The Importance of Circle Time in Montessori

Please note: Some images used in this post were taken before the pandemic. Children and staff currently wear face masks and adhere to our COVID-19 Precautions plan.

A Montessori classroom is a busy place to be on a typical morning. Children are engaged in lessons, both self-directed and teacher-lead. They are working, active, and engaged and the time passes quickly. Before you know, it’s Circle Time! The importance of Circle Time in Montessori can not be understated. Circle Time is a key component to the classroom dynamic and building a sense of community among classmates.

What is Circle Time?

Here, at Children’s House, Circle Time takes place at the end of the morning work period and again in the afternoon. It is a period of time in which all the children join the teacher as a group. Circle Time typically lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and is a mixture of routines, traditions, music, movement, conversation, learning, and fun.

At the end of the morning, the teacher invites the class to the Circle Time space with a gentle bell or chime and indicates that work time is ending. The children clean up their work and make their way to the designated area. This is one of many transitions that happen during the day and the classroom will now be prepared for lunch time.

Afternoon Circle Time takes place at the end of the afternoon work period (for older students) and nap time (for younger). We are transitioning from our school day to our aftercare time and some children will be going home soon, while others stay until the later afternoon. Circle Time is the bridge between activities and allows children to anticipate what happens next in their day.

Creating a Sense of Community

Circle Time is a chance to gather together as a class and participate in a variety of activities as a small community. It is a chance for children to share, either in a show-and-tell format or simply conversationally as they wait for the their classmates to clean up and join the circle. It is a chance to look at pictures of a new baby sister or brother, to talk about what happened over the weekend, and an opportunity to raise their hand and tell everyone what their Halloween costume is going to be.

Circle Time is a time to celebrate birthdays and other milestones: a lost tooth, riding a bike without training wheels, or a big first, like a trip on an airplane or moving into a new house. In sharing in each others lives, the class grows closer together and more connected. Even in the midst of a pandemic, with social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing policies in place, Circle Time is a time for togetherness and connection.

Learning Through Group Lessons

Most Montessori lessons, like math and language arts, are meant for an individual child, but some lessons lend themselves to a larger group format. There are many science, geography, and art lessons that can be presented at circle time to the whole class. At Children’s House, these lessons are available to any child, regardless of age, so it’s important that all the children receive the lessons before new materials are added to the shelves.

Geography and science lessons lend themselves to conversation and Circle Time is the perfect time to start this conversation. A teacher might present a new lesson or introduce a new topic, but the follow up conversation over the next few days or even weeks, is where much of the learning takes place.

For example, this fall we have been learning about habitats. The children have had a group lesson at Circle Time on a new material that Ms. Keturah made. They learned about what habitats are, how different animals need different habitats, and how habitats need the same key components in order for animals and plants to thrive: food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young. They sang songs about habitats, read stories about them, and took the lessons outside to work in our school gardens and hike the trail around our property. The Circle Time lesson was just the beginning!

The Role of Each Child

Circle Time is where children learn from each other and work together. Younger students model the behavior of their older classmates and older students love the extra responsibility that comes with being a kindergartener and a leader. The morning Circle Time comes at the end of work time and the preparation for lunch. There are jobs to be done, work to be cleaned up, and a classroom to put back in order. Children help water plants, tidy shelves, and sweep the floor. Everyone works together to make sure the classroom is ready for the next phase of the day.

Traditions and Routine

A regular, predictable routine is so important for young children. A child who can not yet tell time or a read a calendar and does not have much input into their daily schedule, can use routines to navigate their day and know what comes next. Routines give children a sense of control.

Circle Time routines here at Children’s House include choosing and reading a Virtue card together; taking five minutes each day to read the card and repeat the affirmation is a touch point for both children and adults.

Everyone has a favorite Circle Time song, but certain songs are only sung at certain times. The Months of the Year is our birthday song, and Make New Friends But Keep the Old is only sung at the end of the year when we say goodbye to the friends who are leaving for new schools.

