The Children's House
In the Children’s House, the Montessori certified teacher guides the children through the worlds of math, reading and writing, language, botany and zoology, and geography with sensorial materials, and applies this knowledge to the outside world daily through nature outings, the school garden, and organic, vegetarian menus.
Through scientific observations of young cognitively challenged children, Dr. Maria Montessori developed her theory of child development. From this theory and her observations, she crafted educational materials to meet the developmental needs of the children. Specifically designed to introduce academic concepts in a concrete form before moving to the abstract concepts of mathematics, language, geography, biology, and zoology.
Dr. Montessori called these materials “works”. She championed the child’s journey to adulthood as the work of the child. She said, “The child can develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experiences 'work'". She continues, “His objective in working is the work itself, and when he has repeated an exercise and brought his own activities to an end, this end is independent of external factors.” The experiences that children are exposed to during their time in Children’s House support them in their process of constructing their intellect and personality.
Life in the Children’s House
All of the work in Children’s House is presented on an individual basis. Each work builds off of knowledge acquired through previous experiences, ensuring that the child is able to independently work with the materials. The Children’s House guide acts as an observer of each child; watching for signs of readiness or interest in new works. By observing and then presenting work on an individual basis the guide is able to give each child access to work when they are most ready and excited to receive it.
Children in the Montessori environment are empowered through their right to choose and facilitate independent work. All the work given to the children is done with the intention of supporting each child’s ability to work independently, have confidence in their own capabilities, and to honor each child’s right to exploration and independent discovery within an educational environment. The individualized and child-led philosophy of the Montessori Children’s House gives children the freedom to follow their own needs and supports their growth into life-long learners and lovers of their world. The work and materials available in the Children’s House environment are broken into four areas; the Exercises of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Mathematics.
The Exercises of Practical Life
The work and materials of the Exercises of Practical Life are presented to the 2.5 to 6-year-old as tools to support each child’s development into an independent person. We nurture the growth of the whole child in Children’s House and recognize the child’s need for more than traditional school subjects. The works in the Exercises of Practical Life speak to the need of young children to independently take care of themselves and their environment. Works in the area of Practical Life include care of self activities like hand washing, and work with dressing frames which give the child the space to practice the different elements of dressing such as tying bows, buttoning, and lacing shoes.
Children are given presentations on different ways to take care of the world around them. Care of environment activities include window washing, gardening, and button sewing. These activities in the area of Practical Life build confidence in the young child as they are able to practice independently caring for themselves and their world. Small group presentations given to children allow them to practice social graces like “how to introduce yourself,” and “how to accept a compliment.”
The young child’s need for movement and interest in finding new ways to challenge themselves through movement is honored through movement works like the silence activity and the walking line. Through presentation and practice, children are able to work on refining their movements and moving their bodies freely and gracefully.
The Sensorial Materials
The presentations and materials used in the Sensorial area of the Children’s House support young children in gathering and classifying sensorial impressions of their environment. Work in this area explores the different senses including tactile, visual, gustatory and thermic. Through isolating senses work with the Sensorial materials aid young children in refining their senses and therefore their understanding of the world around them. As children progress through the work of the Sensorial Materials they internalize the sensorial experiences they are practicing and begin to apply those experiences beyond their work in Children’s House. The Sensorial Materials also include work with the continents, countries and oceans that make up our planet. These cultural works within the Sensorial Materials give children the key to understanding the various land and water forms that comprise our planet in a tangible and meaningful way.
The Mathematics Materials
We introduce the area of Mathematics to the young child both directly though the Montessori math materials and indirectly though their work with the sensorial materials and the materials of the exercises of practical life. When we indirectly prepare each child’s mathematical mind for work within math we do so with the knowledge that math is an inherently abstract concept. As we indirectly prepare the young mind for work with math and give each child experiences which speak to his developmental needs we give them the means of creating a strong and successful mathematical mind to exercise and use for the rest of their lives.
While the area of mathematics is inherently abstract, the Montessori math materials are made to be both concrete and geometric in form which make them accessible to the young child. Through the use of movement, counting beads, and both individual and group work, children develop their capacity to understand quantity and numerical value. Children work to first understand the numbers 1- 10, then move to work in the tens, hundreds and thousands. After each child has confidence in recognizing numbers numerically and in quantity into the thousands they begin their work in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Linear counting, introducing quantities into ten thousand, and fractions are introduced as the child shows interest and capability.
The Language Materials
Young children are in an especially sensitive period in their lives for the acquisition of language. The Language Materials of the Children’s House give children experiences in spoken and written language. The Language Materials include work on science and culture as activities are presented to children around learning and classifying the language of plants and animals, invertebrates and vertebrates, living and non-living matter and the names of countries, flags and continents. Children work to know the language and meaning of the different parts of plants, animals, phases of the moon, and of mushrooms. The Children’s House is an environment rich in spoken language and in opportunities for children to acquire and used new vocabulary. Children’s House written language works begin with a phonetic approach to the alphabet.
Children employ their tactile sense in tracing letters made from sandpaper as they practice their letter sound recognition. While the younger members of Children’s House work on their letter sound recognition, they are also given various work and experiences that prepare their hands for writing. Works through-out Children’s House give children the opportunity to use and develop a strong prehensile grip as well as practice moving their hands from left to right. After extensive work and practice with letter sounds and hand writing preparation children begin working with writing and then move into reading and grammar works. All the work given to children in the Language Materials is done to inspire creativity, to allow each child to recognize themselves as a storyteller, and to cultivate a love of the written word.
