One of the most important areas in our classroom is the practical life area. This is the place where our young arrivals start and where we lay a solid foundation for the child to grow upon.
Your child will work with everyday objects that have a visible purpose. A three year old will wash, rinse, and dry his own glass after he’s had snack. He knows that he’s done important work because he’s seen you do the same thing at home. This part of our classroom offers your child a comfortable link between home and school, and it allows him to practice being just like an adult. While moving through this part of the curriculum, your child will learn to pay attention to detail, to persevere, to gain precision, and to develop great concentration. His fine motor skills will improve dramatically, his ability to focus on his work will grow even longer, and his organizational skills will begin to develop.
Look at the pictures of students on our site and you'll notice intense concentration on their faces. They are focused and happy in their important work. Now imagine these children in two years. They will be equally focused and happy while doing four-digit subtraction with borrowing. Why? Because they learned how to focus and concentrate when they were three years of age.
This area of our classroom is filled with materials that help to refine your child’s senses! It is the area that develops the burgeoning young scientist.
There are learning materials that help with the discrimination of colour, shape, size, texture, smell or sound. This will encourage your child to notice small, but important, differences. Here, the children start to distinguish, and to categorize in their developing minds.
Sensorial activities provide opportunities to learn about the the world that surround us. It’s a stepping off point for so many interesting activities!
This area of the classroom ensures that the acquisition of language and reading is a painless and exciting proposition. The look of pride and delight as your child discovers they can actually read is priceless!
Language and reading is a process that develops step by step.
Your child will learn to identify sounds through the use of the ‘sandpaper letters’. This learning material is a typical example of Maria Montessori’s genius. The letters can be ‘seen’ and ‘felt’, and the teacher makes the ‘sound’ of the letter. This allows the child to learn easily, regardless of whether his preferred learning style is visual, tactile, or auditory. Once the sounds (phonics) are mastered, he can then string them together to form words.
Step by step, he’ll move through the phonograms to a place where reading is a pleasure and writing is easy. In the meantime, his confidence is growing and his brain is developing at a rapid pace. Learning at this stage of life is often effortless.
At Headwater Hills Montessori School, we are very fortunate to be located on several acres of naturalized land, which includes nature trails, a wooded area, meadowland, seasonal marsh, and a sand pit. On certain days, we spend a more extended period of time in our diverse natural environments, participating in outdoor learning.
Students in Casa go on a nature walk on Monday mornings and spend most Friday mornings in our ‘Forest Friday’ outdoor learning program enjoying our forests, marshlands and nature trails.
There are huge benefits to allowing the students to explore and enjoy these semi-wild lands. In addition to developing a deep connection and love of nature, exposure to a natural landscape over a long period of time has many lasting benefits. It greatly improves both fine and gross motor skills. The important skills of self-regulation and risk assessment are developed. Cognitive skills (exploration, application of lessons, cause and effect, mindfulness...) are used, improved, and taken back into the classroom. Also, this type of experience allows the students to develop socially in their interpersonal skills.
All of our students are outside in all kinds of weather and in order for it to be an enjoyable experience for the children it is very important that they are appropriately dressed to stay warm and dry.
In the math area, we guide your child to move from the concrete to the abstract. Concrete materials are so easy to understand on every level. The beads are right there, in front of you. Ten units make a ‘ten’, ten ‘tens’ make a ‘hundred’, ten ‘hundreds’ make a ‘thousand’, and in the elementary classroom, hundred ‘ten thousands’ make a ‘million’. What could be more clear?
When a Montessori trained child hears the number 10,623, he visualizes 10 thousand cubes, 6 hundred squares, 2 tens, and 3 units. It makes sense to him. That’s why Montessori children can work so effectively in math. They don’t just learn by rote. They actually understand what they are doing.
It’s important to point out the difference between rote learning and the Montessori approach.
Rote learning teaches a child the answer. They memorize that five multiplied by five equals twenty-five. They don’t necessarily understand the ‘why’ or the ‘how’. When given a real life problem to work out, a child who has learned by memorization may not have the tools or understanding to figure out how to approach the problem, but a Montessori child does. He can extrapolate to find the answer. It makes sense to him.
At the Casa level we integrate music, arts, story telling and acting into the classroom experience. We recognize that the arts are fundamental to the development of creativity. We encourage children to draw, colour, do crafts, and paint. We write plays together and perform them for the parents. In addition to daily singing, music and movement, we have a weekly music program with a specialist. Children sing and use rhythm instruments to develop music appreciation.
As part of our Culture program, children learn about the natural world around them, about animals and plants, land forms and other countries. They use puzzle maps to learn the names of the continents and countries of the world. They ask and answer questions such as: Why don’t polar bears live in Africa? Which countries are on the equator? Where is North America? They also have the opportunity to experiment with hands on science, including using magnets, electricity, magnifying glasses, weighing objects and more.
In learning about the world, your child begins to understand where she fits in. Her sense of what is important in life will begin to develop. She will start to feel a deeper connection with and understanding of the world around her.
Learning a second language at a young age develops the second language area of the brain, making it easier to learn any language at a later age. It is so much easier to acquire a second language at this age than when a child is older.
Our French teacher, Dalanda, makes French fun using music, drama, games, and lots of interaction. French is a favourite for our students!