A nurturing space for children ages 2 through kindergarten
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Program Overview

little girl w bouquet of flowers

Albemarle Montessori Children’s Community provides a full-day, full-year program for children from the age of two and a half through kindergarten. We use natural and organic materials in our classrooms and connect your child with the outside environment. We provide the highest quality of Montessori education for your child. Through the use of Montessori materials – toys designed to be didactic (self-learning) and engaging – your child will progress academically from concrete to abstract, from simple to complex. By supporting the natural inclination towards independence and freedom, your child will be able to move at his or her own pace through the curriculum and receive a solid educational foundation for elementary school. In Montessori, we speak about a child’s “work”, but it is not the same as the tedious, monotonous work that we think of as adults. Your child will see this work as play, for it allows your child to be challenged, to explore, to be engaged, and to have fun. A Montessori education is more than academic preparation. We will also help your child develop his or her emotional intelligence, critical thinking skills, motivation, social and communication skills, and sense of mindfulness – all attributes necessary in our hectic twenty-first century world.

Classroom

Our Children’s Community is designed to provide the most benefit to your child when he or she enters the critical stage for brain development, usually between the ages of two and a half and six. During this time, your child develops and reorders his or her brain in preparation for the higher order work he or she will face in elementary school. Your child learns the skills and gains the experiences necessary to work successfully and confidently in any environment or program.

Our Children’s Community has many more materials arrayed on shelves throughout the classroom because of the age span of the children from nearly three to six. There are four areas of the classroom: practical life, sensorial, math, and language. Science, art, music, movement, geography, foreign language, and other studies are integrated into these four areas. Everything is organized, clean, and attractive. There are plants throughout the space, pictures on the wall, and natural wood chairs and tables on which to work. The wide age span allows the older children to mentor and serve as role models for the younger children while the older children learn leadership skills.

The daily schedule in the Children’s Community begins with the morning arrival and greeting. We then proceed with a long morning work cycle where your child can work with developmentally appropriate materials and activities of his or her choosing. This long time period nurtures focus and concentration in your child and allows him or her to delve deeply into an activity without fear of interruption. Your child can select snack at any point during this morning period. After the morning work program, there is community circle, lunch, and recess. After recess, there is a quieter, long afternoon work cycle in which the younger children may nap as they need. At the end of the afternoon work cycle, there is a snack period and a late-afternoon period for gross motor activities outside, arts and crafts, or other individual and group activities until it’s time to leave when there is a goodbye at day’s end.

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Educational Nature

child touching flower stamenPsychologists refer to “sensitive periods” that drive your child’s intellectual and developmental needs during childhood, and we create an environment in the Children’s Community that allows your child to take full advantage of this amplified learning ability. Modern psychologists also use the term “critical period” to describe sensitive periods, which are amplifications of the already existing mental powers that serve your child’s development. There is an external component (physical work) your child undertakes during the sensitive period and an equally important internal component where the child processes and “catalogs” the information into his or her mind. You will see it as your child’s attraction to very specific aspects of the environment, a passionate and focused exploration, repetition of an activity, and a profound joy by your child in that work. The four sensitive periods are

  • Language: the development of the child’s native tongue (from birth to age six)
  • Development and Coordination of Movement: a refinement of motion (from birth to 4½)
  • Development and Refinement of Sensory Perceptions: the development to a high degree of the child’s five senses as a preparation for later academic work (from birth to 4½)
  • Order: the child’s need to sort both externally and in his mind (from birth to 4½)

During the ages from two and a half to six, your child relies on the concrete aspects of the world for his or her explorations and study. Your child’s ability to think abstractly begins to emerge slowly near the end of this age period, for the higher-thinking areas of the brain (in the prefrontal cortex) have not yet fully myelinized. For this reason, we create a very real, concrete environment for your child in the Children’s Community where he or she can explore and retain realistic impressions of the world in which he or she lives.

Your child attains a high level of independence by the time he or she reaches the age of three. Our Children’s Community allows your child’s developing independence to full advantage. We place the necessary elements (the Montessori materials) in the classroom environment at the appropriate time for your child to use in “constructing” his or her own mind. The pink tower, for example, is not just a set of ten cubes for random stacking. We will help your child use this Montessori material to refine his or her vision sense, specifically the ability to discriminate dimensionally. The pink tower will also help your child refine his or her voluntary movement abilities, especially as he or she seeks to place each successively smaller cube as perfectly as he or she can on top of the next larger cube. The pink tower also helps your child understand mathematical order and develop a “mathematical mind”, an ability to understand mathematical concepts.

Sometime around three, your child develops a “community consciousness”, he or she begins to understand he or she co-exists in a community with others. The curriculum employs a number of lessons in grace and courtesy to help your child understand through experience, practice, and communication how to be respectful of his or her community, the environment, and himself or herself (self-confidence). In the Montessori curriculum, we offer your child the freedom to make choices but also require your child to accept responsibility for his or her actions commiserate with his level of independence. All of this occurs at a level appropriate for your child.

