Children's House

In Children’s House, your child isn’t just engaged in preschool play; he’s doing real work.

While lessons are still fully hands-on, your child begins to relate her exploratory and sensorial experiences to categories of knowledge. She continues to develop these social, emotional, and physical tools, while learning and practicing more explicitly academic skills. She’s learning cursive by tracing “Sandpaper Letters” and manipulating the physical properties of abstract math with strings of beads, Binomial cubes, and other geometric solids. Puzzle maps and globes give her a feel for the shape and contours of the Earth. She learns the traits and names of all types of land- and water-forms. Later—in Elementary, Middle, and even Upper School—she’ll dive deeply into the abstract concepts and theories these sensorial experiences embody. And when she does, she’ll bring with her the visceral awareness—and foundation for genuine and lasting intellectual understanding—she developed in Early Learning.

Accordion

First Plane of Development

(Toddler to 6 years)

THE ABSORBENT & SENSORIAL MIND

Throughout the first six years of life, your child’s mind is like a sponge. Everything is new and fascinating! She’s using her five senses to actively explore the world around her, absorbing and integrating vast amounts of new information. She’s experiencing and deciphering language, math, colors, flavors, textures, and many other foundational coding systems. She’s building functional autonomy—taking her first steps toward independence as she learns how to complete basic tasks, control her emotions, and cooperate with others. She’s also learning to practice patience, empathy, and the basic principles of conflict resolution and problem solving. In short, she’s learning how to be in the classroom (and away from home and family) and gaining the confidence that comes with her newfound independence.

To make the most of these formative years, your child needs:

  • beauty and order in her learning environment—calm, open, and inviting spaces with plenty of sunlight and natural materials that delight and engage (rather than overstimulate) the senses;
  • a wide variety of experiences that nourish her naturally inquisitive mind, expand her sense of wonder and possibility, and focus her exuberant energy;
  • opportunities to take responsibility for herself and to develop a sense of genuine ownership over her experience, which requires both an environment constructed to enable and encourage independence and the expectation that she can take responsibility for her work, her behavior, and many of her own practical needs (e.g., feeding, dressing, and cleaning herself);
  • freedom of choice within a range of engrossing educational options
  • uninterrupted work periods that help her build concentration, repeatedly practice new skills, and fully explore and master her lessons.

Children's House Areas of Study

PRACTICAL LIFE

Can you see your child safely, purposefully, and effectively handling a real hammer? Needles and thread? A kitchen knife? Can you see him patiently waiting his turn? Respectfully stepping around a classmate’s work mat? Quietly and intently observing a lesson with his hands folded behind his back? At MSR, you will. As he develops increasing coordination and self-awareness, he learns to take on greater and greater responsibility—for his actions, his environment, and himself.

SENSORIAL LEARNING

Having mastered the fundamentals of sensory observation and eye-hand coordination, your child moves on to more complex and nuanced sensorial materials that help her discriminate, compare, problem-solve, and draw conclusions. Touch Tablets help her define the subtle differences between surfaces (even with her eyes closed). Using Color Boxes, she distinguishes between primary and secondary colors, different shades, and different grades of color. Smelling Bottles and tasting activities further develop her palette (More salt? More sugar? More spice?). Each new experience expands her ability to interpret the world around her as she adds depth and breadth to the bodies of knowledge she’s forming.

MATH

Basic logical reasoning, the foundation of genuine mathematical learning and critical thought, begins with the senses. Your child is literally making sense of things in Children’s House. Still closely tied to sensorial learning, she’s getting her arms around spatial awareness, putting her finger on number values and quantities, developing an eye for scale, multiplication, angle, and fit. She works through foundational lessons, using the Pink Tower, Golden Beads, Knob Cylinders, Geometry Cabinet, Binomial Cube, and other classic Montessori materials widely known for their simple sophistication and effectiveness in preparation for future lessons in abstract math.

LANGUAGE & HUMANITIES

In three years of dramatic growth, your child progresses methodically and coherently from pre-reading and -writing to authoring (in cursive!) and illustrating her own stories, asking meaningful questions, reading aloud to others, and alphabetizing words. As in all of Early Learning, we begin with the concrete and sensorial (e.g. tracing Sandpaper Letters and manipulating the Movable Alphabet before creating words with pencil and paper). And all lessons are learned in the context of real stories about the real world—timelines and stories that help your child begin to see himself within the grander scheme of human life and history.

SPANISH

Your child continues to explore Spanish once a week for 30 minutes, using many of the same methods and activities. Now, however, he’s building whole categories of vocabulary and expressions: greetings, commands, colors, fruits, farm animals, parts of the body, months of the year, and more.

SCIENCE

In Children’s House, your child begins the explicit study of the life, physical, and earth sciences through concrete explorations. She classifies and categorizes all manner of living and nonliving systems—types of leaves, species of fish, the parts of a fish, life cycles, seasonal cycles, and more. She experiments with physical properties to discover for herself the natural laws of water, air, sound, light, magnets, electricity, simple machines, and chemical reactions. And these lessons are integrated with Humanities, Practical Life, Sensorial, and Language studies in ways that help children relate and develop awe for the intricacy and interdependence of life and the nature of our world.

HEALTHFUL LIVING

Through PE activities, your child learns how to move purposefully (to achieve his goals), responsibly (with respect to others and his own safety), and even gracefully (developing poise and self-possession). As an older child gives a presentation or performance, his physical composure is part of the success encouraged by his teacher. Learning healthy self-management also includes making time for rest and play (indoors and out), caring for his personal hygiene, choosing healthy foods, managing his feelings responsibly, and expressing them clearly. Extended Day students receive an additional two PE classes a week of 45 minutes each.