And, of course, holiday traditions are some of our favorites! In November we’ll collect non-perishable food for a Thanksgiving Food Drive. In December we’ll make ornaments to decorate our “Mitten Tree” as we collect hats and mittens for children in need. And in February, our Valentine’s celebration is a school-wide favorite; and it all happens at Circle Time.

But, for now, it’s still October! This is the week that we will carve our class pumpkin for Halloween and read some of our favorite Halloween books. It’s time to pull out the well-worn and much-loved CASSETTE TAPE — yes, cassette tape! — of Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman that has been entertaining us — at Circle Time — for many, many years.

Additional Resources:

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Questions? Call us at 703-481-6678 or email us through the form below.

Back to School, Back to Montessori

Dear Ms Keturah and Ms Helena,

I have no words! All of you are just AWESOME and I mean that from the bottom of my heart! L**** was so happy when I picked her up this afternoon! She had a great day and filled me in on all the things she’d done. And while I listened to all of her stories, the thing that struck me the most was, that there was no mention of having to wear the mask the whole day, of the social distancing etc.

The only thing that she did mention was how they had to cover their work [..] when done so that the teacher could clean it for the next friend. This told me just one thing – how you’ll have worked so hard to make the ‘new’ normal seem so very normal! We are so grateful to all of you, and blessed to be a part of this school!

All our support – always,

Yolande and Rahul

chms parents

We’re back! The 2020-2021 school year is officially underway! And, after all the planning, the strategizing, the cleaning, and the wondering, we are happy to report that it was a really good week.

It was so amazing to be back together again, to reconnect with old friends, and meet some new faces. The children were anxious to get to work and our classrooms were buzzing with the sounds of busy hands.

These friends were so happy to see each other again!

Children are a lot more flexible than adults give them credit for. The kids slid right into their new routines: working out of their individual supply boxes, bringing work to their marked tables, and keeping their masks in place (for the most part!). Circle time is still a time for songs, stories, and group lessons, and the playground is still fun. School is back!

We know how hard it is right now for parents to commit to a school program when there are still so many unknowns in our daily lives. We appreciate all of our families who have placed their trust in us and want you to know that we are committed to making your child’s experience at Children’s House the best that it can be.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to send your child to school this year or keep them home, give us a call and talk to us about your concerns. We’re here and we’re willing to work with you to make sure your questions are answered, your child is safe, and you’re comfortable with your decision.

It’s sure to be a memorable year and we don’t want to do it without you! There are just a few spaces left in each of our programs. Contact us to schedule your tour!

Questions? Call us at 703-481-6678 or email us through the form below.

Back to School We Go!

As we get closer to the start of our 2020-2021 school year, there are still so many questions and concerns regarding the safety of returning to the classroom. 

Here at Children’s House, we want you to know that we are ready to get back to work! 

Will there be a learning curve as we navigate the challenges of teaching three to six year olds during an ongoing pandemic? Of course there will be. We’ll take it one day at a time and adjust course as needed. 

Do we have all the answers? Of course we don’t, but we are committed to following science-based recommendations to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, students, and families. 

Teacher Training Week

Our teachers have returned to school for the week in preparation for our re-opening. This is traditionally a week to reconnect after a long summer; a time to gather, reflect, and plan. We usually bring in inspirational trainers who reignite our passion for teaching and remind us why we do what we do. There are staff meetings, classroom team meetings, and time spent preparing the classroom for our students’ arrival.

This year will look a little different.

We’ll talk about sanitizing procedures, our new drop-off and pick-up procedures, and all of the other changes to our daily schedule that we have made to adhere to CDC and health department recommendations. Most importantly, however, we will talk about how to connect with our students, how to be there for our families, and how to make the best out of a challenging situation.

There are many unknowns ahead of us as we head back to school this year, but we know one thing for sure: we’ve missed the children! Let’s do this!

Meet the Teachers

We may be facing a year unlike any other, but we have the best staff in town to take on the challenge! Meet the smiling faces behind the masks!

