The Early Childhood Program (Ages 3-6)
“Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence.”
— Dr. Maria Montessori
The Early Childhood Program at Montessori Family School is located at our Berkeley Campus and nurtures young children’s quest for independence. They learn to control themselves physically and refine their gross and fine motor abilities. Cognitively, they have the opportunity to explore a broad range of Montessori materials, including those that provide them with a solid foundation for beginning reading, and learning basic math concepts. They also learn to become part of a community, make enduring friendships, and learn to socialize harmoniously.
In the Classroom
MFS classrooms are all multi-age, with Early Childhood classrooms serving children who are 3, 4, and 5 years old. The third year—for the 5 year-old turning 6—is the “kindergarten” year. The multi-age classroom provides an environment in which children can move at their own pace, and be both learners and teachers at the same time.
Each classroom has two full-time, trained Montessori teachers, with no more than 21 students. Most teachers have been with the school for many years.
MFS provides before-school care from 8-9 am each morning, and afterschool classes from 3-6 pm. The regular school day runs from 9 am to 3 pm, although some of the youngest children attend for just the first part of the day, leaving at noon. They can begin going for the full day when the time is right. MFS also offers vacation-week and summer programs, each specially designed to provide opportunities both to have fun and to learn, while meeting the needs of working parents.
Studies by Maria Montessori and contemporary researchers support the notion that a child’s first three years of life, and next three years of education outside the home, are the most important in shaping his or her personality and ability to learn. Children learn more during this period of time than at any other, and set important patterns for the future. Skills learned become the foundation that helps them grow in independence.
Each of our preschool classrooms are divided into five distinct areas, each of which is devoted to learning about a particular subject. There are separate places for children to engage in practical life studies, cultural studies, sensorial studies, and learn about language and math.
Practical Life Studies
Practical Life teaches children to take care of themselves and their physical environment. They prepare their own snacks, learn to tie their own shoes and zip their jackets, and clean up after themselves. The desire of the preschool child is “to do it myself.” Practical Life activities are designed to allow them this independence. All of these activities take place in an environment that nurtures the whole child and supports their natural curiosity and love of learning.
In the Montessori system, cultural study encompasses the traditional disciplines of social studies and science. In the Early Childhood program, cultural study materials cover geography, anatomy, botany, zoology and simple physics. Children study the solar system, the earth and its layers, the animals and plants that live on the surface of the earth, and the rich history of different cultures. Maps that are puzzles, flags from different nation, songs, music and foods from around the world support cultural studies.
The language materials allow children an eclectic array of hands-on learning experiences, exploring phonics, linguistics and sight words. The materials are kinesthetic, auditory and visual, appealing to the multi-sensory modes that children use to acquire information.
The Montessori math materials are used in educational settings around the world. They are concrete manipulatives that give each child the opportunity to have a physical experience of mathematics that allows tem to move into abstraction with a real foundation and understanding of math and its underlying concepts. There are materials for counting to 1000, materials made from golden beads that help them to experience place value, materials for learning beginning addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions as well as problem solving.
Children live in a world of senses, and the Montessori sensorial materials enable children to clarify, sort, classify, and comprehend their world. Through sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell, these materials “throw a spotlight” on reality and play a key role giving children concrete examples of abstract terms. These materials also provide a basis for the development of other skills such as mathematics and language.
Our daily curriculum is enriched with both creative movement and music classes.
Our creative movement class emphasizes the process of creative play through an exciting variety of dance, drama, yoga, music and storytelling. The goal of the class is to promote increased movement confidence, balance, cooperation, communication, performance skills, creative expression and self-esteem, while having fun.
Our music program is based on Orff-Schulwerk, an internationally recognized approach to music and movement education. We explore rhythm, pitch and movement through games, songs rhythmic speech, percussive and simple pitched instruments, folk dances and improvised movement activities.
The Importance of Family
It is crucial for the preschool child that there be a parent-teacher partnership. At our Early Childhood campus, we honor the bonds that you have with your small children. Our teachers are sensitive to individual separation patterns and are here to assist you and your child as s/he makes the separation from home to school.
There are many opportunities for parents to participate in the classrooms, ranging from reading with students to special classroom projects or participation on field trips.
At MFS we strive to maintain excellent home/school communication. Each teacher is open and eager to listen to your concerns and respond accordingly. They can be reached by email, and are available for ad hoc meetings as well as twice-yearly conferences in November and February.