MUSIC

Using sensory materials like the Montessori Bells, your child receives a remarkably sophisticated introduction to musical theory and practice. He plays up and down the bells to make sure they’re in the right order and familiarize his ear with the diatonic scale. He learns to identify different pitches—high, higher, highest and low, lower, lowest—and name them by note—c, d, e, f, g, a, b, c. He begins making not merely sounds but music with rhythm instruments. He also learns how to express musical ideas through movement—connecting physical expression to sound—and to give musical performances.

ART

Your child continues to develop mastery of art materials and tools, receiving lessons now in lines and shapes, color, watercolor, printmaking, weaving, sculpture, and other art forms. Beyond making unselfconscious works of art, she practices purposeful self-expression and creativity. Extended Day students receive an additional 60 minutes of art per week.

Children's House Environment

The Prepared Environment is an essential aspect of our pedagogy and curriculum at every level, specifically designed to meet the changing needs of your student as he grows and matures.

THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

In both Toddlers and Children’s House, natural lighting, natural colors, and uncluttered spaces set the stage for focused and calm activity, everything designed to convey a sense of harmony and order that both structures and inspires self-directed work. Every space is arranged to support the natural flow of learning and geared for all the different kinds of engagement students require. Learning materials are displayed on child-accessible shelves and the room is divided in “curriculum areas” with activities sequenced by type and complexity. You find large areas—both indoors and out—for children to safely practice gross motor control. You see a range of activities designed for the single-minded toddler with fewer and less subtle distinctions than those you see in Children’s House, where you find students engaged in more complex works. You see children in quiet, serene corners for reading or thinking.

Our teachers ensure each classroom is prepared for learning every day, taking each child’s unfolding process and progress into consideration. They look ahead, design, organize, and plan, anticipating ways to create beautiful spaces that are warm, inviting, and inspire each student’s next fascination.

THE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

Your child doesn’t just need safe, engaging, and orderly physical spaces for optimal learning, he needs social spaces with these selfsame qualities to support his academic and emotional growth.

As your child gains experience and maturity in Children’s House, we encourage him to see himself—his needs, preferences, and choices—in the context of an ever more expansive community. He learns strategies that help him manage his emotions, listen responsively, resolve conflict, and address people with kindness.

He learns these essential habits of Grace and Courtesy not only from his teachers, but also from his peers in our mixed-age classrooms, a hallmark of Montessori education. In this environment, younger children naturally look to their older peers for guidance—both for how to behave and for insight and coaching as they learn new academic or practical life skills. A 5-year-old in her capstone Early Learning year is proud to show a newer arrival to Children’s House how to properly organize, prepare, and serve snacks to the class, how to sound out new words, how to classify marine animals. Older students benefit equally, as they teach lessons they’ve mastered to the younger children. After your child has practiced—again and again, safely and carefully, taking the time to get a lesson or skill right—she can teach what she’s learned to her younger classmates, proving and reinforcing her new skills. At age 6, most children are just reaching the point of readiness to take on this leadership role, one reason “Kindergarten” at MSR is intentionally designed as a capstone year rather than an entry point.

THE INTANGIBLE ENVIRONMENT

Perhaps the most vital aspect of our learning environment, palpable the moment you arrive, might also be the most difficult to describe. It’s not something you can easily point to: a place, a program, a policy. Rather, it’s a mindset—a community-wide belief in the capacity of our students to take responsibility for themselves and their work; make meaningful, independent choices; both fail and succeed spectacularly and safely; and thus learn lessons so deeply that they inform their lives forever.

Over time in this environment, through both practice and osmosis, your child develops the MSR mindset, too. She learns to approach every challenge first with the assumption that she can do it (whatever “it” is): perform a play in front of the whole school, write her first story, make her own dinner.

She may not know how yet, but she’s learning from experience that—with a little guidance from others and persistence from within—she’s capable of learning how to do anything. In the process, she’s developing an ever growing sense of who she is, what her strengths are, and how she learns best.

Children's House Teaching and Assessment

Self-directed learning requires the most masterful, most prepared, most actively engaged teachers.

In the MSR classroom, there is no predetermined, daily lesson plan that assumes that every child needs the same lessons at the same times. Our Montessori-trained teachers plan responsively—preparing individual lessons that implicitly demand students acquire and apply the necessary knowledge and skillsets. They prepare the environment—daily attending to everything from placement of materials to the beauty of the space in ways that harmonize with the changing seasons and progressing lessons.

Then they listen. They actively observe. What is he drawn toward? Where does he struggle and need support and guidance? When is he ready for a bigger challenge? MSR teachers follow your child’s progress, help him stay on course, and draw him toward ever deeper inquiry, genuine engagement, and constant skill-building.

And at MSR, your teachers assess your child’s progress, not with letter grades or percentage points, but through keen observation, scaffolded lessons, and careful record-keeping. We incorporate testing and other standard assessments when the time is right (e.g., testing begins in Elementary School when documented progress helps inform instruction and showcase growth; grades begin in Middle School when students are ready for more formal commitments, responsibilities, and accountability), but not before. From the very start, children practice directing and evaluating their own learning. Every day and in every subject area, we invite your child into a process of wondering, observation, problem solving, and joyful accomplishment, ensuring that he finds his deepest motivations not in external markers of success, but in the self-sustaining and irrepressible desire to learn.