The Sunrise Room

The Sunrise Room is the larger of our two classrooms and we are so lucky to have so much space! The room is open and airy, with large windows that can be opened at the top for plenty of fresh air and ventilation. This room will be for our pre-k and kindergarten children. Our decision to temporarily re-group our students by age, rather than adhere to our usual mixed-age classrooms, was based on guidelines from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Separating the children by age will allow us to keep the two classrooms from sharing space.

Ms. Keturah – Owner, Director, and Certified Montessori Teacher
Ms. Helena – Assistant Director and Certified Montessori Teacher
Ms. Ruth – Montessori Assistant

The Sunset Room

The Sunset Room is the smaller of the two classrooms and it is the perfect space for our three and four year-olds! This classroom also has large windows that face the playground and can be opened at the top for ventilation. It has its own bathroom, which makes it really easy to keep the children from this classroom separated from the Sunrise Room.

Ms. Asma – Certified Montessori Teacher
Ms. Amanda – Certified Lead Teacher

Additional Staff

Ms. Cinthia might be wearing a mask this year, but you can rest assured that she will still be her usual upbeat, smiling, self! She will be leading tours, managing registrations, and doing all of the millions of little things she does so well.

Ms. Arlene will return as our Spanish teacher later this fall when we resume Specials. We will also have music again this year and are in the process of finalizing that program.

Ms. Cinthia – Office Manager
Ms. Arlene – Spanish Teacher

It’s sure to be a memorable year and we don’t want to do it without you! There are just a few spaces left in each of our programs. Contact us today!

Questions? Call us at 703-481-6678 or email us through the form below.

Yes, we are open! Here’s what to expect:

Our 2020-2021 school year is underway! If you have a preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten-aged child and you need in-person child care and education, five days a week, please give us a call at 703-481-6678 today!

We have two classrooms that are operating under our updated COVID-19 precautions. There are only a handful of spaces left in each class and we anticipate that both classes will be full soon.

At this time we expect

  • to be open five days a week for all students
  • in-person learning with no online classes, unless required due to unforeseen closure
  • to maintain our normal program groups (part-day, school day, and full-day) with no split schedules

We have made modifications in the following areas:

  • drop off and pick up procedures have changed in order to do a daily health checks and minimize the number of people entering our building
  • full-day pick up time has temporarily changed — parents must pick up their children between 4:30 and 5:00 — in order to allow our staff to adhere to new cleaning and sanitation requirements
  • cleaning and disinfecting procedures have increased
  • masks are required for all staff and children
  • school events and family gatherings will be paused until such time as it is safe
  • parent education events will look a little different — stay tuned for more information

We are using all current available resources from The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to make our plans and are committed to:

  • Providing a clean, safe learning environment for our students and staff
  • Adhering to current, science-based recommendations for managing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus
  • Maintaining open lines of communication about the health of our community
  • Making them most of out of our school year and having fun together

Additional Resources:

Questions? Call us at 703-481-6678 or email us through the form below.

Preparing to Return to School: 3 Steps for Independence

Here at Children’s House, we have been hard at work preparing for the upcoming school year. We are rearranging our schedule and our daily routines in order to better accommodate new health guidelines and to ensure the safety of our community, to the best of our ability. For a complete list of the changes we are making, check out our COVID-19 Precautions page.

If your child is enrolled in a Montessori program, then you know how we feel about independence. As we prepare for a school year unlike any other, it is doubly important for children to be independent in certain areas, so as to ensure minimal physical contact between the staff and students. The first day of school will be here before we know it, so consider these steps you can take at home, to ensure your child is happy, healthy, and ready for this next adventure! 

Step 1: Dress for Independence

Before you send your child off to school in those cute little tennis shoes and jeans, make sure they know how to tie, button, and zip! If they can’t undo their own zippers or re-tie their own shoes, please rethink their clothing. Loose-fitting, elastic-waisted pants, shirts without buttons, and shoes with Velcro fasteners are the way to go. As we strive for minimal physical contact, it is imperative that children do as much for themselves as they are able. 

