Elementary

Age Grouping

Whenever a parent who is new to the Montessori method hears that we have a lower elementary classroom of grades one, two and three children, they wonder how on earth we can have such successful outcomes. The general feeling is always that a class with a mixed age group cannot provide the environment necessary for learning. How will my child get adequate attention when there are fifteen children of mixed ages? How can the teacher manage sPrivate Elementary Schooluch a group?

The answer seems so clear to us, because we live it every day. I can, however, understand the concern that parents feel. We never look at any group of children as being homogeneous. Each child, from their first day at school, is an individual with his or her own strengths and abilities. Whereas one child will thirst to learn as much math and science as possible, another may prefer to draw pictures and write a play. We are all different! The teacher’s job is to direct, when necessary, so that your child can develop his strengths naturally and quickly, but also grow to understand and enjoy learning those things that don’t come as naturally and easily. The elementary teacher sees her group of students as individuals, regardless of their ‘grade’. A Montessori teacher is trained to work with each and every child. The curriculum supports this kind of learning and the children naturally grow in this environment. Think about a regular classroom with twenty children. Would you say that they are all working at the same level? Do you think that the needs of each and every child are being met? Can you imagine the frustration of the ‘math oriented’ child who already understood the concept of multiplication before the lesson began? Can you imagine the frustration of the ‘language oriented’ student who really doesn’t get what’s happening during that same lesson on multiplication? By virtue of the curriculum and the math materials alone, a teacher in a regular classroom will struggle, no matter his experience, competence or enthusiasm, to create a program that meets each child’s needs. We are so fortunate to never have to face that struggle. Our students never have to face it either.

A by-product of these mixed age groups is the confidence and self-esteem that develop in children who move with independence from one activity to another, and who can offer assistance to their younger classmates. The teacher is not always free to help each child and as a result, the students learn to help themselves or ask their peers for assistance. Sometimes the teacher will even act as if she’s too busy to help in order to encourage the independence and problem solving that is so normal in a Montessori trained child.

The other aspect of a mixed age classroom is that students see what the older children are doing, and they want to progress. When a grade three child is working on the checkerboard, and learning about millions, the other students are likely to notice, and look forward to their own opportunity to work with this material. Imagine a classroom where students look forward to learning!

Curriculum

We would like to point out that a Montessori elementary curriculum is not the same as a traditional school’s curriculum. It is similar in some regards. We do try to cover many of the same things in science, history and geography, but we cover them in more detail, and attempt to relate the information to their lives and to their understanding of the world in general. We try to help your children understand their place in this great world of ours. If I were to use one word to describe our curriculum, it would be ‘enriched’.

We teach math using concrete materials and an ‘old fashioned’ approach. The regular ministry guidelines make great use of estimating and explaining the process. These things aren’t bad, but it doesn’t hurt, for example, to simply learn how to multiply fractions. Our students see, feel and therefore understand why 2/3 multiplied by 6 is equal to 4. They are doing sums and equations from grade one. They move at their own pace and actually enjoy the process. We include problem solving as well. They must understand the context within which the equation is used.

Our language area is also a powerful and important part of the curriculum. Without language we are bereft. Without language we cannot think clearly or express ourselves with confidence and accuracy. Without language, we are unable to write intelligently. It is a fundamental need if we are to be successful in our lives. The Montessori approach to learning language is to incorporate, as much as possible, true and factual works that will serve to increase your child’s knowledge and understanding of his world. Children are thrilled to learn as they read. They tend to approach reading as an adventure because they never know what interesting facts they will learn next. 

It’s safe to say that the English language is quite a difficult language to learn. We spell words in the most amazing ways! For example, how can we justify the spelling of ‘through’? Our method gradually builds both the vocabulary and the spelling abilities of our students. It’s a process that seems painless because it starts in the CASA classroom and builds gently throughout the years. We also teach grammar, and the children enjoy it. Obviously, our students aren’t usually allowed to stand on chairs, and yet, when they are doing the verb cards, they are asked to stand on a chair! How better to learn what a verb is than to learn through play? By the time our students reach grade six (and often earlier than that) they should be able to take any sentence, whether in a newspaper or from a poem, and break it down to explain the parts of speech. Which words are adjectives, which are interjections and which are pronouns? When you understand grammar, you can build better sentences.

Physical Education tennis at Headwaters Racquet Club

We offer our students a rich and varied programme of physical exercise. It is becoming ever more important, in this society of computers and televisions, that we teach our children to value and enjoy physical exercise. We want our students to know the joy of feeling confident and competent in their physical bodies.

For many of our physical education activities we go out into the community to take advantage of different kinds of facilities and expert teachers in the fields. We offer soccer, volleyball, badminton, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, squash, tennis, bouldering, rock climbing, curling, hiking, cross country running, gymnastics. We also do a track and field meet with other Montessori schools in the Spring.

As you can see, our students enjoy a varied and active physical education program designed to develop their bodies, their love of movement, and their confidence.

Going Out

A fundamental part of the Montessori philosophy is the idea that children learn by ‘doing’. We try to supplement the classroom learning with school trips that give the students the opportunity to really experience what they have been reading about. For example, a project on Japan can focus on the currency, the food, the history and geography of the country, and the social mores. What better way to solidify all that information than a trip to the Japanese Cultural Centre? An actual tea ceremony, with all its grace and reverence for tradition, will teach our children more about the culture than reading twenty books in the classroom.

Computers

Our elementary students learn how to make use of computers in their everyday lives. They can do research, word processing and calculations. We certainly don’t emphasize the use of computers because a Montessori classroom has more than enough opportunity to learn other things, and because the children can work on computers at home. It’s safe to say, however, that we all need to be comfortable with the technology and confident about using a variety of programs. Our students get comfortable with both PC’s and Mac's. They learn to use Word in grade one, Excel in grade two, and PowerPoint in grade three.

Homework

Your children work hard during the day. We don’t like to burden them with too much homework, especially in the first few years. Much of their schoolwork is done under the watchful eyes of their teacher. We need to know that the child really understands what he’s working on. If the work is done at home, we don’t know whether the student did the work, or whether a parent was mainly responsible for the outcome. Also, because so much of our teaching is based on concrete materials, it doesn’t make sense for the children to work at home, without the materials. We do want the students to practice their math facts (such as addition or multiplication) and, of course, read, read, read every day. As the children move through the grades we do start to introduce a little bit of homework. One of our important responsibilities is to make sure that the transition into the regular school system is an easy one. We begin to incorporate more and more of the regular approach to education. A grade three child works primarily with the concrete Montessori materials. A grade six student thinks and works in the abstract, and often learns using regular textbooks.

Inquire Now

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