The Village School provides the gift of a lifelong and fundamental love of learning. The non-competitive environment combined with an individualized “just right” curriculum produces adaptable, collaborative, kind and curious kids.
Montessori is an entirely different approach to education. Some fundemental Montessori elements are:
- Emulate a familial atmosphere with a class of younger and older “siblings” and teachers who stay with you for up to 3 years.
- Three year cycle of introduction, practice and mastery leads to a deeper understanding of concepts.
- Students learn from and teach each other which creates a culture of kindness and collaboration.
- Non competitive, nurturing and respectful environments
- Promote learning and achievement for its own sake and at each child’s own pace.
- Encourage risk-taking since it mitigates a fear of failure.
- Again promote a culture of kindness and collaboration. Children are responsible and respectful. Come visit a classroom and you will be astounded by what you see.
- Choices within structure
- Being encouraged to learn what you love leads to a love of learning. Choice amplifies motivation which strengthens comprehension and retention.
- Create self-directed pupils and future workers. A Montessori child is unlikely to ask, “What should I do next?”
- Structure provides a logical progression of skill and knowledge acquisition from concrete to abstract. This is coupled with a multi-disciplinary approach to learning which lays the groundwork for critical thinking and analysis. Montessori taught children are unlikely to ask “Why do I need to know this?”
- Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum:
- Each program is matched to the level and interest of the student and meets all necessary state and local norms
- Lessons are designed to provide appropriate challenge in a manner that engages students on all sensory levels and encourages creative and critical thinking
- Subject mastery is achieved through practice and individual feedback
Montessori classrooms are designed to encourage children to take responsibility for working to their fullest potential. Students learn to recognize their strengths and how to address their weaknesses. Competition is internally driven as the child seeks to perfect his/her learning in a community built on mutual respect and collaboration. A student who is confident and has a strong sense of self is more likely to be prepared and successful.
Research studies have shown that Montessori educated students are well prepared for life emotionally, socially and academically. Montessori children are above average in following directions, adapting to new situations, meeting deadlines, listening attentively, taking responsibility, asking provocative questions, and engaging enthusiastically in learning.
Students at The Village School are evaluated through their portfolios, teacher’s observation and individual assessments. No rewards or punishments are used. Grades and tests are introduced in the upper grades in order to prepare students for their transition to High School. The Montessori curriculum provides children with the necessary foundation to help them become mature, caring and successful individuals.
The first thing that you notice when entering a Montessori classroom is how the room is set up. There are small work spaces for one or more students and a central area for class meetings. Learning materials are set out where children can access them. Students are busy working alone or in small groups. The teachers are giving lessons to small groups, helping individuals, or noting what each child is doing. The environment is usually quiet, with a low hum of activity.
The environment is an important part of the classroom, reflecting central aspects of Montessori philosophy:
- The child should be an active, not passive, learner – We now know that the physical act of moving helps the brain lay down neuronal networks. We also know that the brain works best when it takes an active role, figuring out problems rather than memorizing facts. In order to take an active role, the student must be able to move around and access information. This is an important basis for the design of Montessori classrooms.
- The classroom should be child-centered, rather than teacher-centered – The Montessori approach is individualized. As children should be actively engaged in the learning process, they need to be involved in work that corresponds to their learning style, development, and level of interest, rather than merely listening to information. The teachers know what each child is ready to do and presents the appropriate lesson to keep the student interested and involved. Just the right amount of challenge helps students revel in their mastery, facilitating risk taking. As active learners, they develop self-confidence in their learning ability.
- The classroom should be made up of mixed ages – One of the best ways children learn is from each other. Children progress at different rates in different areas. In a mixed age group they can often find a peer for each of several different activities. The younger children have role models and the older children acquire an additional confidence by being the classroom “elders”. For the older ones, teaching a younger child is an excellent way to consolidate one’s own learning.
- The teacher should be seen as a mentor and resource, not as an authority figure – The Montessori teacher develops relationships with students built on trust, support, and mutual respect. Teachers and students collaborate in the learning process
- Respect should be an underlying factor driving a smooth classroom environment – Students and teachers are treated with respect, which is both expected and modeled. The students know that they are valued and that the teacher will listen to them. This environment helps everyone feel secure and confident
It is important to note that the Montessori teaching method was developed through scientific observation. These principles have been borne out by subsequent child development and neurological research. For example, brain researchers now use terms such as “sensitive periods”, a phrase coined by Dr. Montessori years ago in describing times of developmental readiness for certain types of learning. In addition, the whole focus on active learning is, in fact, consistent with what we now know about how the brain works. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging have demonstrated that the brain functions by synthesizing and relating pieces of information in an active learning process.
A brief answer is that there is freedom within structure, in just the right balance.
Freedom to make choices and assume responsibility for their actions helps children develop true independence. At the Elementary level, students have individualized work contracts for each week. They are responsible for completing the work in the allotted time, thus learning how to manage their time. They have both the limited freedom of choosing which assignments to work on over a specific period of time and the responsibility of completing assignments on time. These acquired time management skills form an important foundation for future learning and effective study skills.
