Pre-Primary Program (18 months to 3 years of age):
The Pioneer Montessori toddler program allows your child to enjoy a Montessori experience in a small group setting. The children have an opportunity to explore and experiment in an environment that has been carefully prepared to meet the unique needs of this age. All of the furniture is sized to allow for maximum independence and the Montessori materials are stimulating and inviting.
First friendships are formed and social skills developed. Toddlers are in the first “plane” of development and experience what Dr. Montessori described as “sensitive periods”. These are times in the child’s life when s/he shows an almost obsessive interest in a particular activity essential to growth. The acquisition of language is an example of this, and correct and complete language is just one of the many skills fostered in our toddler community.
A supportive atmosphere for parents as they watch their toddlers grow into independent three year olds is offered through on-going communication including two formal parent teacher conferences.
Primary Program (3 to 6 years of age):
The Pioneer Primary Program is designed as a “living room” for children. During these years, children learn through their senses and absorb information effortlessly. The primary classroom is filled with an array of colorful, exciting and stimulating materials. These carefully prepared environments encourage discovery and foster the development of independence, concentration, sequential thought and controlled physical movement.
Children choose their work from self-correcting materials displayed on open shelves after the appropriate lesson from the director. Over a period of time, the children develop into a “normalized community”, working with high concentration and few interruptions. Normalization is the process whereby a child moves from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disorder to order, from distracted to focused, through work in the environment. The process occurs through repeated work with materials that captivate the child’s attention. In the Montessori Primary classroom, academic competency is a means to an end, and the manipulatives are viewed as “materials for development”.
The primary Program encourages sensory development, introduces math and language concepts, and helps the children develop the practical skills they need in everyday life. Art, music, movement, and a variety of cultural activities are an integral part of this joyful learning experience. Every day the children discover new creative expressions, while developing respect for themselves and others. Mixed-age grouping allows children to learn from, and teach, each other. Children in the Primary Classes are encouraged to move, touch, and explore their classroom. Personal responsibility is learned early. Children learn to say, “Excuse me” and to make requests politely. Classroom maintenance becomes, by and large, the children’s responsibility, as they put the materials away and care for plants and animals.
Each child chooses his or her own work each day. All materials are invitingly arranged on low, open shelves; chairs, tables and other furniture are designed to fit the child.
The room is divided into four distinct areas: Practical life, sensorial, mathematics, and language. By mastering the practical life skills such as washing and sweeping, the child learns to function in the adult world. The phrase “I can do it myself” is encouraged. Sensorial materials enable children to classify, clarify and comprehend their world.
Math skills are learned through counting rods, spindles, and beads. This hands-on approach works for reading and writing as well. By tracing sandpaper letters with their fingers, children learn what letters look, sound, and actually feel like. With the movable alphabet, they learn to begin building words and sentences phonetically.
Elementary Program (6 to 12 years of age):
The elementary program offers a continuum built on the Primary School environment. Like the Primary School, the Montessori materials are a means to an end. They are intended to evoke the imagination, then aid abstraction to generate a worldview about the human task and purpose. The child begins to ask questions about the origins of the universe, the nature of life, people and their differences, and so on. On a factual basis, interdisciplinary studies combine geological, biological, and anthropological science in the study of natural history and work ecology. Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well.
Our elementary students receive a broad education that exceeds all state requirements. Though students do not receive grades, in order to move on to the next lesson or level, they must first demonstrate to their teacher that they have mastered the concept. The school environment at Pioneer Montessori is designed to naturally entice students to act on their educational interests and “seek the next level or lesson of knowledge. In addition to frequent teacher assessments, beginning in the third grade, students take the norm-referenced Idaho State Achievement Tests to give families a way to assess each child on a state-wide average. The mean scores of the Pioneer Montessori elementary students have continually been significantly higher than the mean scores of the Blaine County School District in reading, language art and mathematics. Last year, every fourth grade student at Pioneer Montessori was scored at a minimum of two grade levels higher in each of the three assessed academic disciplines.