When cooler weather comes, have your child practice putting on their new jacket or winter coat and gloves or mittens. Select clothes with easy zippers or fasteners and ask yourself, “Can he do it by himself or will a teacher need to help him?” Opt for independence, over fashion, please. 

Step 2: Practice Opening Food and Drink Containers

We want to ensure that your child’s food is not touched by anyone else before it is eaten. For that reason, teachers will not be assisting children with containers, lids, straw wrappers, etc. In order for your child to have a successful experience with lunch and snack time, be sure to send in foods that are either completely open and ready to eat, or can easily be opened by the child themself. 

  • Sandwiches should be wrapped in paper or in a plastic baggie
  • Fruit should be washed and cut up, if necessary, in a disposable bag or container
  • Only pack yogurt, applesauce, fruit cups, bags of chips or crackers, etc. if your child can independently open them 100% of the time
  • Consider purchasing compostable lunch containers that will be easy to open and are environmentally friendly

Step 3: Practice Independence in Personal Hygiene

Children are not exactly known for their amazing personal hygiene habits. Let’s do our best to keep our germs to ourselves and practice these at home:

  • Proper Hand-Washing – Before and after meals, after using the bathroom, after sneezing or blowing their nose, and after hands go into mouths. Teach your child to wash their hands often and properly. Their teachers will thank you!
  • How to Wipe After Going to the Bathroom – Outside of the fact that all children eventually need to learn to clean themselves properly after using the bathroom, good bathroom habits will help minimize the need for assistance from a teacher, which is a good thing for everyone involved. 
  • How to Use a Tissue – The more independent your child can be in all areas of personal hygiene, the better! Practice proper tissue techniques before your child gets the sniffles, including disposing of the tissue and washing hands when they’re done. And — when they DO get the sniffles, keep them home!
  • Wearing a Mask – Make sure you have plenty of time to get your child comfortable with the idea of wearing a mask at school. Let them pick out their own masks, incentive them to wear them for longer periods of time, if it’s a challenge, and educate them about the importance of wearing masks to keep others safe. 

Choose Your Words Wisely

Language matters! As we prepare for a new normal, be sure to use positive language to discuss these changes with your child. Try to avoid scary words or transferring your own fears about the unknown to your child. Some children will be starting school for the very first time — this is still an exciting time for your family, so celebrate it! 

Other children are returning to school after a very long absence — remind them of all the things they loved about their school and reassure them that their teachers are there to keep them safe.

  • “I’m so happy you get to see your friends again! I bet they’ve missed you, too!”
  • “We’re going to practice washing our hands properly so that we can help keep our friends and teachers healthy.”
  • “Wearing a mask helps us keep our germs away from others.”
  • “If you want to take applesauce for lunch, we need to practice opening the container, so that you can do it yourself.”
  • “You’re going to have so much fun playing on the playground with the other kids! I can’t wait to hear all about your day!”

Our Commitment to You

Here at Children’s House, we are committed to:

  • Providing a clean, safe learning environment for our students and staff
  • Adhering to current, science-based recommendations for managing the transmission of the COVID-19 virus
  • Maintaining open lines of communication about the health of our community
  • Making them most of out of our school year and having fun together

We are so excited to see your child’s smiling face again and no mask is going to change that! Stay safe, wash your hands, and we’ll see you in August!

You might also like these posts by Children’s House Montessori School

Questions? Call us at 703-481-6678 or email us through the form below.

Supply List

One of the recommendations from the CDC concerning stopping the spread of germs is for each child to have their own supplies to use in the classroom. In order for us to accomplish this, we are asking you to supply the following the first day your child attends school. We will not be able to admit your child without these items. 

A link to the downloadable version of this list is included below.

