“Is it too late to enroll?” and other FAQs about Mid-Year Enrollment

The start to the school year may have been unlike any other, but we hit our stride and had a great fall! Together we enjoyed many of our favorite fall activities and are looking forward to lots more fun in the coming months. The good news is, it’s not too late to enroll your child at Children’s House! Here’s what you need to know.

Who should consider a mid-year enrollment?

We encourage you to consider a winter/spring start date, if your child:

  • has just turned 3 or will turn 3 in the next few months and appears “ready for more”
  • is currently enrolled in a distance learning program or has been at home, but would benefit from in-person learning and socialization 
  • needs a little extra time to adjust to new routines and people
  • is “advanced” or “behind” their peers and you are concerned about their progress

Do other children start mid-year?

Yes! It’s quite common for children to join us throughout the winter and spring months leading up to summer. If you plan to enroll your child for the summer or even next fall, consider bumping up that start date and taking advantage of the slower pace of mid-year. It’s actually a great time to get started! Our current students are already settled into the school routine, which means the teachers can give a little extra attention to those new children who join us now. 

Isn’t it too late to enroll? Haven’t they missed too much already?

We had a busy start to the year! The children made apple butter, carved a Halloween pumpkin, and collected food for a Thanksgiving food drive. We learned about North America in Geography, vertebrates and invertebrates in Science, and Claude Monet in art. We spent time outside on our beautiful natural playground every day and enjoyed hiking the trail that surrounds the school. But there’s still plenty of school year left! Even children who join us mid-year benefit from our enriching classroom curriculum and calendar of fun events. There will be winter nature activities, new continents to discover, and don’t forget gardening in the spring! Join us!

Check out the pictures of all the fun fall activities we’ve been up to on our Facebook page.

Are you still wearing masks? How’s that going?

It took no time at all for the children to adjust to school life in masks. They are absolute rockstars and we are so proud of them. Every day they show us their flexibility and willingness to adjust and go with the flow! We’re happy to talk with you one-on-one and address any concerns you may have about your child wearing a mask for the duration of their school day. You can also read about the precautions we are taking with regards to COVID-19 here.

How do we take a tour? 

We are conducting all tours virtually until further notice. You can call us at 703-481-6678 and schedule a virtual tour or hit the button below and use the “book now” button on our Facebook page. On the day of your tour Ms. Cinthia will contact you with the WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger video and will take you around the school. She’ll show you the classrooms and the playground, and answer any questions you have. If you decide that Children’s House is a good fit for your child and your family, she will go over the rest of the enrollment process with you and send you the appropriate forms.

Do you have a lot of spaces left?

We currently have limited spaces available in all three age groups and programs, with enrollment numbers changing frequently. For the most up-to-date information, give us a call: 703-481-6678.

It’s not too late to enroll! Give us a call and schedule your tour today! We look forward to welcoming you to our CHMS family!

You might also like these posts and pages:

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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!

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

How to Find a Good Preschool: Questions, Observations, and Red Flags

It’s almost springtime here in Northern Virginia, and many folks are looking ahead to summer and then to the upcoming school year. If you have a two-and-a-half to three-year old you might have already started mulling over the big P-question. No, not the “pee” question — we’re not talking Potty Training —  the Preschool Dilemma. When to start? What kind of program? Can we afford it? The questions have begun! With so many options, it can feel overwhelming, so we’re giving you our recommendations on how to find a good preschool for your little one.

Before You Start: Research

Let’s start with the elephant in the room — to Montessori or not-to-Montessori, that is the question. Obviously, here at Children’s House MONTESSORI school, we are a little biased.  We believe that the Montessori educational philosophy is pretty darn great, but you should do your research and see if Montessori is a good fit for you and your family. There are tons of options out there and many different approaches to early childhood education. Do your research and see what’s available in your area. 

Step 1: Make a List — Location, location, location!

Sounds pretty obvious, but that’s probably just because it’s the obvious first step. Make a list. A quick Google search will tell you which schools are in your area or closest to the area you want to be in. Maybe you’re looking for a location close to work or somewhere midway between work and home. Map out your options and make a list of the schools that fit your location criteria.

You don’t want to get your heart set on a school only to realize later on that it’s 20 minutes out of your way or would put you (and your younger children, if you have them) in the car for an hour or more each day. Google Maps is your friend!

