At six, there is a great transformation in the child, like a new birth. The child wants to explore society and the world, to learn what is right and wrong, to think about meaningful roles in society. She wants to know how everything came to be, the history of the universe, the world, humans and why they behave the way they do. He asks the BIG questions and wants answers. A Montessori elementary teacher has spent many months learning to give individual lessons in all academic areas, and to guide the child in direction and methods of their own research. Although groups form occasionally, with the teacher or among the children, the main work is still done by the individual - the protected period of concentration and focus, uninterrupted by scheduled required groups, being the hallmark of Montessori education. This is what heals and fulfills the child, and reveals the true human who naturally exhibits the desire to help others and to make a difference in the world.
The Elementary program is about the emergence of the individual, and is also about individuals learning to work in harmony with, and be celebrated by, the group.
The multiage classroom groupings are from six to nine years old (Junior I), and from nine to 12 years old (Junior II), encompassing first through sixth grades in an atmosphere of cooperative learning. It is an intellectually challenging program for even the most able students. The program accommodates varying learning styles and paces, while working to ensure ultimate mastery of the concepts by each student.
The Elementary classroom is an exciting place to learn. At any given time, a visiting parent might see children building time lines, recording science experiments, writing book reports and compositions, gathering data on the Internet, administering spelling tests to one another, or solving mathematical problems. Junior I students learn reading, creative writing, grammar, and spelling; mathematics, including geometry; general science, botany, and zoology; history; geography; social studies; music; art; and physical education. Junior II students master reading, creative writing, grammar, and spelling; mathematics, including geometry and algebra; general science, botany, and zoology; history; geography; social studies; art; and physical education.
Teachers who have taught full 6-12 age span see the definite benefit of this age span, rather than breaking children up into groups of children closer in age. There are six years worth of wonderful possibilities to which every child is exposed - it is not just what the child does that results in learning, but what is casually taken in from the work around him. A 6-12 span helps the teacher avoid group lessons and teacher centered work, helping the children reach a much higher level of independence and education. It facilitates children teaching children, a vital element in Montessori education. When group lessons are kept at a minimum, periods of concentration protected, and children exposed to the amazing amount of work in the 6-12 class, not only are the state curriculum requirements easily met, but children work at a level one would not have thought possible...
The Montessori curriculum is built around the five great lessons given at the beginning of each year for the new students to introduce: creation of earth, coming of plants and animals, the arrival of humans, language, math and invention. These lessons are designed by the teacher and include stories, picture, and activities. The older children come if they like, or hear them from afar, experiencing them differently each time depending upon their own growth in understanding. Timelines are made with long strips of fabric or paper on which the child lays out fossils, pictures of dinosaurs, composer and musician pictures, etc., to get a visual picture of history in each subject.
Elementary students experience a well-defined social system operating within the classroom. The class is a miniature society where children work and learn together in harmony, while retaining individuality. With the teacher's support, direction, and expertise, the children strive to become responsible for their own behavior and to help the community by observing rules necessary for peaceful living.
This does not mean we avoid challenges to avoid failure. On the contrary, each child is intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually stimulated. We approach each challenge carefully and intelligently, encouraging trial and error, and with full knowledge of differing learning paces and styles and developmental stages. And, we guide our students through the challenge successfully, without moving on until an activity or a concept is mastered.
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