Garden Montessori School Program

Thank you for your interest in Garden Montessori School. We have been in operation since 1978 and we offer a quality program dedicated to the enrichment of preschool children.

As you visit our school, we hope you can better understand the philosophy behind the environment and the materials. A classroom that is carefully planned and that can be modified to meet the children's needs makes teaching and learning much easier and more fun. When we try to explain the classroom, it seems more mechanical than it really is. The personal element and the reactions of the children determine how and when activities are presented. We cannot explain a hug or a smile, but they are as important as the materials in the classroom. The interaction of the children and the atmosphere of the classroom is the result of the preparation. With the current concern of "pressuring" young children, we hope you can see the difference between providing a child with intellectual stimulation, and "force-feeding". Children are curious and want to learn. Providing them with the opportunity and the tools to learn is the goal of Garden School.

We encourage you to spend some time in the classroom with the children to get the "feel" of our program. We try to provide each child with a structured environment in which he can freely develop. Structure is important in order to set boundaries that help the child focus on the task at hand. With clearly defined limits, a child is free to act without continuously needing to test the limits. Children are very accepting of limits if they are explained, understood, and consistent. Freedom is necessary in order for each child to be able to develop at his own pace, to choose the activity that interests and challenges him at a particular point in his development. With a range of almost three years within the group, the skill and interest level is different for each child. And most of all, the children need to be able to interact with the environment. Maria Montessori stated, "Education is not acquired by listening to words, but, in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on the environment." It is only through direct manipulation of the environment that significant learning occurs. Through actual experiences on concrete objects, the child discovers relationships and concepts that can later be abstracted. Activities that encourage discussing new ideas and trying new things develop their interest and ability to ask meaningful questions and come to logical conclusions. Activities that allow the child to experiment and develop concepts also allow him to test these ideas -- e.g. sink and float, magnetism, color mixing, etc.

Preschool is the preparation for school and life. A group of children learning together, sharing together and having fun together is a valuable experience for a lifetime. Accepting other people, learning to help them, learning to cooperate and to establish a positive self image through successful relationships and accomplishments help a child enjoy life and himself. Each child is unique and each child is wonderful. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses. Encouraging them to be the best that they can be and to feel good about themselves is the basis of a happy, productive life. We can help develop positive feelings in children and encourage them to take on new challenges, instead of developing an "I can't" attitude that will limit future learning and activities. Our attitudes are very important to young children. If we show them love and caring and confidence, they will respond in kind.

Our day is scheduled to provide the children with group time, individual time, active time and quiet time. By encouraging them to choose their own activities and assuming responsibility for their own decisions, we are helping them make positive choices and to follow through with those choices. By encouraging them to work both together and independently, we are encouraging social skills and the ability to say "no". By teaching them respect for other people and their environment, we are fostering good citizens and pleasant people to have in our homes and community. By enriching their lives through exposure to geography and shapes and tastes, etc. we are making their world a more interesting place.

The Montessori Classroom
The four general areas of a Montessori classroom, Practical Life or Everyday Living, Sensorial, Math and Language interact to provide a child with a rich and rewarding preschool experience. Many activities fall into more than one area and no area is complete without the others. Young children are learning so much that any activity provides them with some new knowledge or reinforces something they have previously learned.

Practical Life activities include water activities, food preparation, care of person, care of environment, etc. These activities encourage independence by helping the child to care for himself and his environment, to develop self control and to learn consideration for others. Pouring, scooping, carrying trays carefully, washing dishes, hanging up a jacket, learning to zip, bread cutting all strengthen a child's muscles, lengthen his attention span and give him independence.

Sensorial Materials help the child to clarify and classify differences in the world around him by developing his senses and increasing his awareness of his environment. By identifying concepts of taste, size, shape, color, texture, etc., a new dimension is added to everything he sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels. Geometric shapes, puzzles, blocks, and patterning all fit into the broad area of Sensorial, the development of the senses.