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Is it close to home or work? 
  2. How much time will it add to your commute?
  3. Is the location within a reasonable driving distance for other care-givers who might pick up on a regular basis (like a nanny, babysitter, or grandparent)?
  4. Drive by a few of your top choices on your way to work and see what it’s like to add that stop to your morning or evening commute.
  5. If your child will be attending a mornings-only program, how much time will you realistically be left with after drop-off and before pick-up? Are there shops and amenities nearby to make it easier to run errands or take younger siblings to classes or playgroups?
  6. How do you feel about the location? Is the area busy? Does it feel safe? 

Step 2: Read Reviews

You wouldn’t buy a pressure cooker without reading a bunch of reviews first, right? Do the same for your child’s school. Check out the schools’ Google listing, find them on Yelp.com, or check GreatSchools.org. Follow their Facebook page and read up on what people are saying about your child’s potential school. Ask for recommendations from friends and co-workers. Where do your neighbors take their kids? 

Keep in mind that reviews come from a place of emotion — good or bad — and remember that children and families can have vastly different experiences at the same school. Weigh the positives and negatives and keep an open mind.

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Gut check: what stands out when you read them? Is this a place you want your child to be?
  2. For negative reviews, how old are they? Do they seem very specific to one family or was there a larger issue that the school could have addressed by now?
  3. Look for recent reviews, as those reflect the current atmosphere, staffing, and curriculum of the school. 
  4. In general, are the reviews positive or negative?
  5. Check several websites and compare reviews, you’ll notice a theme or trend — time for another gut check.

Step 3: Call and Ask Questions

We spend SO MUCH TIME on our phones these days, and yet somehow we forget what they’re actually for: making phone calls! Pick up the phone and call your top three choices! Talk to a person! First impressions matter and your first impression should come from one of the people you’re likely to interact with on a daily basis, once your child is enrolled in a program: the office manager, school director, or other administrative personnel. 

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Are they friendly, professional, and courteous?
  2. Do they take the time to speak with you about your questions and concerns?
  3. Do they ask you questions about your child and seem interested in learning more about your family and your needs?
  4. Did they answer the phone or return calls promptly?
  5. Gut check: how do you feel after you hang up the phone? 

Step 4: Tour and Observe

It’s all well and good, if your number one top pick is in the perfect location, has great reviews, and a friendly phone manner, but nothing beats an on-site tour! This is your chance to see for yourself what makes this school a great fit or a “nope, next!”  Bring a list of questions and get them answered. 

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Gut check: How do you feel walking through the space?
  2. How would you describe it to a friend? 
  3. What are the three to five adjectives that come to mind?
  4. Is the staff friendly? Do you feel welcome?
  5. Are the children actively engaged in their activities?
  6. Are you touring and observing a typical school day?

Step 5: Visit with Your Child

Once you’ve done your research, narrowed the field, and picked your favorite, it’s time to take your child for a visit. This is such an important step and shouldn’t be dismissed. While you, as the parent, are going to make the final decision about where your child goes to school, your child’s opinion (and reaction) matters. If you’re looking to enroll and start in a short timeframe, it’s especially important that your child have a chance to visit, meet their teacher, and spend time in the classroom. If their start date is further out, this is just a chance to interact with the teachers and get a feel for how your child will adjust. 

Questions / Observations / Red Flags

  1. Do you feel good about how the teachers and staff interacted with your child? Were they respectful and compassionate?
  2. If relevant, how did the staff handle your child’s hesitation, confusion, or anxiety?
  3. Is your child happy at the end of the visit? 
  4. Will the school accommodate additional visits closer to the start date? This is especially important for children who struggle with transitions.
  5. Gut check: is this THE place? By now, you’ll know.

Your child’s preschool experience matters! Do some research, ask around, call, and visit! Depending on where you live, you might feel like you have a million options or none. There’s a great school out there, we promise — keep an open mind and do your homework.

Additional Resources:

You Might Also Like These Posts from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Interested in visiting CHMS? What to Expect During Your Tour

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We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

Understanding Montessori: What do the children do all day?

There is often a veil of mystery over the goings on in a typical Montessori classroom. Children come home with reports of “doing work,” which sounds kinda serious. They talk about circle time and playground time, but they also throw around words and phrases that make no sense to the average parent. I mean, “what the heck is “pin punching” anyway and why is my child doing it?” When you’re trying to understand what Montessori is all about, you’re going to find yourself wondering, “What do the kids do all day?”

So, let’s lift the veil and take a peek into a typical day in a Montessori classroom. If you’re still trying to make sense of what sets Montessori apart from other programs, you’re going to want to start with this post from earlier this year: What’s the Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool?

The Importance of a Schedule

Montessori programs are ALL about consistency! A regular, consistent schedule sets the pace and is important for the emotional well-being of both the students and the teachers. When we all know what’s coming next, we can plan better, learn to use our time wisely, and look forward to different parts of each day. Learning to tell time begins with learning the rhythm of the days, weeks, and seasons, and consistency and routine are key!

