La Bella Vita Montessori Schools Early Childhood Program consists of preschool and kindergarten children ages 3-6. The Early Childhood classroom is the first Montessori classroom where your child will experience the tremendous benefits of the full three-year age range. Young children really do love to imitate their older peers, and children who have been at La Bella Vita for one or two years set a beautiful example for the littlest children. The younger children see the advanced work of the older children and look forward to doing that work themselves! They also see the work ethic and the helpful actions of the older children and emulate these as well. The culture of respect and learning is immersive, exhilarating, and greatly accelerating for each child’s individual learning. For the older children, it is an opportunity to practice real leadership, in whatever way their particular personality leans towards. Some children love to help the younger children by zipping a jacket, pouring a glass of water, or comforting an upset child. Others take great pride in showing younger children how to do certain activities or inviting them to watch their work. While others offer their help with classroom tasks such as keeping the room clean or scrubbing tables and chairs so that everyone can enjoy the classroom.
A Nurturing Environment That Fosters a Love of Learning and Imagination
The Early Childhood classroom is a carefully prepared, child-sized environment in which a young child can guide their own activity, building confidence and social skills. A well-maintained fact is that preschool children mature at very different rates from one another, and their periods of readiness for academic subjects vary a great deal. By knowing this, Maria Montessori believed that learning experiences should not be tedious, but should occur naturally and joyfully at the proper moment for each individual child. The Montessori approach to education teaches children to think, to ask questions, and to seek creative answers. Our Early Childhood Program includes five different classroom areas – including one for each major academic subject – each with enticing and sequenced materials that your child will be introduced to with individualized lessons over a three-year period. We like to think of our early childhood class as a learning laboratory, organized into several curriculum areas, among them language arts, mathematics, everyday living skills, sensory awareness exercises, and culture (geography, science, social studies, art, music, movement). Simpler tasks are mastered before complex ones are introduced. Many materials involve the child in tasks that facilitate eye-hand coordination and small muscle control. Throughout the curriculum, one finds a web of indirect preparations that enhance the learning process. Carefully designed activities allow children to joyfully learn to care for themselves and for their class environment. Children soon develop courtesy, graciousness, poise and self-control, since vital interest in purposeful activity almost always breeds social maturity.
Building Life Skills Through Practical Life
When your child joins our early childhood program for the first time, their first experiences will be with the practical life activities. These lessons inspire your child with real-world, purposeful tasks and tools, helping him see himself as capable and competent. Practical life activities are deliberately designed to have a long series of individual steps, which must be performed in a specific order if the result is to be achieved. Everything is ordered logically, from left to right, top to bottom (this also prepares the child to follow from left to right when learning to read). In order to retain and follow these steps, your child must practice the skill of thinking logically. They give a child the opportunity to take on meaningful work that they can complete independently, while developing concentration. The practical life activities also prepare a child for writing by strengthening the child’s hand and reinforcing motions and muscles important for producing the written word. Most importantly, they allow a child to absorb the basic, methodical problem-solving approach that is the foundation for all thought or creative expression, including such diverse areas as math, science, engineering, programming, writing, artistic expression, entrepreneurism, and athletics. The essential skills developed through the practical life activities will form the basis for all further learning as your child grows.
Learning Through the Senses
Children this age use their senses to explore the world. Here at La Bella Vita, they enjoy the beautiful sensorial materials of the Early Childhood Program by learning to compare and contrast, to discern slight differences, and to place things in order. Children become aware of details by learning to finely discriminate among textures, colors, and dimensions. They learn one-to-one correspondence in matching/sorting and grading/discerning differences tasks, both necessary cognitive preparations. Intelligence is built up as the child learns to distinguish, categorize, and relate new information to what s/he already knows. These materials allow a child to develop mastery over his observational powers. Both artists and scientists need the ability to really look at what is in front of them: to notice small details about the world that have significance for their work. The sensorial materials also highlight mathematical relationships that exist in the real world, providing the foundation for understanding arithmetic, geometry and algebra. The sensorial materials also prepare your child for mathematical exploration. Mathematical relationships exist in the real world, and the sensorial materials highlight them. The work prepares them for the study of geometry, as they begin to understand relationships between shapes. Children move through the structured materials independently, challenging themselves and gaining confidence.