  • 1 banker/book box with an unattached lid that will serve as a small desk and also to keep supplies in. 
  • Pencil box to keep the small items in 
  • 3 writing pencils 
  • 1 eraser 
  • I box 24 colored pencils 
  • 1 hand-held pencil sharpener with holder at the bottom 
  • 1 box 24 crayons 
  • 1 box 10 or 12 markers 
  • 1 pair scissors 
  • 2 glue sticks 
  • 1 clipboard 
  • 1 box tissues 
  • 1 water bottle with flip top lid 

Snacks and lunch will also go into this box each day. 

We will need TWO COMPLETE PAIR of change of clothes to keep in the bag that stays at school. This includes an extra pair of closed toe shoes! 

We will probably need to change clothes more often to keep control of bodily fluids. 

We will let you know when the supply gets low. 

In addition to personal supplies, we ask you to help with the general cleaning supplies we will need to keep the environment clean. Every common surface, and all materials the children use, has to be cleaned or disinfected after each use, so this will be a lot of supplies. 

We know all of these supplies are in short supply, so we are giving you this list in plenty of time for you to find them before the start of school. We greatly appreciate your help; We would have to be constantly looking and shopping to keep up with this need. 

  • 2 containers of disinfectant wipes 
  • 1 Hand sanitizer (70% alcohol based) 
  • 1 liquid hand soap 
  • 1 bottle disinfectant liquid spray (Lysol or similar) 
  • 2 rolls paper towels 
  • 1 box vinyl gloves 
  • 2 extra masks. 

Your child should come to school with a mask on. 

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions

Changes to the Classroom Environment

In order to create an environment that is easily sanitized, we are changing out some of the materials for paper substitutes that children can work with and then take home instead of being put back on the shelf.

We will also be rearranging the rooms, removing the cubbies we have always used in lieu of the box the children will keep their belongings in.

Other changes may be necessary once we are back in the environment setting up for the new school year.

Rest assured, however, that your child will continue to receive a true Montessori experience at Children’s House!

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions

Lunch, Snack, and Naps

Children will bring their own lunch, as usual, but now packed in a disposable bag, with each item in the bag packed in a disposable bag as well.

Nothing will be sent home.

Even three year olds need to be able to open all of their items by themselves. For example, if your child has difficulty opening a cheese stick wrapper, please take it out of the original plastic wrapping and put it in a baggie. This way, teachers can avoid touching any containers and food.

For drinks, please only send flip top thermos water bottles with water. Children may use the water fountain to refill throughout the day and we will send them home each day for you to wash. If you forget to bring a thermos of water the children will be offered water from school. However, we urge you to send a bottle each day for children to have with them.

Teachers will not be able to keep special drinks or other food items in the fridge. Please make all preparations for your child to be as independent as possible with all items disposable.

Your child will also bring a snack for mid-morning, and if your child stays all day, they should bring a second snack to be eaten at 3:00. These snacks must be packed completely disposable, so a few crackers in a baggie and a piece of fruit for each snack will work well.

Please prepare the fruit so your child can be as independent as possible. Slice the apples, peel the oranges, cut the grapes, etc. If your child will be taking a nap, their small blanket must be able to fit into a small box that we will provide.

This way the children can manage their own belongings and keep them separate from the others in the nap room. Blankets will be sent home once a month for washing. We will forgo sleepy toys for now in the interest of not spreading germs. 

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions

Schedules, Closures, and Outbreaks

Our daily schedule will basically stay the same. The changes in arrival and departure times are to give us time to sanitize the entire building after each day’s use. This will be a learning process for us, so please be patient while we figure out what works best.

If outbreaks occur in our community, we will follow the guidelines of the Fairfax County Health Department. Our understanding, however, is that the school must close for a 14 day quarantine.

Parents should prepare for these occurrences and, to the best of our ability, we will move to an online format in order to continue academic lessons and foster connection with children and teachers.

While we understand this is not the ideal method, until there is a viable vaccine, this “School at Home” format may occasionally need to be used in times of closure.

Please understand that tuition is expected to be paid regardless of whether we are in school or online. We still have all of our financial responsibilities regardless of where we interact with the children. 

Return to Back to School: COVID-19 Precautions