The schedule of each day is more or less the same as the day before it, but there are always exceptions, opportunities for spontaneity, and necessary changes, such as days with special events, holiday celebrations, weather-related changes, or in-house program days. Because most days run like clockwork, changes to the schedule are fun and exciting for most children, rather than stress-inducing, which can be the case for programs that lack consistency and have a lot of built-in variability and change.

Although Montessori schools are similar in that they follow the same philosophical educational principles, they are all independently owned and operated, making each one unique and special in its own right. We’re going to break the day into four sections: morning, mid-day, afternoon, and late-afternoon and give you a snippet of what each time looks likes, here at Children’s House.  

Morning (8:00 to 11:00)

Also known as the Great Period, mornings in our Montessori classrooms are taken pretty seriously. It’s one of two work periods and offers an opportunity for children to concentrate on their selected activities. Concentration is the pathway to learning, so we work really hard to establish a calm, organized, and engaging environment that sets the stage for concentration. 

Children spend this time working on individual activities at a table or on a rug on the floor. Many activities require a lesson from the teacher before a child can use them independently. Others, such as puzzles, can be taken off the shelf without a lesson. Children who are not receiving a lesson from a teacher might be having a snack, working on something alone or with a friend, completing a work that was started the day before, or just walking around, observing. 

Some favorite morning activities include painting at the easel, learning sounds (sandpaper letters), writing words (moveable alphabet), counting (cards and counters), math (golden beads and more), and, of course, pin punching (Pin-punching: using a pointed tool to poke holes along a line on a piece of paper. The end result is a shape that is released from the paper. Pin punching improves fine motor skills and requires a lot of concentration, especially for the youngest members of our community!)

Pin punching is fun with a friend!

It’s a busy time of day, but, as we all know, time flies when you’re having fun, so it’s not too long before we’re wrapping up the morning, getting the tables cleared, cleaned, and set for lunch. The children join a teacher at the carpet for Circle Time, share the daily Virtue card, read a story, sing some songs, and then head outside to play.

Mid-Day (11:00 – 1:00)

At Children’s House we are so lucky to have a beautiful, natural play space for our children! We love our playground and the opportunities for exploration, observation, and imagination that it provides. The children climb on the traditional play equipment, dig in the sand, and enjoy a variety of seasonal activities related to maintaining our classroom gardens. If we’re especially lucky, we’ll spot deer in the woods, a hawk in the trees, and all sorts of creatures and critters who visit us inside our fenced space. 

After playtime, it’s lunch time! So, we head back inside, wash our hands, and enjoy our lunch together in each classroom. Lunch time is a chance to engage in polite conversation while eating lunch and listening to music on the CD player (yes, they still make CD players!). After lunch, several children are tasked with helping a teacher wipe down the tables and sweep the floor, which the rest of the class return to the playground for a second play period.

8… 9… 10! Ready or not, here I come!

Afternoon (1:00 – 3:00)

Depending on their age and the program in which they are enrolled, the children do one of the following afternoon activities in three, separate, classrooms spaces:

Nap– Our youngest children (3 turning 4) go to the bathroom and lie down on a mat with a soft toy brought from home. Then we turn off the lights and play soft music to help them fall asleep. 

Rest and then classroom work – Our middle group of children (4 turning 5) will rest quietly for 30 minutes while they listen to a story, and then join their peers to continue work begun in the morning.

Kindergarten work – The kindergarten children (5 turning 6) from both classes come together in the afternoons for kindergarten-specific lessons. These include lessons in art related to specific artists, in-depth lessons on a science or geography topic of study, sewing lessons on a variety of stitches and sewing techniques, and advanced math lessons. They also have writing and penmanship lessons as well as lots of opportunities throughout the year for creative and nonfiction writing. It’s a busy time, for sure!

For the last half hour of the afternoon period, the children come back together again for another Circle Time before the afternoon dismissal. 

Late Afternoon (3:00 – 5:30)

Children enrolled in our Aftercare Program enjoy additional time outside on the playground, an afternoon snack, and a variety of activities, like creative art projects and games. 

Aftercare is a Montessori-friendly extension of our school-day program. Our program is run by our Montessori teachers and assistants, which allows for continuity and consistency for the children in our care.

At 5:30, our busy day is over. It’s up to you to fill in the details for the rest of the day! Home, dinner, bath time, and stories? What does family time look like for you?