In a Montessori elementary classroom, language is presented imaginatively, not simply through rote memorization and the teaching of grammar and syntax rules. We realize that assigning written compositions, book reports, or spelling tests have the potential to kill the innate interest in language. It is the mystery and magic of language that will excite the child into carrying out further exploration of language. Curriculum areas introduced include; history of language, grammar and syntax, written composition, literature and a study of style.
At the elementary level, we keep math integrated and not taught as a single subject area. This is quite an easy task as mathematics is a part and parcel of the Earth and the Universe. We introduce the children to the concepts that the base of the functioning Universe is mathematical. If one were to analyze the course of the stars, the formulas of chemicals, the angle of roof beams, or the circumference of the wheel, one could express these divergent concepts mathematically. Mathematics, therefore, has to be one of the tools of human exploration.
A six to twelve year old child takes great joy in intellectual activity, so the study of geometry is well suited for this age child. Although the laws that govern geometry will be given at the high school level, the geometry material will allow the children to create demonstrations of many of the major theorems. The child does not memorize these theorems or use the traditional way of proving the theorem but rather uses concrete materials to experience these theorems by making them tangible and understandable.
In the Montessori elementary classroom, history, like all academic curricula, is integrated into the daily tapestry of the environment. Historical subjects are not separated but rather interwoven and networked. It is the child’s own story that we unfold to him in the tales of history. Ultimately, history is presented not just as a chronological presentation of society and civilizations, but as rich and diverse story about us.
When studying plants and animals in the elementary program, we often start by relating the function to the part. Ultimately, the function explains the reason for behavior. As we attempt to capitalize on the child’s imagination, we begin to see the delight that is based in the way plants and animals meet the needs of survival. We strive to have the child begin to consider the different ways that plant and animals have devised a method of life. The lessons we provide in biology provide a key for the child to explore the natural world.
Going out is a Montessori term dealing with the children and their work in the implementation of an integrated and experiential education in the elementary classroom. Going out is not synonymous with field trips. Field trips (which Montessori students also participate in) are organized by adults for the children, whereas going out is organized by the children for their own particular need. Going out may address a child’s specific need for further exploration of a topic started in the classroom (i.e. visiting the post office to understand how the US Mail system works) or it may simply allow the child to explore the fundamental structure of society that cannot be addressed solely in the classroom.
Montessori has a full time elementary Spanish teacher and all students have several lessons each week in Spanish. The emphasis of the program is on conversational Spanish, language acquisition, and cultural enrichment. Spanish also provides a stepping stone to further language development as the child grows.
Physical Education (P.E.) & Wellness:
P.E. at Montessori is a participatory, rather than a competitive program. It encourages children to take advantage of the different seasons and our incredible natural environment. Teachers interact with children and encourage physical activity through a variety of games and activities both on and off the campus. By playing games together outside the classroom students learn physical skills, good sportsmanship and camaraderie. They also learn about plants, animals and respect for nature while exploring our diverse natural community. P.E. occurs twice a week and below is an outline of some of the activities children participate in:
- Fall: Games such as Golden Goose, kickball, freeze tag, soccer at local parks, hiking & exploring on Dollar Mountain
- Winter: Downhill skiing on Dollar and Baldy Mountains once a week (teacher and parent led)
- Ice skating at Atkinson’s Park once a week including lessons with local instructor Dawn Peterson
- Cross Country skiing at Galena (generally one trip per winter)
- Spring: Swimming at the YMCA with YMCA instructors
- Games and Hiking
Montessori is lucky to have local longtime music teacher Mary Poppen teach music once a week at the school. The goal of the music program is to allow the children to learn about notes, rhythm and sounds by singing and listening to various instruments. It is also to give children the opportunity to perform vocally for each other, for younger students and their parents. Mary also offers piano lessons to interested students during the school day for an additional fee.
Drama is an extension of our language arts curriculum. Each year students help create, write and perform their own plays or adapt their own version of a classic favorite. Montessori performances help give each child a wonderful sense of self discovery and confidence, as well as providing additional opportunities for public speaking.
Children have art class two afternoons a week, though art is also naturally woven into the regular school day. Through painting, drawing and clay they learn to express themselves in new ways and through the study of art history children learn to appreciate the artistic expression of others throughout the world. Additionally, parents with special skills such as photography have led classes and helped older students develop special projects.