When a group of St. Georgian’s, mostly educators, met back in August of 2009 to discuss the possibility of creating a preschool at St. George’s Episcopal Church two main ideas or goals presented themselves.
The preschool should include the “best practices” of the Montessori method and
The preschool should be available to all children by providing scholarships to those families who might not otherwise be able to afford a quality preschool education
With these goals in mind some basic principles of learning where identified:
Children learn best through hands-on experience
Children learn from one another through role-modeling and peer tutoring
Children make connections between what they already know and what they newly experience
Children take these “web-like” connections and build upon them as they develop mentally and physically
Children take pride in working independently and take ownership of their learning when it makes “sense” to them
Children are enriched by art, music and body movement
With these basic principles of learning agreed upon, the Montessori approach seemed the best way to ensure that the children attending SGEP would receive a quality learning experience. An experience which would create independent, life-long learners enriched by their own cultural backgrounds as well as their unique language and life skills.
Will children be ready for public/traditional schools?
In a word- Yes! The purpose of an education, according to Montessori, is to serve as an aid to life. The Montessori method gives children a solid foundation to work from and instills in children the “ joy of learning”. When children with a Montessori background transition into a more traditional environment they are often several years above grade level in basic skills, such as math, language and reading. In addition, because the Montessori environment allows children to follow their passions they are often exceptionally knowledgeable in a number of specialty areas such as geography, astronomy, biology etc.
Does a Montessori curriculum cover everything a traditional school would cover with the Virginia SOL’s?
Yes, a Montessori curriculum will cover all the basic topics a traditional school covers and more! Montessori takes learning a step further because it allows the children to have “hands-on” experiences. Each experience a child has with the materials creates a deeper understanding of the concept that is being taught. This “hands-on” aspect of education creates experiences which become embedded in the child’s memory and becomes the basis of all new learning.
Why doesn’t my child bring home crafts and worksheets every day?
The materials used in Montessori are referred to as “work”. Almost all of these materials are designed to be handled and worked with by the child. Therefore children are crafting, building and manipulating materials all day long. For example most of the writing work is done in sand, on white boards or chalk boards. This is a stress free way for a child to learn. Writing can be very intimidating for some children and by practicing on non-permanent materials children may wipe their efforts clean and try again (plus it is so much fun!). By the time children are ready to start working with pencil and paper they have built up the muscles in their hand using pre-writing activities, and have grown in their self-esteem, confidence, and skills that they need to be and feel successful with writing.
Why are Montessori Schools decorated so differently?
The environment is an extremely important part of the Montessori process. Part of this process is creating a warm and comforting “home like” environment. You will see art on the walls and lamps for lighting. The room should be simple and beautiful. If you have the opportunity to visit a Montessori classroom get down on the child’s level and see what they see! You will find that the focus is on the shelves and the work presented there. The shelves are full of materials that are beautiful, colorful, inviting, and very attractive to the children.
Why do you mix the age groups?
Generally, Montessori age groupings are as follows:
• Infant: birth – 18 months
• Toddler: 18 months – 3 years
• Preschool: 3-6 years
• Lower Elementary: 6-9 years
• Upper Elementary: 9-12 years
• Middle School: 12-14 years
• High School: 15-18 years
There are several good reasons for grouping the different ages together. By creating an environment with mixed age groups and abilities the children learn to help others and to accept help from one another. In this environment children gain an appreciation for their own achievement and for the accomplishments of others. When an older child teaches a younger one, the older child is reinforcing his/her own previously learned concepts.
Older children learn to be patient and tolerant, and serve as role models and teachers for younger children. Younger children learn about courtesy, manners, and conflict resolution by watching the older children in the class.
Community is an important aspect of Montessori. By staying in the same classroom for a three year period, children develop a strong sense of community and stability.