One way of thinking about the difference between our approach and one that is more traditional is to consider that while learning the right answers may get our children through school, learning how to become life-long independent learners will take them anywhere! Our children are learning to think, observe, and reflect; not memorize and quickly forget. Elementary students are encouraged to do their own research, analyze what they have found, and come to their own conclusions. The teachers encourage our children to think for themselves and become actively engaged in their own learning process.
The Elementary program offers an unparalleled opportunity for the ongoing development of your child who has been nurtured in the Primary program. They are entering a new period in their life; this imaginative, social, creative child needs a planned environment and expansive course of study to support its burgeoning independence and potential. The Lower Elementary program, for children between the ages of six and nine, is designed to meet the needs of your child in this phase of development. This experience will shape not only his knowledge and skills, but also his attitude about learning for the rest of his life.
The Brilliant Star Elementary program hours are 8:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday to Friday.
Some aspects of the Elementary classrooms:
When a six year old comes into the Elementary class from Primary, they will find much that is familiar in this new setting. Many of the Montessori materials from the Primary classroom are also found in the Elementary, where your child will use them in new ways suited to her expanding mind, and make her own discoveries in language, math, and science. The elementary classroom environment is thoughtfully prepared to support independent learning and is child-centered.
The starting point for all courses of study is the “Great Lessons”; these impressionistic and scientific stories are presented every year and give the students the “big picture” of cosmology, astronomy, earth science, geography, chemistry, physics, biology, history, anthropology, cultural and social studies, language, math, music, and art. As in the primary, the lessons are starting points for your child’s own activity. Meaningful learning happens when children are inspired by a lesson and begin to explore the subject and work on their own.
Elementary children have a strong drive to be social and to collaborate. For this reason, most of the lessons and follow-up projects in elementary are done in pairs or groups of children. Each day, your child will practice the social skills necessary to plan and carry out his projects: delegation and division of labor, sharing resources, making group decisions, taking responsibility for actions, and celebrating the success of peers. Conflict is not uncommon, but the motivation to resolve it comes from the children and their engagement with their projects. The Montessori teacher models and supports constructive and respectful problem solving. Learning how to work well with the different personalities and characteristics of other children in the classroom community is a significant life lesson with practical applications in the “real world”.
Elementary age students are naturally curious and have a strong internal drive to discover how our world works. Instead of simply giving them the correct answers, Montessori elementary teachers ask the right questions; they tell stories to inspire the children’s imagination and tantalize them to explore on their own to find out more. Driven by their passions, the children are open to the input from the teacher that refines their reading, writing, reasoning, and research skills.
Each child’s response to a lesson is unique, and their follow up work reflects those individual differences. Your child is free to form or join a group to work with the concepts introduced in a lesson. For example, a group of children might have a lesson on the parts of a river. Some might choose to label an outline map with the rivers of North America. Others might choose to repeat the demonstration with the river model (and without the teacher), labeling for themselves the parts previously demonstrated. Another pair might be intrigued by a particular river mentioned in the lesson or by the river running through their city, and they might launch a research project about the Mississippi or the Willamette. Because the children are free to move around the classroom and see what others are doing, it’s not uncommon for an idea to spread; children are stimulated not just by the teacher’s lessons, but by each other.
Children in Montessori have significantly more input into how they are taught, and control over how they learn, than children in traditional school settings. Their natural learning styles and preferences are respected and supported. The multi-age format of the classroom prevents comparison of children; differences in ability and achievement are expected. Lessons are presented in small groups to the children who are ready for them, regardless of their age. There is no social disadvantage to being bright, interested, and motivated at school. Likewise, there is no stigma for reviewing or repeating lessons to gain mastery. Your child is free to continue to work with a material or concept as long as necessary, or to move on when he is ready for a new challenge.
Montessori elementary students study both broadly and deeply, covering many subjects not attempted in traditional schools. The children often develop expertise in a subject that is especially interesting to them. Because there is not a rigid schedule or prescribed curriculum that the whole class must follow, your child can focus intensely on her self-chosen work, with minimal interruption. At the same time, she will collaborate with the teacher to ensure that the basic skills for each grade are mastered. A version of the public school standards is available to the class, and the teacher facilitates your child’s use of these standards as a guide to her work choices. To support her individualized plan of study, the teacher meets with her regularly to plan and assess her progress.
An important component of the elementary program is what is called “Going Out.” This occurs when exploration of a topic exhausts the resources of the classroom. We want the children to be comfortable navigating the world, not just our classrooms. As a result, the children must “go out” beyond the limits of the classroom to find the information or resources that they need. Each outing is an entire course of study on independence, responsibility, and good citizenship —to say nothing of the intellectual rewards that children get from such experience.