•The whole area of
Language is new to children. They are still learning new words and enjoy big words like “Stegosaurus” and “curvilinear triangle”. As they develop small motor skills they are fascinated with writing their own name and will fill pages with "writing" and "business". Matching objects and pictures help develop visual discrimination and new vocabulary words. Sorting objects by initial letter sound, color or similarity all encourage organizing thoughts and grouping ideas together. The introduction of phonics encourages an awareness and interest in the sounds and formation of letters, words, spelling and reading.

• The knowledge of
Mathematics or numbers is based on understanding, not on memory disconnected from actual fact. Counting changes from a rote "one, two, three" to a realization that three is a quantity and always means the same number of objects whether they are flies, rocks or pumpkins. Symbols and quantities are related to each other. The decimal system is very simple if you understand it. The children do not have to imagine 1000 when they can instead hold it, count it and take it apart into hundreds, tens and ones.

Art activities allow a child an opportunity to express himself through pictures and projects that have no right or wrong. Creativity is fostered by the exploration of many mediums of art with very few limits. Children enjoy art and projects for the process, not the end result. They will create many very dark pictures as they continue to paint and paint and paint until no one color is identifiable. It is still beautiful...... Repeating an activity over and over can make it more interesting instead of boring if the child is free to add new elements.

Geography activities encourage the child to see the world as bigger than just Danville, Alamo, and San Ramon. The news and current events apply to all of us and developing an interest early allows the child to understand more of what is going on around him. Songs, customs and artifacts from other countries increase our understanding of other cultures. As we "study" each continent, the child is exposed to new vocabulary words and new images.

Singing and Music are important, not for the words, but for the feelings. Songs from different cultures expose the children to new rhythms and instruments as well as new language. The joy that comes from singing carries over into all activities. Finger plays, games and dances all provide a chance for even a shy child to be involved and express himself.

Playing Outside is important. To be able to just run, to be chased, pump a swing, build a sand castle, play with friends without hurting them and still have fun are skills that can only be learned by doing.

Gardening and nature are important. We are fortunate to have several areas of gardening in our yard and classroom. The children plant seeds, bulbs, bedding plants, etc. and we harvest and enjoy the beauty of what grows. We have 2 rabbits, a box turtle, fish and birds that the children care for. A respect for all living things is important to learn early.

Friends and having Fun is important. To be able to choose not only what you do, but with whom you do it encourages children to develop social skills to interact and make social choices without saying "I won't be your friend" or "I won't invite you to my party"... Developing the self control to have fun within the limits of acceptable noise, behavior, activity, etc. help the children enjoy themselves without losing control.

The Goal of Garden School:

The goal of Garden School and the Montessori philosophy is to build a foundation for a lifetime of creative learning in the child. It is to develop the characteristics of responsibility, initiative, independence, self-confidence, persistence, a sense of order, the ability to concentrate and an increased curiosity. Exposing children to the sounds of letters and the symbols and quantities of numbers provides them the opportunity to develop an interest and to pursue that interest when they are ready. Learning should be fun. When a child has a choice of many activities and we have the opportunity of determining those choices, we can influence his attitudes toward learning in a very positive way.

The whole issue of pressuring children comes down to the attitudes, philosophy and presentation of activities. Success and failure can be felt in any activity. It is often not what we do, but how we do it that affects a child's behavior and attitudes. By encouraging children and building on their strengths and encouraging them to try new things we are allowing them to discover what they can do and to feel pride in themselves. By encouraging learning and questions we are helping them develop their own thoughts and conclusions. By exposing them to new ideas and concepts we are enriching their lives and stimulating their imaginations. By showing them love and encouragement, we allow them to feel good about themselves and to care for others. We hope what you see as you visit Garden School is a group of happy children having fun.

As you read this note, I hope you are reading "we" as both the child's teachers and his parents. We share both the opportunity and the responsibility of influencing his attitudes about his world, his self, learning, loving, etc., etc., etc. It is a privilege. We thank you for sharing your child with us.

Garden Montessori School, Preschool, Danville, Ca.

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