Spring Hill’s Bilingual Preschool program is rich, encompassing daily Spanish, engaging activities that stimulate children’s intellect and creativity, and building friendships.
An Overview of the Montessori Primary (Preschool and Kindergarten) classroom
Practical Life is Training for Independence
The Practical Life part of our preschool classrooms is aimed explicitly at helping children become independent, so that they neither need nor are constantly soliciting the help of adults. As Dr. Montessori put it: “We must help them to learn how to . . . dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs in a way that is clearly understood, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence.”
The materials are designed—and our qualified teachers are trained—to help the children learn how to break down the required actions, to perform them step-by-step, and to do them repeatedly. As they systematically acquires skills for self-care (dressing, tying shoes, washing hands) and care of their environment (washing tables, preparing food, watering plants), the children gain independence from adult help. At an age during which they might otherwise throw tantrums over wanting to “do it all by myself,” but not be able to accomplish the desired task, they learn to do it.
Developing Active Minds, Concentration Skills and Powers of Observation
The main purpose of the Sensorial Area is to enable the children to acquire mental skills and habits that enable them to learn readily and joyfully for the rest of their life.
Dr. Montessori recognized that the children’s reasoning mind need specific training and preparation, and that the first step is to help the children develop the habit of focusing and concentrating for sustained periods of time. Through years of observation, she came to see that the only way to help children acquire the capacity to sustain concentration is to provide them with fascinating materials, materials which would draw their natural interest. It is in the act of losing themself in the task—manipulating the materials with their hands to achieve a specific cognitive purpose—that children develops the mental stamina and skill involved in concentrating over time.
The Montessori Sensorial Exercises are designed to build on this insight. They enable primary children to develop the capacity to be active-minded, to sustain concentration over long periods of time, and to exercise sharp powers of observation. In a word, the Sensorial Exercises provide them with a firm cognitive foundation for their journey of becoming a careful observer and an independent, conceptual thinker.
Handwriting and Reading – Age 3 ½ to 5 ½ = The Optimal Time to Learn
For preschool children, building their vocabulary and learning to write and to read are arguably the most important academic skills to acquire. The broader their vocabulary, the easier reading comprehension will be for children down the road – and 3-6 year olds learn even difficult scientific terms with ease. Thus, developing our student’s vocabulary is an important part of our primary classrooms.
We teach reading and writing early, because, as Dr. Montessori has shown, 3 ½ to 5 ½ years are the optimal ages to learn these skills. Children at that age are interested in the sensations of language – its sounds, the movement the hand makes when writing a letter, the grip of the hand on the pencil – and they delight in the repetition necessary to perfect these skills. By carefully structuring the language program for our primary students around their natural interests and abilities, we enable our students to joyfully learn to read and write long before they enter elementary school – and spare them the tedious effort and frustration that too many kids experience when learning these critical skills in a traditional elementary school setting.
Early Numeracy through Manipulation of Concrete Materials
A 3 ½ or 4-year old child is fascinated with manipulating things, with patterns, and with small objects. She/he enjoys repeating activities, and exploring concrete items with her/his hands. Our Montessori math program builds upon this developmental phase: we introduce primary children to the fascinating world of numbers through enjoyable activities, which are carefully designed to impart mathematical knowledge to our students.
By starting early, and drawing on the child’s natural interests, we enable our students to gain a head start in numeracy – and, more importantly, a confidence in their own ability to do math, and to do it well. Instead of the math phobias that many children acquire in elementary school, where arithmetic operations are introduced as abstract, mechanistic operations to be memorized even if not understood, our 6-year-old students master the basics of arithmetic using concrete materials, and they therefore acquire a grounded understanding of the meaning of these operations. When they leave Spring Hill Montessori, our students have a double advantage: they have learned many mathematical concepts and math facts before they even enter elementary school – and they have learned to enjoy math.
The Goal: Understanding and Enjoying the Wondrous World We Live In
At Spring Hill, we help our students acquire the essential knowledge, thinking skills, and strength of character required to flourish as joyous children today, and as successful adults tomorrow. We want to equip them with a wealth of knowledge that enables them to understand and delight in both the wondrous world around them, and their personal identity within.
The Cultural Subjects in our Montessori Primary classrooms provide our students with a first exposure to the many areas of knowledge they will encounter later on – and enable them to acquire an early interest in learning about the world, its natural wonders, its people, history and culture, its music and art.
The Montessori cultural studies offer each primary child the opportunity to “travel” and explore the world from within the classroom, and to thereby acquire the knowledge base that will inform, motivate, and ground the systematic studies they will pursue in elementary school and beyond.