You might also like these posts from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Additional Resources:

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

Is Your Child Ready for More? Three Key Signs of Preschool Readiness

It can be a tough call. For many families with young children, knowing when a child is “ready for more” can come with a lot of doubt and uncertainty.

  • Maybe your child has been in an at-home daycare since they were a baby, and the idea of putting them into a larger group setting is making you nervous. Are they ready for that? Will they get lost in the shuffle?
  • Or perhaps it’s that you love the teachers at their daycare, but you just don’t think your child is being challenged enough and she seems bored or disinterested.
  • Let’s be honest here — maybe it’s just too much to think about right now and you know that a change for her means a change for you — you’ll need to tour new places, fill out applications, and then there’s the forms, fees, and the new schedule and routine. It’s a lot.

Whatever your hesitations or looming question marks, knowing some signs of preschool readiness can make the decision a little easier. We’ve put together a quick list of what to look for in your child that will help you make the transition from home or daycare to a more formal school setting.

children working together with a globe / signs of readiness for preschool
Learning about the continents

Signs of Preschool Readiness #1: Independence

If the words, “I do it!” are frequently heard around your house and it seems like you don’t make it through the day without at least one power struggle or tantrum, it’s time to consider preschool. The toddler / preschool age is a tough one for many parents. Their sweet baby has blossomed into a fiercely independent child who has opinions and knows how to voice them.

Send them to school! We’ll take that budding independence and give it some boundaries. We’ll encourage it in a way that makes your child feel in control, but we’ll also show them how to participate in group activities, follow directions, and complete the work cycle. Yes, we’ll show them how to take work from the shelves, do it properly, and then clean it up!

You’ll start to see the changes at home. They’ll start showing you what they’ve learned, start singing songs you didn’t teach them, and you’ll see their independent spirit grow and flourish.

Signs of Preschool Readiness #2: Purposefulness

Most children love to help! They want to be part of the action, and being told they’re “such a good helper” is a badge of honor they are proud of. Young children love purpose; they love big jobs. Helping a parent carry the grocery bags or push the vacuum cleaner makes them feel strong and grown up.

Send them to Montessori school! We’ll take that purposefulness and put it to work! The Montessori classroom is filled with opportunity to do “big work” — like scrubbing chairs and tables, watering the plants, or setting the tables for lunch. Children work together with teachers to maintain the classroom environment and a child’s efforts are seen and acknowledged.

In a Montessori classroom, all activity has purpose. Children learn that this is a place of great accomplishment and they take pride in hard work and new challenges.

Signs of Preschool Readiness #3: Flexibility

So we’ve got this fiercely independent 3 year-old who wants to do big, important tasks their way, right? And now we’re saying that flexibility is the final component to preschool readiness? Yes, we are. You see, flexibility is the potential that lies behind the stereotypically stubborn toddler. You want to see growth and maturity? You guessed it: send them to school!

Children learn by example. They learn by watching others, imitating behavior and language, and through trial and error. When it comes to flexibility — the ability to go with the flow, cooperate when asked, and follow rules and directions without a whole lot of pushback — we don’t necessarily think preschoolers have much, because we may not see it very often.

But, it’s there. Young children want so badly to learn, to grow, to be a big kid. They want to be like you — all grown up and smart!

Send them to school.

  • A good teacher will see their stubbornness and recognize the strong will that lies beneath. She’ll take that need for independence and work with it, rather than against it.
  • A good teacher will expect cooperation and will have 32 tricks up her sleeve when it doesn’t come out the first time around. She’ll make working together fun and engaging.
  • A good teacher will trust that flexibility will come. She practices patience and kindness, models calmness and reliability.
  • A good school will welcome you and learn about your child before they enter the classroom. They’ll ask questions and make you feel comfortable. We understand that, for most families, change is scary / exciting. We’re here to help you navigate that transition.
  • A good school will make you feel at home.

You might also like these posts from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Additional Resources:

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

What is Montessori? And Other Common Questions

Despite the fact that Montessori education has been around since 1907, there are still some common misconceptions about what it is and what it isn’t. “What is Montessori?” is a huge question, really, because the answer is a lot bigger and more philosophical than the average person is expecting when they pose the question. Here are our (brief) answers, to some of the more common questions people ask.

“What is Montessori?”

Montessori (or the Montessori Method or Montessori Philosophy) is a child-centered educational approach. It is more typically associated with Early Childhood programs (ages 3 – 6), but is also popular in Infant / Toddler programs. While there are elementary, middle, and high school programs available, they are less common.

“Who was Maria Montessori?”

The short answer? A woman ahead of her time! Dr. Maria Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy who applied her scientific observation skills to develop the Montessori Method. She spent her whole adult life working with young children and used her years of study to develop materials and practices that served to enhance the learning process and respect a child’s natural development.

