JMS has two Children’s Houses or Casa’s serving children ages 3 to 7.
Practical Life: These exercises have to do with the care of self, care of the environment, movement, and grace and courtesy. Concentration, coordination, and independence are developed through the provision of a prepared environment offering real and purposeful work to the child. Young children derive pleasure and satisfaction from the process of the work, and from orderly and clear presentations that show precise movements used to achieve success. The work is offered to the child, and repetition is encouraged through its open-ended nature. The Practical Life area of the Children’s House helps the child develop a strong foundation for the intellect through promoting concentration and allowing the child the opportunity to practice large and small motor movements to bring the body into harmony with the will, the mind, and intention. Grace and courtesy lessons offer the child a chance to practice social interaction skills in a non-competitive, non-corrective atmosphere. Walking on the line and the silence game are integral components of the Montessori experience. Both help the child to develop the will and gain voluntary control of movements. The group builds cohesion through collectively creating and maintaining silence together while listening for their names to be whispered one by one, as they are invited to move to the location of the teacher. The Practical Life area offers the foundation for concentration and intelligence to grow.
Sensorial: This area offers concrete and precise materials that embody such abstract concepts as length, weight, smell, and texture. The exercises offer experience with the qualities of our world and concise language to describe this experience. Interaction with the materials supports the continuing efforts of the child to categorize and organize sensorial stimuli. These materials also offer indirect preparations for writing and math. For example, handling the cubes of the pink tower and tracing (with fingertips) the geometry cabinet insets prepare the muscles of the hand and coordination of the shoulder, wrist, and fingers for writing. Such materials as the binomial cube and the constructive triangles indirectly prepare the mind for math concepts, including algebra and geometry. The Sensorial area offers the child concrete materials that clearly communicate abstract concepts. The color tablets, for example, invite the child to match colors, grade differences in shade, and master the names of the colors. The tablets are simple, with the only difference between each of them being the color. This avoids confusion that often comes when a picture of (for example) a red bike is shown to a child, and the name “red” is given. All qualities of the sensorial materials are isolated in such a way, including temperature, texture, weight, length, and smell.
Language: Work in this area includes the development of spoken language skills, written skills, and reading. Indirect preparations in Practical Life and Sensorial areas assist with the development of the mind and hand for writing. For example, lightness of touch from the tactile work with sandpaper materials in the Sensorial area, and muscular development and coordination of the hand, wrist, and arm from table scrubbing in Practical Life. Quality literature is offered to the child through poems (oral and written), books, and songs. Spoken language skills are developed over all three years in the classroom, as children are introduced to proper names of objects and are offered the chance to practice social language skills. Story telling and sequencing events (with logic) are also practiced orally. With writing, the child begins with the sandpaper letters, learning the shape of letters associated with the phonetic sound. A child of three and a half learns these phonetic sounds, which enables the child to begin writing with the movable alphabet by around age four. As a natural progression from the child’s scribbling motions, the writing learned in the “Casa” is cursive. The difference between letters is more easily detected in cursive. After a few months of writing with the movable alphabet, the child comes to reading naturally and with great joy over the discovery of such a skill. While reading begins with phonetic printed material, it quickly progresses to encompass puzzle words and phonograms to help with proper spelling. By the third year, the children begin analyzing sentence structures and identifying the functions of word families; e.g. adjectives, nouns, and verbs. The progression of language materials brings the child to total reading with an appreciation for both writing and reading that will last a lifetime.
Mathematics: These activities have to do with counting and number relationships, including the function of the decimal system and the four operations (+, -, x, -). All work begins sensorially, and leads to the awareness of abstract principles. The careful design of the materials in both the math and sensorial areas lays the groundwork for future learning in algebra and geometry. The children master counting through 1,000 and understand the nature of the decimal system, for instance place values and the repetitive nature of the categories and families of numbers (e.g. units, tens, hundreds). Much of the math work is done in small groups, fostering social interaction and support. For example, the function of addition is learned through a small group exercise of combining quantities of gold beads to create a larger quantity. This is a very dynamic lesson that helps children sensorially experience quantities, addition, and exchanging (or what is often called “carrying”). The progression of math exercises can bring a child to high levels of math competence, with such abilities as manipulating fractions, performing all four math operations with large numbers, memorizing math facts, and understanding the concept of very large quantities (e.g. one million).
Cultural areas such as geography, art, and music are all incorporated into the Montessori environment in a manner consistent with the child’s work in the main four areas. We have folders with pictures of people, transportation, housing, and animals (to name just a few) from countries around the world. Children work with globes and puzzle maps, and eventually practice making maps of the world and single continents. Art exercises are included in the Practical Life area, and the Language area offers folders displaying art from specific periods, artists, and themes. Biographies of famous artists, musicians, and inventors are shared with the children through books, listening tapes, and oral stories. Dances, food tasting, and dress from other cultures are also introduced. The research possibilities are limitless, particularly as the child begins to incorporate skills of reading and writing. Textures and materials characteristic of other cultures are included in the exercises, for example a bag from Guatemala may be used for the mystery bag (sensorial). Visitors are always welcome to share musical talents, perform dances, recite poetry, or bring in art from around the world.
Most lessons in the Montessori environment are given one-on-one between the teacher and a child. They are offered with respect for the child and in a non-competitive atmosphere. Some lessons in language, grace and courtesy, and math are given in small groups with a focus on cooperation and positive interaction.
- 7:30 – 8:30: the children arrive and choose activities from a wide variety available to them. The school day begins at 8:30.
- 8:30 – 11:30: much of the time is spent in individual “work,” but the children may choose to join a small group game, sharing or story time. The teacher gives lessons to the children to support their work. Large motor activity is included in the schedule, as well as music, rhythm, and creative expression. The children gather together for sharing, stories, singing, and games.
- 11:30 – 1:00: Children have lunch and go outside. (Depending on the weather, children go outside every day, even for a little while, unless the weather is extremely rough.) The children have the opportunity to run, dig, play with balls, climb, and play games with their friends. Walks to the beach and neighbor trails are common activities at this time.
- 1:00 – 1:30: Children prepare for nap or extended day. Children who need a rest time are provided with a quiet and comfortable space to nap. The other children engage in a variety of recreational activities including arts and crafts, music, story telling, outdoor play, etc. after nap.
- 1:30 – 3:30: “Extended Day.” The older children, who no longer nap, receive lessons on more challenging work, go on nature walks, gather to sing, share or create, and have individual work time. This very important time for five and seven year olds; it allows them to bring to fruition the efforts made and skills learned in the first two years in the classroom. It is equivalent to a child’s kindergarten year.
- 3:30 – 5:30: AfterCare Program.
Primary Montessori Classroom Design: