chard, homemade smoothies and lettuce wraps.
Preschool and the Cultural SubjectsPreschool students learn to classify through exposure to botany, zoology, geography, history and science. Hands-on exploration allows these excited, young learners the freedom to explore their interests as well as move through the curriculum at their own pace.
Literacy at the Preschool LevelMontessori’s language arts curriculum allows for individualized instruction and actively engages the students in the reading process. The works also offer a “control of error” so that each child can self-correct as he goes, and, as with the sand paper letters illustrated here, the children delight in materials designed to capture their interest.
The MaterialsA beautifully prepared environment is the foundation of any Montessori classroom. The materials are presented sequentially and with purpose, as with these math materials. In the classroom, the child moves from the most concrete to the more abstract in her acquisition of knowledge. Engaging materials call to the children and promote a classroom rich with learning experiences.
Order and ConcentrationChildren even at this very young age are permitted to choose their work areas. Mats define their individual work areas and foster concentration and order. The curriculum for the preschool includes not only math and reading, but botany, zoology, music, foreign language, fine arts and science. With so much to accomplish, the students move from work to work purposefully and are free to make selections within a framework of age-appropriate materials.
We have four different preschool/kindergarten classroom environments (ages three to six), each accommodating 24 students with two teachers. We also employ a full-time Spanish instructor for the toddler and preschool so that all the children at these levels have daily Spanish lessons in small groups within the classroom setting. Parents are given the option of half-day programs or full-day and can also participate in a lunch bunch program, which can extend the day slightly for those wanting a 1 p.m. dismissal. In preschool, approximately 50% of students remain for the full-day program. All kindergarten students stay for the full day in preparation for the first grade. For those preschool students who remain full-day, the three-year-old students nap, the four-year-olds have an enrichment class, and the kindergarten students are kept separately to have extended periods of study in preparation for their entry into the lower elementary the following year.
As with the toddler class, the preschool follows a set curriculum that is made available to parents online and in the office. We also communicate the curriculum and each child’s progress through the semi-annual parent conferences and progress reporting system. The benefits of the preschool/kindergarten classrooms include remaining with the same teacher through the end of the kindergarten year (for the traditional Montessori three-year cycle), the ability to accommodate various learning styles, two instructors per class and the wealth of hands-on, Montessori didactic learning materials that follow a sequential order for instruction. At the preschool level, each child is looked upon differently and is individually presented with her own language and math “work,” based on her developmental needs. For this reason, some of the three- and four-year-old students are fluently reading and performing complex mathematical equations, while others are still working on building the repetition and skills needed for decoding and more advanced mathematics. Each child is given the opportunity to progress at his individual rate, and they are each able to take time away from their academics when needed. Taking “time away” is spent in creating beautiful artwork, maps, puzzles and other outlets for creativity. The classrooms buzz with wonderful, creative energy and learning.
Although children work more independently, instead of at traditional “centers,” the curriculum does include monthly units that bring the whole class together to focus on a specific theme. Examples of units are: Peace/Tolerance, South America, the Solar System and the Human Body. Students are also exposed to practical life, sensorial materials and building appropriate fine and gross motor skills as well as concentration. As with our other academic levels, student progress is represented through a standardized progress reporting system.
For more information, please read about our specific objectives for Preschool and Kindergarten.