“Do the kids just get to do whatever they want?”

Dr. Montessori observed that, when given the opportunity and right environment, children were naturally inclined to select activities that fostered concentration and independent learning. When a child makes a selection based on independent choice, he or she is more likely to fully engage with that material and therefore, more likely to learn whatever it is they are there to learn.

You know that feeling you get when you’re completely in your “zone”? Time flies by, you’re deep in concentration, and when you’re done with whatever it was you were doing, you feel good! That’s how work should feel. And that’s how children in a Montessori classroom feel after a solid morning work period: refreshed, accomplished, and proud.

Happy and proud after a good morning's work! What is Montessori?

“Where are the toys?”

Montessori classrooms don’t look like traditional preschool classrooms, it’s true. There is no dress-up corner or block corner and there are not trucks and dolls for the children to play with. The Montessori Philosophy extends to the materials in the classroom as well: real and functional take priority over pretend.

When you tour a Montessori school, make sure you do so during the morning work period (the Great Period) and look closely at what you see. You may not see children playing dress up or cars, but you’ll probably see them scrubbing a chair or table, watering the plants in the classroom, sewing with real needles, and painting at an easel (and then cleaning up their paint supplies). The classroom will be busy, but engaged. There will be children sitting at tables and on the floor, walking around, taking out work and putting it away. You might even catch a child doing yoga or sitting quietly in the peace corner or reading a book.

“Why are Montessori schools more expensive?”

Montessori schools tend to have higher tuition rates than traditional preschool programs, because the vast majority of Montessori schools are independently owned and operated. Each school is responsible for all of its own costs and there is no larger Montessori corporation working behind the scenes to cut expenses and offer the lowest rate in town.

There are so many factors to consider when choosing a school for your child and one of them is certainly cost. Call around and compare pricing and programs to make sure you know what your tuition covers and what it doesn’t. Most importantly, take a tour! Your tuition directly impacts the staff, facilities, and program expenses, so make sure you feel good about supporting the school you choose! Visit the schools you’re considering and ask yourself:

  • Are the children happy, engaged, and relaxed?
  • Are the teachers helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable?
  • Is the classroom warm and inviting?
  • Does this feel like a good fit for my family?

Still got questions? Check out these previous posts:

Additional Resources:

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

Three Reasons Why Montessori Makes Sense

We’ve explained the difference between Montessori and traditional preschools and we’ve told you what to look for in an authentic Montessori program. We haven’t filled you in though, on why Montessori makes sense in the first place.

What is it about this teaching method that has resonated with so many parents and educators across the world for over a hundred years? Trends come and go, but Montessori is not a trend. Montessori education has staying power, because at the heart of it all, it just makes so much sense!

Reason #1 Why Montessori Makes Sense: Engaged Learning

“The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.”

Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

If you’ve ever suffered through a class you didn’t want to take in the first place, then you know that learning because you have to learn is a different experience, entirely, to learning because you want to learn. Montessori classrooms allow opportunities for children to make their own choices regarding their learning, which results in happier children who actually want to learn.

When we are active participants in our learning, we are more engaged learners. It just makes sense: give a child choices and follow their lead. They’ll show you what they need and you’ll be able to guide them to materials that help them learn.

Reason #2 Why Montessori Makes Sense: A Sensory Experience

“The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling.” 

Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures

The Montessori classroom is one that has been thoughtfully designed to meet the child’s sensory needs. Everything in the room serves a purpose (and, if it doesn’t have one yet, one will be assigned to it by an astute teacher looking for a teachable moment. Ha ha!)

In our classrooms we see and learn to discern shapes, colors, and sizes. We touch and learn to identify texture, weight, and shape. We smell (well, we don’t smell, but our noses do), we taste, and we hear and we make observation and connections with the world around us.

It’s fall — we can talk about apples or we can touch, smell, and taste them. We can talk about pumpkins or we can get our hands on one! If you read last week’s post, you know that there’ll be lots to experience when we carve our classroom pumpkins next week. You’d better believe that it will be a hands-on, sensory experience!

Adding a blindfold to a work is a surefire way to isolate one sense (touch) by removing another (sight).

Reason #3 Why Montessori Makes Sense: Mixed-Age Classrooms

“Children acquire knowledge through experience in the environment.”

Maria Montessori, The 1946 London Lectures

If you want to understand something — really understand it — teach it to someone else. It is in the teaching that we truly learn. The Montessori classroom is designed to be a place where the youngest children learn from the older children. It is therefore also a place where the oldest children learn by showing the youngest children.

