Staunton Montessori School students are divided into four programs, based on age. Our youngest students are in the Young Children’s Community (age 2 1/2) 3 through 6 are enrolled in the primary program (preschool and kindergarten.) Students ages 6 through 12 are enrolled in the elementary program (grades 1-3 & 4-6.) Our adolescent program is for students ages 12-15 (grades 7-9.)
Our Young Children’s Community knows that each child is a special individual, full of potential. The first three years of a child’s life are times of intense neurological development. The child’s brain and intellect are racing. The child’s experiences away from home are carefully constructed, children are nurtured and empowered. Classrooms are inviting; materials are appropriately stimulating. Movement is encouraged; meaningful, ordered activities satisfy developmental needs. The program is designed to meet the needs of each child, while emphasizing movement, play, manipulation, exploration, socialization and autonomy.
“Infancy is a period of true importance because when we want to infuse new ideas, to modify or better the customs or habits of a people, to breathe new vigor into its national traits, we must use the child as our vehicle…Out of this truth comes the importance of nursery schools, for it is the little ones who are building mankind and they can work only on the materials we give them.”
The Montessori Young Children’s curriculum includes care of self, meal preparation, care of the environment, language exploration, music, and fine and gross motor activities. Practical Life exercises such as pouring, sweeping, dusting, buttoning, zipping and table setting are introduced early, providing opportunities for children to care for themselves and their environment. Lessons of grace and courtesy are practiced daily to help the children learn to be considerate of others and function successfully in a social setting.
The goals for our primary students are fundamental: to acquire confidence in themselves and an independence of thought and action. These three- to six-year-olds work alone or in small groups, receiving lessons from the teacher and each other. Staunton Montessori School has two primary classrooms. Children who are 2 1/2 to 3 and toilet trained are accepted into the primary program. The primary day begins at 8:15 a.m. The primary children in the preschool program dismiss at 11:45 a.m. each day and the afternoon children in the kindergarten program remain until 2:45 p.m.
Children in the Elementary program continue their growth toward independence, responsibility, and becoming contributing members of society. There are two elementary classrooms at SMS: Traditional grades 1-3 (ages 6-9) and grades 4-6 (ages 9-12). The students in each class work alone or in small groups as they receive lessons from the teacher in two designated three-hour work periods. Much of the work in the first three years uses manipulative materials, where in the second three-year cycle the students produce more concrete work in the form of papers and projects. The teacher guides the students to explore all areas of the classroom including language, math, geometry, botany, geography, history, music and physical education. On Thursday afternoons our Elementary students have specials which include art, Spanish, music and PE. The Elementary day begins at 8:15 a.m. and dismisses at 3:00 p.m.
The adolescent program serves students in grades 7-9 (ages 12-15) following the recommendations of Dr. Maria Montessori by providing a hands-on, project-based learning experience embedded in the rural communities of central Virginia.
Students work together in project groups during rotating occupations and humanities cycles of four and five weeks examining the functioning of human systems in all aspects: social, political, economic, and cultural. Occupations and Humanities project cycles are taught consecutively carrying concept ‘threads’ between them so as not to “compartmentalize” knowledge but rather to integrate and investigate relationships. Mathematical principles are presented during the project investigations and new material in pre-algebra is taught separately during one hour-long math classes four days a week. The program uses Wheelock’s Latin for foreign language study three hours each week to further integrate relationships between our language and the order of the world around us: Carpe Libellum!
In this hands-on learning experience, students actively participate in care of themselves, their personal group, and the regional community through: planting, harvesting, and preparing their own food; actively conserving natural resources by establishing recycling and zero-waste processes; caring for animals; crafting a budget and operating a small business; designing, building, repairing, and maintaining infrastructure; volunteering in the local community.
The adolescent day starts at 8:15 a.m. and dismisses at 3:00 p.m. with local farm and adventure trips planned throughout the academic year.
SMS offers an after school program each day for our students during the school year with three pick-up times: 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Drop-in spaces, and three and five-day fee schedules allow for more flexibility. Morning students who stay for aftercare enjoy lunchtime, a rest period, organized activities, and a snack period. Elementary aftercare is also available from 3-6 p.m., with a snack period included.