Grace Montessori Academy’s mission is to educate students using the Montessori method within the framework of a Christian worldview. Our curriculum is academically challenging and leads children to an understanding of the world as a Christian. Each avenue is taught from a perspective which encourages the children to stand in awe of God and His wonderful creation. Everything we study is presented with order and beauty, made appropriate and meaningful for young learners.
Children in the 6-9 age group are starting to realize that the world is an enormous, interesting place. They are primed to study continents, cultures, scientific concepts, and great literature. The world becomes their classroom. The carefully developed elementary curriculum guides the child through identifying, classifying, and researching all of the fascinating concepts in each chosen field of study. The areas of practical life, language, math, geometry, botany, zoology, geography, and history are all represented in the classroom, with materials that lead the child to abstraction of the fundamental concepts in each area. Our lessons are aesthetically pleasing, yet rigorous and engaging, designed with intentional purpose and meaning. We strongly believe that children learn better in a multi-sensory environment.
The Montessori Elementary Teacher: An Enlightened Generalist*
Just as in early childhood, a child in Montessori elementary has the same teacher for three years. The trained professional is an “enlightened generalist”, with knowledge deep enough to know the fascinating details of each of the disciplines and broad enough to connect those details into a “big picture” across the disciplines. S/he is also fully trained in the principles of child development.
A teacher who has a child for all subjects for there years gains an intimate knowledge of the child. The teacher is keenly tuned into the unique personality of each child. This sensitivity permits the teacher to direct each child into areas of natural interest.
The Prepared Environment
A spacious classroom serves our students. An open floor plan leads to a shared common room for research and collaborative work. Like all Montessori rooms, the lower elementary is divided into 3 age groups, grades 1-3, encouraging broad social development.
The elementary-aged child is moving from an understanding of the physical world to an understanding of abstract concepts. Montessori provides diverse and creative passages to abstraction. The prepared environment provides the “keys” of each discipline in a manner that meets the elementary child’s needs for inspiration as well as order. Materials in the academic disciplines (including mathematics, grammar, reading, writing, geometry, botany, zoology, and geography) enable the child to not only learn skills and concepts, but to experience the inherent beauty and order of each of these disciplines.
An Integrated Curriculum: Capturing the Imagination
Research has shown that engaging the child’s imagination enhances the learning process. Research also indicates that a focus on grand, interconnected concepts facilitates learning. This research confirms why the Montessori approach has enabled elementary children to learn so well over the years.
In the elementary class, an integrated curriculum activates the child’s imagination and immerses him in a grand vision of the universe. This is done through the Great Lessons.
The Great Lessons, a series of five stories, present broad themes from natural and human history. These inspire the child and prompt him to ask questions: I wonder how many solar systems there are; I wonder what color the first ocean was; I wonder … “The Story of Plants and Animals”, “The Story of Writing”, “The Story of Numbers” – within the context of these great themes, the child studies the details of the disciplines: science, mathematics, social studies, and language. The story provides the overview; the children then investigate the disciplines in detail. Because of the unifying thread of the Great Lessons, no subject is studied in isolation from the others. Knowledge is intertwined even though discrete in its parts.
Montessori’s excellent learning materials and advanced curriculum ensure a solid mastery of basic skills. The Great Lessons provide the child with the opportunity to be an active learner who puts his skills to use as he pursues his desire for meaningful knowledge. In addition, children will participate in their own “going out” excursions which will further enhance classroom learning.
Our lower elementary language program supplements the core Montessori language curriculum with high-quality programs that build solid literacy skills in our students. The Spell to Write and Read Method is a comprehensive approach to teaching spelling and reading. It provides them with the tools to recognize the 70 phonograms and 29 spelling rules for analyzing our language.
Our writing program, “Excellence in Writing: Structure and Style” begins in our second semester. Through systematic instruction and practice, students gain strong skills in the structure of writing clear paragraphs and cohesive reports.
Sense of Gratitude and Responsibility
The Great Lessons inspire a sense of gratitude in the child. God has provided innumerable gifts through the natural world, through the history of human civilizations, and through the history of salvation. Recognizing these, the child’s natural response is one of gratitude for all that we have inherited. At the same time, the child develops a sense that he, too, has a responsibility to contribute to the continuing stream of human progress. Thus Montessori elementary experience provides the foundations for life commitment through moral and social responsibility.
Beyond the Prepared Environment: Going Out
The “gong out” of Montessori elementary student is based on individual or small-group interest in extensions of classroom study: a walk to a park; a visit to the art museum or zoo; a visit to a retirement home; or cleaning up the environment. These projects build the child’s sense of social purpose and moral responsibility.
A Complete Day of Learning
Our teacher/student ratios are low: not more than 10: 1. Students start their day in Circle Time, where they verbalize Commitments as to what they are going to do that day. We then have a 3 hour uninterrupted Work Time, during which the children independently manage their time, utilizing their Contracts to complete lessons in Math, Language, Catechism, Geography, History, Botany, Zoology, Science, and Cultural, and Reading Groups. After lunch, a brief period for quiet reading and play, we then have 1 ½ hours for Cultural and Extracurricular activities (Latin, Music, Art, Science, PE) and Checkout with the Teachers. Checkout allows us to discuss the student’s progress that day and help in developing the child’s time management skills while providing our Teachers with One on One time with each student daily. After Cleanup Jobs and the End of the Day Circle, the student’s school day is complete.
For more information on the elementary learning program, please contact us.
*Portions of this description of the Montessori curriculum are reprinted with permission from NAMTA booklet: “What is Montessori Elementary?” edited by David Kahn.