Following the primary program (ages 3-6) at a Montessori school, parents may find themselves overwhelmed with the number of and variety of options available to them for their child’s elementary education. Even if they have loved Montessori for their preschooler and kindergartener, there are still many new things to consider when choosing an elementary program. Having worked at both traditional public schools and public Montessori schools, I feel confident saying that what we do in our elementary program at The Montessori School (TMS) is unlike any other program around! Here are just a few reasons why I love Montessori for the elementary years:
Students move at their own pace
I often hear concern from parents that their child is bored in their new traditional school after leaving our primary program. Montessori is the only program that truly teaches to the individual. Other schools may have small group instruction from time to time, but, for the majority of the day, your child will be learning what every other child is ready to learn. For students who are ready to progress beyond the standard curriculum, this often means waiting around or relearning concepts they have already mastered. At TMS, lessons are tailored to the individual, not the grade level. Students who are ready for more advanced work are given that opportunity, and students who need more practice receive as much time and personal attention as required.
Our philosophy is to follow the child
Not only do we move at the pace of the child, we also follow the interests of the child. If a student is fascinated by space, we build on that interest. A child might do a report, build a model, or plan a field trip about space. They can integrate their interests across the curriculum, creating engaged learners in every subject area. Our students love to learn because they can follow their own passions and explore them in-depth. We never stop a child from learning about a topic because it isn’t in our curriculum or isn’t built into the daily schedule. Traditional schools don’t have this flexibility. We do!
We teach to the whole child
Not only do we explore all academic areas in great depth, we also teach life skills, social skills, problem-solving, emotional awareness, care for self and others, art, health, physical fitness, and music! On any given day, your child might be exploring algebra, sewing, performing science experiments, painting with watercolors, planning their own field trip, discussing a book in their reading group, taking care of the class pet, or figuring out how to save the Earth!
A close, family-like community
Students stay with the same Guide for three-year cycles. This helps children develop close relationships with their classmates, the adults in the room, and the environment itself. With such a well-established community, students feel comfortable growing, making mistakes, and expressing themselves alongside their peers, many of whom they may have known since three-years-old.
Amazing field trip experiences
In addition to plays, concerts, outdoor excursions, and trips to the library, elementary students have the opportunity to plan their own field trips. These experiences, known as “Going Outs”, require the child to plan all aspects of their trip. What interests them? Where will they go? What are they trying to learn or experience? Who will chaperone them? How much will it cost? Each student has a budget to work with and plans accordingly. Students learn to make phone calls, manage their own time, and make a fun day happen all on their own!
The sixth-year internship
This is one of my favorite things about our elementary program. Our sixth-year students have the opportunity to intern with two local businesses throughout their final year in our elementary program. In past years, students have worked with a marketing firm, a landscape architecture firm, a senior living facility, a veterinarian clinic, a law firm, and an I.T. company, just to name a few. The students have the chance to actually participate in a meaningful way within the business, attending strategy meetings and much more. Some days, of course, they simply remove staples from paper or scan documents into the computer — which is valuable in its own right. Not only does this internship program widen our students’ horizons for careers and interests, but it also teaches them that work is hard and not always fun. The students love it!
The after-school program
This is more than just childcare! This is up to three hours of engaging enrichment opportunities for your child. In addition to the playground, TMS has our very own outdoor learning environment known as “The Hill”. Here you’ll see students catching and studying insects, playing hide and seek in the wooded area, reading under a tree, photographing nature, painting, building, playing outdoor games and more!
Our graduates are ready for middle school, high school and beyond!
After you’ve kept your child in this safe, nurturing environment through 6th grade, you may be worried that they won’t be ready for the “real world”. I’ve found just the opposite to be true. At TMS, students have learned time management skills; they are self-motivated, responsible and love learning. Because they’ve had a safe environment that teaches to the whole child, they have the confidence, self-esteem, character, and academic readiness to be successful in any educational environment moving forward. We teach skills that a child needs to be successful and adaptable in the real world, not just middle school. Every time I meet alumni, I’m impressed!
Want to know more about how a Montessori elementary classroom operates? This video from the American Montessori Society does a great job of illustrating how the Montessori philosophy is applied during the elementary years.
Ann Pilzner is the Head of School at The Montessori School. She taught at a traditional school in Detroit for two years before falling in love with the Montessori concept while searching for a preschool for her first child. Pilzner went on to become a teacher at a Montessori school and later an administrator before joining The Montessori School in 2016.