One of the most crucial tenets of the Montessori Method and curriculum is the 3-hour work cycle. Typically scheduled in the morning, the children have a three-hour work cycle in which they are free to choose and work with the materials in the classroom, given presentations on works by certified teachers, and enjoy small group snacks with their friends. The genius of the three-hour work cycle is that the child can work on a material for as long as he wants without fear of interruption from artificial scheduled activities such as circle time, outside time, or snack time. These activities are built into the work-cycle. Without arbitrary interruptions, the child is free to work as long as he is called to the material. This builds concentration and self-confidence in his abilities to master a skill or concept and to make choices in his learning. The Children’s House daily schedule reflects the Montessori Curriculum and the MINE, ME, & US Montessori School philosophy of the importance of food and nature in young children’s education.
At MINE, ME, & US Montessori School and in accordance with the Montessori Philosophy, we educate the whole child. At MINE, ME, & US Montessori School, this means organic, vegetarian menus and ample time to explore outside are part of each student’s daily experience at school. At MINE, ME, & US Montessori School, we also believe parenting is difficult enough without the added chore of creating, planning, and making healthy lunches for your child at school each day. The mornings are hurried enough with young children; we want to help make them as smooth for your family as possible.
Step into the Children’s House…
Enter a warm room, pleasant with low lighting, lovely photographs and framed paintings hang in view for the children, magnificent and scientifically informed Montessori materials fill the room. Each exquisite work, carefully fashioned from superior natural materials, resembles pieces of artwork that belong in a museum rather than a preschool classroom. Different plants and flowers decorate the room, while sweet potatoes suspended by toothpicks in glasses of water sprout roots and seedlings stretch out of dozens of miniature flowerpots around the room.
The room is busy with children working with assorted materials either sitting at child-sized tables and chairs or on the floor with small rugs. A few children purposefully walk around the room considering different works or activities arranged on the child-sized shelves. Each child, whether working independently or quietly in pairs, is happily absorbed in the task in front of them.
In a tiled area of the classroom, a young boy sits at a small wooden table practicing transferring tiny Mung beans from one bowl to another with a delicate spoon. Carefully spooning each bean individually, the boy is not only perfecting his fine motor skills and practicing for eating with a spoon, but more importantly, he is developing his concentration-without which he will have future trouble learning complex concepts.
A little girl chooses a small rug from a basket of several rugs and puts it on the carpeted floor in a space where there aren’t many children working. She then, seemingly aimless, walks around the room, finally settling on a work. She chooses the pink tower, a mathematically inspired Montessori material comprising of ten wooden cubes, graduating in size based on the metric system. She carefully takes the tiniest cube from the top of the tower using two hands and walks across the room to place it on her small rug. She repeats this task with each of the cubes. When she has all the cubes on her rug, she unknowing embarks on a sensorial and mathematically infused experience. She uses her hands and fingers to trace the shape of the blocks and feels the different weights of the different sized blocks. She commences an undertaking of putting the ten cubes into various patterns. With each iteration, she is unconsciously becoming familiar with mathematical thought (the decimal system, fractions, and division).
A young boy sits alone at a table with a small piece of paper, some colored pencils, and flat piece of metal with a large, perfect circle cut out of center. He places the metal inset on the paper and begins to trace the outline of the circle precisely. He repeats this action several times until a thick-lined circle is on his paper. After putting the metal inset to the side, he traces the circle again and then colors it with a multi-colored pattern of his creation. The metal inset is a Montessori material designed for language, as muscular preparation for writing letters. While the boy is simply tracing a circle, he is simultaneously developing muscle memory for the future writing of letters and numbers with circular lines, such as “a” and “o”.
Next to a large multi-tiered shelf containing several large puzzles of the continents, a girl is working quietly tracing the outer edges of a puzzle piece in the shape of Brazil. She is completing a multi-step geography work consisting of a very large traced drawing of South America with all the countries traced in the correct geographical position. She has been working on this for more than a week. As she colors in the traced shape of Brazil, she is lost in thought contemplating the borders of Brazil. She recalls the feeling of tracing the large shape. She thinks about what she knows about South America. She starts quietly humming the Continents Song in her head, knowing that South America is one of seven continents. She remembers various items that her teacher presented from the South America box. There was some fabric, some pictures, and a few books. She thinks fondly of the photographs of the interesting animals that live in South America. She smiles as she remembers the story about the tree frogs on a family vacation to Chile that her friend’s mom told her class about one afternoon. Then, absolutely engrossed in the past couple weeks of learning about South America, she starts loudly singing the Ecuadorian lullaby she learned last week. She surprised herself, looking around to see if anyone noticed. Nobody was looking at her. All her friends were busy with their works. She went back to coloring in Brazil, careful to be as neat as she could.
The five and six-year old Montessori children are comfortable and capable of understanding the intricate, complex, complicated work of mathematics, reading and writing, detailed geography, and in-depth, hands-on biology while keeping their classroom clean and orderly, preparing and enjoying healthy school meals with real utensils and flatware, and taking care of their own bodies and clothing only because they have been developing the necessary skills since they were in the Nido Environment.
At MMUMS we follow the child as well as adhere to Virginia regulations. Each child must rest on a cot for at least 30 minutes. After a child has rested for the required 30 minutes, they are free to choose work quietly. We do not wake children from sleep at a set time, if they require more rest. MMUMS faculty will work together and with parents to support children in receiving the adequate rest as is necessary for their health and wellbeing.