At 9:00am, you walk hand in hand with your child through the bustling Village School courtyard. Your child’s teacher is waiting at the door to welcome each young student with a handshake and a warm greeting. He says good-bye to you as he enters the building and walks softly down to his classroom. Among quiet conversation, he reaches for a hanger and lays his coat on the ground to work with calm focus on buttons and zippers. Many of the children are able to accomplish this task without help, but those who aren’t are assisted by a teacher or more often another child who carefully explains to their classmate how to complete the task. Today your child smiles and proudly proclaims “I did it!” as he completes the chore on his own for the first time.
Your child enters the classroom and finds a place for himself as his class gathers to form a circle on the rug. A teacher sits on the floor with them, taking attendance. As she calls your child’s name, he answers “guten tag” in greeting. Another responds with “bonjour” while a few others choose “ciao” to say hello. Once everyone in the class is accounted for, the teacher claps a rhythm for the children to repeat. This simple activity is helping your son practice his listening, memory and gross motor skills, all while focusing his attention on the present moment. Next comes another simple game – a teacher says “if you are wearing blue, touch your shoulders” and your son finds the smallest blue stripe on his shirt and touches his shoulders. “If you have boots on, touch your toes.” The game continues as your son and his classmates work on self-awareness by reviewing colors and body parts.
Nearly every day holds a special lesson for your child such as music, Spanish or library. Today is movement day. The class heads to the gym and one by one each child is asked to choose a hula hoop scattered about the floor of the gym and stand inside until everyone is ready. Once everyone has claimed a hoop, music is played and students walk around the gym in whatever direction they please as long as they are not bumping into classmates. All at once, your child is learning about the way his body moves, his own personal space and to respect the personal space of others. Next students are paired up to work on cooperation and finally, to end the activity, teachers silently join all the pairs together until they form a long train that quietly works together to snake its way around the room.
Back in the classroom, your child walks around the classroom as his eyes run over the shelves of prepared works or self-contained purposeful activities. Once he spots one that interests him, he prepares his workspace by either rolling out a rug on the ground, laying an art mat on an empty table of his choice or finding an apron to put on as the work dictates. All of these things he is able to do independently which gives him complete ownership over his work as well as a sense of responsibility to his classmates as he cleans up after his work is done so that others may use it after him. This sense of community is evident as students politely remind each other if a step has been forgotten and often times offer assistance. Courtesy and patience are core values in a classroom that thrives on calm and order in a community of independent workers and thinkers.
Some things you might hear in conversations between classmates in a primary room could be:
“You forgot to roll up your rug, do you want me to help?”
“Do unit beads or ten bars go first?”
“How do you say your last name?”
“You need a tray for carrying thousands cubes.”
“We are missing a glass bowl for the unit beads, what could we use instead?”
Your son has decided to work with a partner on matching beads to cards with numbers on them from 1-9000. His partner has done this work before and so he calmly gives step-by-step instructions on how to complete the task. They work together with precision and enthusiasm as they divide the work and carry trays back and forth from the shelf to collect needed materials. At one point, a bowl of 9 beads spill and even that small noise causes many of his classmates to stop and scramble to help locate the missing ones. In the end they only find 6. They think for a moment and your son says “we found 6 and we need 9 so that means we need…..3 more” to which his partner glances toward the teacher but pauses for a moment and then says “I know where we can get 3 more!” and locates a box of extra beads. Your son has in that moment, learned teamwork, problem-solving, and self-reliance all while practicing listening to instructions and learning math.
Throughout your son’s time in the primary classroom, he will move through the different focus areas at his own pace. At the age of 3, he will likely be particularly drawn to the practical life section of the room, where he learns fine motor skills such as pouring, scooping, lacing, cutting, tracing, buttoning, zipping, and using tools such as tweezers, scissors, and chopsticks. As he grows, he will incorporate into his day the other 4 sections essential to his Montessori classroom: sensorial, science & cultural studies, language, and mathematics. You can read more about these areas at the following link:https://www.thevillageschool.net/our-programs/primary/
Even snack and lunchtime are important learning experiences for primary children. Your son is learning the importance of independence as he prepares and cleans up his own food. He enjoys the company of others he invites to join him as he practices table manners and polite conversation. The discussions around a lunch table of preschool children can be most interesting!
Going outside is an important aspect to your child’s primary day and you will notice that at the Village School, he will go out in nearly any weather. In a light rain, he may stomp in puddles in his boots. On a windy fall day, he may work with friends to make leaf piles to jump into, and on a snowy day he may spend time getting bundled up to climb to the top of a small hill and sail back down to the bottom with a friend on a sled. All of these are experiences that enrich your child’s day of independent learning, gross motor skill development and community building.
When you pick your child up after a day in a primary class, he has worked hard and is proud of all he has accomplished. He may not bring home drawings and worksheets daily and he may not tell you much about his day, but the transition from school to home is more seamless for a Montessori child because his learning experience, like the rest his life, is all about the journey.