Older children in a mixed-aged classroom take on a combination role of student and teacher. This is why it is so important that a child remain in the classroom for their third year, the kindergarten year. They love being the leaders in their classroom and, in so many ways, solidify their own learning by demonstrating to their younger peers.

Additional Resources:

You Might Also Like These Posts From Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

What’s the Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool?

Some of the most common questions parents have when looking for an early childhood program focus on the difference between Montessori and traditional preschool. Parents want to understand how Montessori differs from other programs, why those differences matter, and which is the right fit for their child.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a program for your child and, depending on where you live, your options might be few and far between or overwhelmingly abundant. Understanding the core differences between Montessori and traditional preschools will help you narrow your focus and find the program that makes sense for your family.

The Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool #1: Child-directed vs. Teacher-directed

A common misconception about Montessori is that the children “get to do whatever they want” with no structure or boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it certainly might look that way, if you are used to a more traditional school model that places the emphasis on the role of the teacher.

In a traditional preschool, the teacher is the central figure in the classroom. She is guiding children through various station activities, group activities, and through the schedule of the day. She is responsible for making sure that everyone participates in different activities and for ensuring that all the children meet the guidelines set by the school or determined by the curriculum.

In a Montessori classroom the teacher follows the lead of the child. Children learn at their own pace and are guided by their own interests. This means that children are free to make choices about how they spend their time, but not without some boundaries set by the teacher. The role of the teacher in a Montessori classroom is multifold:

  1. She prepares the classroom environment to appeal to each child’s innate curiosity.
  2. She observes a child and determines which lessons would be a timely fit — one that appeals to their interests and teaches a new concept or reinforces a learned concept.
  3. She invites a child to a lesson, shows him how to use the materials independently.
  4. That child is then free to select that material again on his own.

In a traditional preschool classroom, the teacher is the leader of the pack. In a Montessori classroom, she is the guide.

A child works with math materials. Difference between Montessori and traditional preschool.
A child learns her teen numbers with this interactive math material.

The Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool #2: Work vs. Play

Traditional preschools are generally play-based, meaning that a child will spend much of their day playing with toys and in familiar settings. A typical preschool classroom has “centers” designated for different types of play or skills. There’ll be a dress-up area for social and imaginative play, a block area for building, an area for puzzles, etc. Children will have time during their day to choose different activities, but much of the schedule is pre-determined, so children will rotate through centers, as well as participate in group activities, like story time or art.

In a Montessori classroom, the materials on the shelf are called “work,” not “toys,” and after receiving a lesson from the teacher on how to use a work, a child is free to select that material at any point throughout the morning or afternoon work period. At any given moment in a Montessori classroom you can observe children engaged in math, language, art, and geography studies. Because they have chosen the work themselves, they are invested in it. They are excited about it and they’re learning something!

Maria Montessori believed, through observation and years of working with children, that children were like little sponges: capable of soaking up incredible amounts of knowledge when given the right environment. She designed her materials and precise techniques to maximize a child’s desire to learn. Children love to learn and do challenging things — it is fun for them and feels a lot like play!

A child writes words with the Moveable Alphabet. Difference between Montessori and Traditional Preschool.
Learning to read and write is fun with colorful manipulatives, like the Moveable Alphabet!

The Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool #3: The Classroom Environment

A traditional preschool classroom is filled with colorful toys, brightly colored posters and wall decorations, colorful rugs, tables, and chairs. The shelves are filled with toys, games, and other familiar items. A child has access to blocks, dolls, cars, puzzles, etc. For a play-based center, you can expect to find lots of color!

A Montessori classroom will look a little different. There will be more muted tones and less visual stimulation. Any wall art or decorations will be placed lower, so as to be at the children’s eye level, and all furnishings will be child-sized. The classroom might be busy and active, but it should also feel calm and peaceful.

The Montessori classroom is divided into different curriculum areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, and Cultural (Art, Science, Geography). There might be a reading corner or a peace corner, and there should be a variety of seating options and work spaces available. Children spend their morning moving through the classroom at their own pace, selecting work that appeals to them, receiving lessons from the teachers, and having fun with their friends. At the end of the morning, the class gathers for circle time and prepares for the next part of their day.

A teacher leads circle time. Difference between Montessori and Traditional Preschool.
Gathering for circle time at the end of a busy morning.

Choosing Between the Two

Knowing some of the key differences between Montessori programs and traditional preschool programs is the first step. Once you get a feel for the different options in your area, ask around! Recommendations from friends and online reviews can help you get a sense of which programs are a better fit for your family.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, take a tour. Websites can only do so much. To get a better feel for a school you have to visit. Ideally, a tour will take place during a typical school day and you’ll get a sense of how your child will spend her day.