The Middle School has a modification of this arrangement, with assignments given out three weeks in advance. This format relates to the nature of the tasks and the increase in responsibility for time management.
In both cases, expectations are associated with the appropriate developmental period of the child. As stated above, students are active participants in this progress, not merely doing what the teacher directs at each moment of the day. This involvement is a key component to developing a sense of ownership for one’s work.
In the Lower Elementary Program there are no grades or formal testing. Teachers use reading and spelling assessments as tools to help meet individual needs. Children learn through correcting their errors rather than receiving grades.
In the Upper Elementary Program individual work is ungraded as well. Students correct their errors and learn from the process together with their teachers and peers. They are introduced to test taking as a practical life skill; however, scores are neither reported nor emphasized.
In the Middle School Program standardized tests are given in the spring as a continuation in building this practical life skill. Throughout the year, students experience other kinds of test taking as well in all subject areas. Students retake parts of tests in which they do not demonstrate sufficient proficiency in order to become grounded in a concept before moving on to the next level.
Competition with regards to grades is de-emphasized in the classroom. Grades are given out in a private manner. Students learn that tests are only one measure of what they have learned and a necessary skill for future learning environments. The focus in the classroom continues to be on sharing of knowledge and experience in an atmosphere of cooperation.
There is a current controversy over how well testing actually demonstrates learning. Many schools are moving toward a “portfolio method” of demonstrating students’ work. What we do know is that testing changes the teaching process. Teaching becomes directed more toward the test and less toward understanding. Also, students learn in a different manner when they know they are to be tested formally.
The Montessori method focuses more on the process of learning. Children who have been in both public schools and The Village School say that our programs focus more on developing a strong understanding of a subject.
The Village School’s curriculum is very strong in the sciences. From the first year in the Elementary Program, students learn to write reports on various science topics of interest to them. Upper Elementary and Middle School students conduct experiments and write formal lab reports.
The computer is a tool that is available at all times. Instruction in computer use begins in Kindergarten and is never limited to just a class in a computer lab. Students use the computer as a tool to aid in research, write reports, and create tables, fliers, and brochures. They develop keyboarding skills and become comfortable with a variety of software and computer applications. In the Middle School, students learn to create spreadsheets. All computers are networked. Many are connected by high-speed modems to the Internet. In addition to computers, many classrooms are also equipped with ipads and smart boards.
One of the benefits of a Montessori education is the individualized approach to learning. Our Elementary Program is geared toward accommodating a wide range of learning abilities, with the goal of meeting the individual needs of all our students. There is a concerted effort to keep each classroom balanced and productive. All students are interviewed to assess the appropriateness of the placement.
In composition, our classrooms are like many other schools, with a variety of abilities and needs. The difference is that the educational needs of each child are met.
Enrollment in the 1st through 6th grades is at 95 students for the 2013– 2014 school year. The relatively small size has many advantages. Children are known and appreciated for who they are. Everyone feels needed and has a place as an observer and a doer. This promotes self-confidence, which is after all an integral part of learning. In addition, the children are held accountable for their actions. This is an important aspect of the moral development of the child.
With a smaller pool of friends, children learn effective social skills. While it is possible that there may be fewer friends, it is also likely that these relationships will be close and respectful. Indeed, many social-science researchers view small school size as beneficial to healthy cultural development. For the child that may seek more friends, a wealth of outside activities, such as sports teams and drama and dance classes, exist in our communities.
Children in the three-to-six-year-old period of development have a need for order and routine. This helps them to understand, predict, and feel comfortable in their environment. A daily routine is particularly important in allowing children to plan and feel settled.
Likewise, children adjust better to and benefit greater from an educational program when they attend class on a daily basis. With a routine in place, children have the opportunity to socialize and develop life skills in an environment that is prepared for their size and level of development.
The Kindergarten Program is designed for children who are at least 5 years of age by September 30. Students in this program spend half of their day in a multi-age Primary Program class and the other half in the Kindergarten class, which consists exclusively of 5 and 6 years olds. Kindergarten and Primary Program teachers communicate regularly to discuss the student’s progress and coordinate classroom expectations and activities.
Designed for children who are ready for a longer school day, the Kindergarten Program provides a smooth transition to first grade. Working in a variety of group and individual activities, children learn to assume increasing responsibility for their work and to follow weekly work plans. Specialist instructors teach Spanish, music, art, physical education, computer sciences, and health classes.
Although participation in the Kindergarten program is not a prerequisite for admission to the Elementary Program, it is an enriching experience for the 5-to-6-year-old.
Many of our students who have gone on to public, parochial, and other private schools have provided us with positive feedback regarding their adjustment. In general, the older the child, the easier the transition. This is in part because the method of teaching becomes more similar between Montessori and other schools with increasing grade levels. Most significant, however, is the level of confidence in learning that the child develops in a Montessori environment. This proves a great asset in any situation.
The Middle School children utilize typical textbooks and take tests on material studied as a preparation for high school. Extended Day and Lower Elementary students are accustomed to conducting research, working both individually and in small groups. They are active learners. All this serves as valuable preparation for any educational setting.