There are four main areas of the classroom: practical life, sensorial, language, and mathematics. The purpose of the practical life curriculum is to refine your child’s movement abilities and to nurture focus and concentration. The sensorial curriculum seeks to refine your child’s five senses (as well as the specific qualities of each sense), improves his or her proclivity to order, and provides opportunities to understand abstraction through language. The language curriculum assumes a precise methodology for the acquisition of language. Building from a base of spoken language, we assist your child in the transition from a competent and confident speaker to a writer of his or her own thoughts, from an engaged and empathetic listener to a reader of other’s thoughts. The mathematics curriculum presents your child with the nature of numbers, the decimal system, an introduction to the four mathematical operations, the counting of large numbers, and a progression towards abstraction. Within these four areas, your child discovers a number of other disciplines: history, anthropology, botany, zoology, visual and physical forms of expression (art), rhythm, pitch, music theory, cultural studies, and geography.

Curriculum

Practical Life: When your child first enters the Children’s Community, we will provide him or her with a number of transitional materials. These are not specific to practical life exercises, yet these activities act as a bridge from the home environment to the prepared environment in a Montessori environment. They provide your child with a sense of psychological safety and include folding, watering a plant, dusting, and cutting. Simple, six- or seven-piece geometric or jigsaw puzzles as well as plain wooden building blocks are not practical life exercises, but they do serve as transition exercises for the very young or new child. The first, true practical life activities are the preliminary exercises. These are intended to help your child isolate, understand, and practice the movements needed for future practical life exercises. These exercises allow your child to practice important movements before he or she tackles more complex activities that incorporate them. A third group of exercises involve care of the person.  These activities help your child take care of his or her body or things associated with his or her body. The next group of exercises pertains to care of the environment, and help connect your child to his or her everyday surroundings. This group of activities can also occur in the outdoor environment, including planting, watering, and weeding. As with the exercises associated with the care of the person, the adult can adapt these exercises to what is needed for your child. Grace and courtesy is the fifth group of exercises and can be summarized as social relations. “Grace” is the coordination of each child’s own body and its movements, and “courtesy” is how a child relates to others. Grace exercise examples would be how to walk or talk in the prepared environment, and courtesy activities would be how to greet others, when to say “please” and “thank you,” and how to open doors. The final group of exercises in the practical life area is analysis and control of movement. We help your child focus on an awareness of the body, its movements, and how to bring it under control of his or her will. Examples include walking the line and the silence game. The epitome of control of movement is when your child chooses not to move or speak as part of the silence game, for it requires having the strength to control his or her will. Your child will also have an opportunity to demonstrate developmentally mature form in the fundamental movement skills – locomotor, non-locomotor and manipulative (skills in isolation). He or she will be able to perform movement, balance, and basic ball skills in a safe environment.

Sensorial: Our Children’s Community creates an environment that allows your child to develop the skills of classifying, refining sensory perceptions, abstracting, enhancing memory, and training his or her mind towards precision. There are sensorial materials to challenge each of your child’s five senses (and some will challenge more than one at the same time!). This is the beginning of the development of your child’s mathematical mind and the ability to abstract, and the sensorial materials help lay the seeds for its development or serve as its catalyst. The Pink Tower cited above is a sensorial material. Much of the science and engineering, geography, and cultural studies are found in this area of the curriculum. There is an area for the exploration and expression of art. Materials include crayons, clay, paints, paper for collage, and watercolors. Music is incorporated through work with the Montessori Bells (for the refinement of pitch, composition, and music theory), learning percussion and rhythm in circle, and listening to different genres of music.

Language:The language area consists of an evolution from spoken language to writing to reading.  In spoken language, we assist your child in developing the ability to communicate orally and to listen expertly. In writing, we assist in his or her development by preparing the hand and the mind for writing and facilitate your child’s explosion into writing. In reading, we assist in your child’s development by preparing the eye and the mind for reading by learning the mechanics of reading and learning to interpret reading, going from single words to phrases to full sentences, and culminating with total reading where your child employs his or her comprehension with imagination. There is art in this area through works such as the metal insets, the names of instruments and composers, and the singing of songs in circle. The language area includes the study of foreign language. Spanish in the Children’s Community exposes the children to a foreign language, thereby creating enjoyment, awareness, and an eagerness to learn more. An early exposure to another language creates a facility for understanding and speaking and provides a foundation that will allow greater ease in later study. The study of a foreign language may be viewed as one more learning experience within the prepared environment – offered, not imposed, in ways that will attract a child’s natural interest.

Mathematics:When we look at the whole of the math area, it can be summarized as five groups of activities. The Numbers 1-10 Work is introduced first to your child if necessary. The Decimal System and Continuation of Counting Works come next and are presented concurrently. In these areas, we will expose your child to static and dynamic operations (addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division) for numbers up to 10,000, number sequence from 0 to 10,000, and multiples of numbers (multiplication tables). Memorization Work begins once your child understands all of the exercises in the 1-10 Work and has some understanding of math operations. At this point, we begin helping your child do math operations in his or her head without the aid of paper. The final area, Passage to Abstraction, occurs when your child is older and requires a thorough understanding all aspects of at least the addition operation. We will help your child understand abstract concepts such as columnar counting, fractions, and the nature of large numbers such as 1 million.

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