Take your child’s needs into consideration. Will a bright, colorful, noisy classroom overwhelm your sensitive child? What about your high energy child? How does the program take into consideration different needs and personalities? There are no wrong questions, so be sure to ask as many as it takes to get the answers you need. Happy school hunting!

Additional Resources:

You Might Also Like These Posts From Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

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We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

What to Look for in a Montessori Preschool

Wondering what to look for in a Montessori preschool? There are so many schools to choose from, so be sure you do your homework to find a school that is right for your family! Here are 5 questions to ask when considering a Montessori school for your child.

But First… Why Is It Important to Ask the Right Questions?

Did you know that the name “Montessori” is not trademarked? Maria Montessori, who developed the method of instruction, materials, and philosophy that bears her name, did not put an official trademark or legal limitations on the use of her name before she passed in 1952. That means that anyone can open a classroom, call it a Montessori school, and there will be no legal ramifications, if the program and curriculum in no way resemble Montessori’s teachings.

So, although the Montessori method has gained popularity in recent years (yay!), unless you know what makes a “Montessori school” an actual, real, authentic Montessori school, you might find yourself visiting schools that are hoping to capitalize on the name, while not putting the actual Montessori Method into practice.

There are some key elements to look for when visiting a Montessori school that will tell you if the school’s program is authentically Montessori or just loosely based on Montessori’s ideas. Here are some questions to ask that will help you figure out just how genuine the program actually is:

What to Look for in a Montessori Preschool: Question #1

Is your school affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)?

Although there is no requirement for schools to affiliate with one of the two main Montessori organizations, taking the time and effort to officially connect with either of these entities means that the school is legitimate. The school has to show proof that its teachers are properly certified and that it adheres to the main Montessori principles, to be covered in later points.

The school might be a Member School or an Affiliate School, but it should, in some way, indicate that it’s a member of a larger Montessori organization. Be sure to look for certificates of membership, or inquire about a school’s status during your tour.

Children's House Montessori School of Reston teachers enjoying the AMS Montessori Event
Teachers from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston enjoying the
2019 Montessori Event hosted by AMS

What to Look for in a Montessori Preschool: Question #2

Do you have mixed-age classrooms or are children separated by age?

Mixed-age classrooms are critical to the success of a Montessori program! Younger children learn from their older peers and older children have the opportunity to model for their younger classmates. Learning by doing, teaching by example, and aspiring to be one of the “big kids” are important components of Montessori learning. If you are looking for an early childhood program, there should be a mixture of three, four, and five-year olds in the same class.

Classes should be mixed-age in the morning, but are likely to be separated by age in the afternoon, as this is when state-mandated rest time occurs. Be sure you know how the classrooms are organized and whether or not the school separates children into different aged classrooms. An authentic Montessori school will not have a “threes” or “fours” classroom or a separate kindergarten class.

What to Look for in a Montessori Preschool: Question #3

Are your teachers Montessori certified?

Similar to #1, this is a matter of “the real deal” vs “Montessori-themed.” Anyone can read one of Maria Montessori’s books and get the gist of what she and her teaching philosophy were all about. You can’t become a true Montessori teacher through a weekend workshop! It takes time, dedication, training, and mindset to be a true Montessorian.

The training process, whether through AMS or AMI, is intense and not an under-taking one takes lightly. It’s the equivalent to a Masters program, with intensive classwork, exams, practice, and an internship. At least one teacher in each classroom should be Montessori certified. If they’re not, move on!

A teacher working with a student at Children's House Montessori School of Reston
Ms. Asma works with a student on the Pink Tower

What to Look for in a Montessori Preschool: Question #4

How long is your Great Period?

The Great Period is a period of time dedicated to classroom work and it should typically be 2.5 to 3 hours in length. This means that the morning work period should last from around 8:30 to 11:00 or 9:00 to 12:00. During that time, children will work with the classroom materials, enjoy a morning snack, receive a lesson from a teacher, and participate in a group circle time before moving on to the next activity, possibly going outside to play or getting ready for lunch.

Why is the Great Period so important? Because children (and adults, too actually) have a natural rhythm of learning and only by allowing them ample time to explore, make choices, and receive guidance, can they deepen their ability to concentrate and learn. Learning happens through concentration and the Great Work period allows opportunity for concentration to unfold.

Programs that are broken up on different days of the week (ie. Music on Mondays, foreign language on Tuesdays, etc) or throughout the morning (ie. multiple activity changes / group circles) do not allow children to delve deeper, spend more time on one activity, and focus for longer periods of time. It’s important, so make sure that the program you are considering makes it a priority.