Using Hands on Materials to Grow Abstract Ideas
Maria Montessori believed that the human mind—every human mind—is fundamentally disposed to mathematics. Human beings measure things (number, quantity, volume, weight, shape, time), order things, and compare things. The purpose of the mathematics area is to follow the child’s basic need to seek order and logic in all things. Your child will gradually move from performing mathematical operations with concrete objects, to the pure abstraction of numbers on a page. In your child’s mind, basic mathematical understanding will become intuitive, and grounded firmly in concrete reality. Montessori children experience the wonder of math through engaging materials that inspire concrete understanding and joyful problem-solving, paving the way for a smooth transition to abstraction. In La Bella Vita Montessori’s Early Childhood Program, children are exposed to rich and varied mathematical materials that build skills gradually. Each child will work with the decimal system into the thousands, will be exposed to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—and through this will develop a keen number sense, the foundation for a lifetime of quantitative and analytic fluency. Montessori children experience the wonder of math through engaging materials that inspire concrete understanding and joyful problem-solving, paving the way for a smooth transition to abstraction. Montessori’s beautiful golden bead materials introduce the child to the concepts of the decimal system, place value, quantity, and the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Slightly more abstract and symbolic, the “stamp game” uses color-coded tokens (where colors express place value) to revisit the same four operations. Older children learn long division from the “racks and tubes,” where sets of beads allow them to literally divide a quantity that can represent numbers into the thousands. Our math materials are firmly based in process, not product. The child grasps (literally and figuratively) a personal mathematical understanding through extensive use of manipulatives—objects that may be held and felt, personalized, and understood.
Building the Foundation of Language
The Montessori approach to language study makes learning appear effortless, because it recognizes the individuality of each child. Maria Montessori noticed that in each child’s development there is a moment, occurring at a slightly different time for everyone, when the child suddenly becomes interested in written language. When this moment comes, if the tools are available to feed her interest, she will joyfully “explode into” writing, then reading. Your child’s teacher watches closely for this moment, patiently building the foundation that will allow your child to experience reading and writing with confidence and joy. As for La Bella Vita Montessori’s language arts area, it is designed to enrich a child’s vocabulary and conversation and to establish a personal interest in reading and reading comprehension. Children working with everyday living and sensorial foundation exercises develop many reading readiness skills. Your child will first be introduced to a rich and varied vocabulary and will later analyze words into sounds. He will then learn to associate each phonetic sound with its corresponding letter and trace the letter to internalize the movements made in writing. Older children use the “Moveable Alphabet” to put those sounds together into words and sentences. Five and six-year-olds in our Early Childhood Program typically write beautiful true “stories,” illustrated in color pencil. This approach breaks down language learning into clear component skills, so that children can grow confident with each step before moving on to the next. The unique Montessori approach to language development is a carefully respectful, individualized response to each child’s natural desire to absorb language and communicate
Exploring the World around them
Geography and culture lessons in the La Bella Vita Montessori classroom offer the inspiration for a child’s future study of history and science. Children’s early experiments with physical properties, land and water forms, natural objects, gardening, sorting, parts of animals, and parts of plants inspire them to fall in love with the scientific world. A child’s work with puzzle maps, flags, cultural items, and beautiful cultural photographs to compare and categorize introduce him to varied geographies and cultures, and represent the first steps on a path that will later lead to the study of history. Students in the La Bella Vita community learn the basis for scientific and historical thinking from the bottom up, by direct exposure to the foundations of these subjects in a form that they can understand. Even at a young age, Montessori children feel at home in the natural world, having fostered their ability to observe, their vocabulary, and their explanatory understanding of many natural domains. And they are deeply curious about history, having a sense of where both natural and man-made things originated—naturally giving them a deep and authentic appreciation and gratitude for the things and people around them.
Learning Through Imaginative Play
The children of La Bella Vita Montessori’s Early Childhood Program are also introduced to art history and art studio. Each day they explore the world of arts and crafts through the media of paint, clay, paste, and color, and through the use of simple desk tools, they get in full touch with their creative and individual expression. Music is also a daily activity that is both spontaneous and planned. It includes an exploration of musical instruments, music makers, and music of many nations and styles. Physical education is also scheduled daily, with children being led in various activities that help develop gross motor skills such as walking with purpose and balance, running, and jumping. Our Early Childhood students activate their senses and their awareness of the world around them with daily experiences outside on our nature explore playground. They are encouraged to make observations and discoveries while outdoors, as well as providing the children with ample opportunities to develop social skills. Nature instills in the preschooler a strong desire to repeat an activity over and over. With each repetition, new observations are discerned; stronger physical and mental muscles develop; concentration appears; and with heightened concentration, learning takes place naturally.
Social Graces and Courtesies
Because children in La Bella Vita’s Early Childhood Program move freely, choosing their own work, snack time, and places to sit, your child will have plenty of opportunities to practice social interaction. Montessori Directresses shares lessons that each child can practice in various circumstances. These simple clear lessons in everything from asking to sit with someone to blowing one’s own nose or saying “excuse me” give a child the tools he needs to interact successfully in his world.