What to Look for in a Montessori Preschool: Question #5

Does your school use _______________ in the classroom?

Fill in that blank with any of the following: computers, tablets, worksheets, televisions, work plans, or homework.

Young children learn by doing, and there is substantial research to support the idea that computers and tablets can not replace hands-on learning in the early childhood classroom. There’s no denying that technology has a huge place in our society and we’re not saying that children shouldn’t touch an iPad until college, but electronic learning can not take the place of manipulatives.

Likewise, worksheets, work plans, and homework are all commonplace in our society, but they should be used to support child-driven learning, not in place of it. An authentic Montessori program will put the child first and will follow their lead, supporting their learning each step of the way.

student concentrating at Children's House Montessori School of Reston
Concentration in progress as this student completes the Trinomial Cube

What You Should See in an Authentic Montessori Classroom

  • Freedom of Movement — Children should be walking around, sitting at tables, sitting on the floor, and generally having freedom of movement throughout their classroom.
  • Respect for the Child — Teachers should be working with children at their level, speaking respectfully to them, and listening to what they have to say.
  • Montessori Materials — A variety of Montessori materials organized by different curriculum areas: practical life, Sensorial, math, language, art, geography, and science. Not sure what you’re looking for? Ask the person giving you a tour to point them out.
  • Child-sized Furnishings – low shelves, small tables and chairs. The classroom is there for the children, not the adults, and should be designed and arranged with their needs in mind.
  • Joy of Learning — This one is little subjective, but authentic Montessori classrooms are places where joy is critical to learning! Smiling faces, intense concentration, children working together on a big project, and children working quietly at a table alone are all indicators that this is a classroom where joyful learning is valued.
Smiling faces are a sure sign of Joyful Learning!

Final Thoughts

Sending your child to preschool is a big deal. We get it! Montessori schools have so much to offer and we hope that you will strongly consider Montessori education for your child! Just make sure you do your research and support authentic Montessori programs in your area.

Additional Resources:

You Might Also Like These Posts from Children’s House Montessori School of Reston:

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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

An Authentic Montessori School in the Heart of Reston

There are so many choices available to parents of young children today! A seemingly endless list of daycares, preschools, Montessori schools, and private kindergarten programs are available in the Reston-Herndon area and it can be overwhelming! Families like yours are looking for any number of things: location, class size, a program that fits your needs, but you also want a school that feels right as well! Children’s House Montessori School of Reston checks all the boxes!

Working on the pink tower at Children's House Montessori School of Reston

Children’s House opened its doors to a class of just 10 students in the fall of 2003. Since then, we have served hundreds of families and it is hard to believe, but those little children who joined our school community back then are now students in college!

We have two classes for children ages three to six and each class has approximately twenty students with two or three teachers per class. We follow the Montessori Philosophy, meaning that we adhere to the belief that children learn from their peers and do best in a mixed-age peer grouping. We also believe that the classroom environment should be a dynamic space, filled with movement and stillness, conversation and concentration.

Blog Post Recommendation: What’s the Difference Between Montessori and Traditional Preschool?

Circle time at Children's House Montessori School of Reston.

Children begin at the age of three and remain in the same class, with the same peers and teachers, for three years. A sense of “family” is quickly formed in this safe and nurturing environment.

As children progress through the three-year cycle, younger children aspire to imitate the older ones in their work and play, while older children have the opportunity to teach their well-learned skills to the younger ones. The third year, the kindergarten year, brings together all that the children have learned in this unique cycle of learning. Click here to learn more about our kindergarten program.

Language work at Children's House Montessori School of Reston.

Our dynamic learning environment addresses all your child’s developmental needs: social, emotional, cognitive, and physical. Children participate in “group time” activities each day, which foster a feeling of community and encourage cooperation. They receive individual instruction on the materials in the classroom throughout the extended work period.

They spend time outside each day, and younger children spend part of their afternoon in peaceful rest. We create a non-competitive environment where children are always encouraged to do their best. Each child is measured only against his own progress. We encourage children to complete their activities rather than compete with others.

Blog Post Recommendation: What to Look For in a Montessori Preschool

Sorting and classifying at Children's House Montessori School of Reston.

Children’s House Montessori School of Reston is conveniently located just minutes from Reston Town Center and the Reston-Wiehle Metro station. Schedule a tour with us and see what sets us apart!

Make sure you’re subscribed to our blog to get the latest posts delivered!

We are currently enrolling for the upcoming school year. Click here to book your Virtual Tour.

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