There are several different, yet integrated, areas of learning in a Montessori classroom: practical life skills, sensorial development, language, mathematics, history, science, and cultural studies (geography, art, music). In addition to the available materials in each area, children might also take time out during the day to sing songs, read a story, or enjoy nature.
Children have both individual and group lessons in each area. Throughout the day, children are free to work with the activities. Emphasis is placed on helping children choose pursuits that are of interest to them, thus supporting the child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. At the elementary (6-12 years) level, you can also expect to see children working together on projects, since collaboration at this age helps the child to become socially adapted to society and aware of the needs of others.
What you won’t see in a genuine Montessori program are systems of rewards and punishments to promote work or control behavior. There will be no lost recess, gold stars, or grades. In a Montessori class, children are engaged, active, and respectful because they are internally motivated, spending their time in an environment that consistently supports development of their will — that is, positive willpower and self-control.
Some Specific Details about the Montessori Method
THE SCHEDULE - THE THREE-HOUR WORK PERIOD Under the age of six, there are one or two 3-hour, uninterrupted, work periods each day, not broken up by required group lessons. Older children schedule meetings or study groups with each other the teacher when necessary. Adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt someone who is busy at a task. Groups form spontaneously or are arranged ahead by special appointment. They almost never take precedence over self-selected work. Note: For more information on the "three-hour work period" see the chapter "My Contribution to Experimental Science" from The Advanced Montessori Method, Volume I, by Dr. Maria Montessori.
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily 6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem solving, child to child teaching, and socialization. Children are challenged according to their ability and never bored. The Montessori middle and high school teacher ideally has taken all three training courses plus graduate work in an academic area or areas.
Areas of Work
The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects -- math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., will be being studied, at all levels.
TEACHING METHOD - "TEACH BY TEACHING, NOT BY CORRECTING"
There are no papers turned back with red marks and corrections. Instead the child's effort and work is respected as it is. The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what he needs in order to improve.
TEACHING RATIO - 1:1 AND 1:30
Except for preschool groups (Ratio dictated by CO State Childcare Licensing), the teaching ratio is one trained Montessori teacher and one non-teaching aide to 30 children. Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the teacher is trained to teach one child at a time, and to oversee thirty or more children working on a broad array of tasks. She/he is facile in the basic lessons of math, language, the arts and sciences, and in guiding a child's research and exploration, capitalizing on his interest in and excitement about a subject. The teacher does not make assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.
The Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during teacher training practicing the many lessons with materials in all areas. She must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order to be certified. She/he is trained to recognize a child's readiness according to age, ability, and interest in a specific lesson, and is prepared to guide individual progress.
AREAS OF STUDY
All subjects are interwoven, not taught in isolation, the teacher modeling a "Renaissance" person of broad interests for the children. A child can work on any material s/he understands at any time.
Except for infant/toddler groups, the most successful classes are of up to 30 children to one teacher (who is very well trained for the level s/he is teaching), with one non-teaching assistant. This is possible because the children stay in the same group for three to six years and much of the teaching comes from the children and the environment.
All kinds of intelligences and styles of learning are nurtured: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math). This particular model is backed up by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher's observation and record keeping. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning and level of work.
Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other - cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community,etc.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Is a Charter School?
(Excerpt from CO Dept. of Education:) A charter school in Colorado is a public school operated by a group of parents, teachers and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school district, operating under a contract or "charter" contract between the members of the charter school community and the local board of education.
The degree of autonomy to be exercised by the charter school on such issues as personnel, curriculum and facilities is negotiated between the charter applicants and the local school district and reflected in the charter. School-centered governance, autonomy, and a clear design for how and what students will learn are the essential characteristics of a charter school.
Under Colorado law, a charter school is not a separate legal entity independent of the school district, but rather is a public school defined uniquely by a charter and partially autonomous while remaining within the school district. The approved charter application and accompanying agreements are the charter which serve as a contract between the charter school and the local board of education.
How much does it cost?
Just like a traditional public school, a charter public school is free starting in Kindergarten. Great Work Montessori School also believes strongly in the benefit of early childhood education for all families. While the state doesn't fund education prior to Kindergarten, GWMS has developed a sliding scale based on a family's household income to make these classroom experiences affordable for all.
What are the requirements for enrollment?
None! Children will be enrolled through a lottery during our open enrollment window. In Jeffco, this generally happens in January, but ours will most likely happen in February this year. Families who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch will be given double weight in the lottery, also siblings, staff children and Jeffco residents get priority enrollment over others.
How do we get in?
How does choice enrollment in Jeffco work?
You may submit choice enrollment forms to as many schools as you like. You will get calls after the lotteries are run from any school that has a space for your child: you can then decide which school you would like to choose. You do not give up your child’s current enrollment by applying to others. Until you have officially registered at the new school, you remain enrolled at your current school. You can always get a spot at your assigned neighborhood school.
Is it year round?
No, we plan to follow the Jeffco calendar. We do plan to offer summer camp programming on campus.
Will the school provide before and after care?
Yes, from 7-8am and from 3-5:30pm billed on a sliding scale dependent on family income. The school day is approximately 8am-3pm.
What if my child has special needs?
Like all public schools, we will employ Special Education licensed teachers to support the needs of our special needs students.
Are there any parenting education opportunities?
Yes!! We will offer monthly parent education opportunities, chances for parents and staff to learn from each other and share ideas about Montessori, Parenting, and much more.
How are parents involved in the school?
We believe that the best outcomes for children come when parents, school and community are equally involved in their education. We expect each parent to play an active role in our community and help to shape your child’s educational experience.
Did Jeffco deny the charter?
The initial application to Jeffco was denied due to concerns over short-term budget viability. We had budget assumptions that included a CSP start-up grant, and confusion over where some support services were allocated. The day after the Jeffco Board voted to deny, the grant was awarded to us and shortly after, we appealed the denial to the State Board who remanded it back to Jeffco with instructions to work together to close any areas of concern. The GWMS team and Jeffco staff worked extensively together to better understand the budget and revisions were made. Jeffco staff then recommended to the Board that the charter be approved.
At the next board meeting, the Board had additional concerns based on past charters opening with less than anticipated enrollment and did not vote to approve at that time. The following week, the GWMS team and Jeffco Board reached an agreement for an approval based on conditions of intents to enroll and the Jeffco Board voted unanimously for this motion to approve.
Is anyone making a profit?
No. GWMS (including the preschool program) is a non-profit.
What about the property, building and the involvement of the Walton Family?
The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) and to a greater extent, much of the targeted philanthropy of James Walton has been directed towards strengthening Montessori Education as a pedagogy and helping to make it accessible to families in more underserved communities. GWMS, like many charter schools in Colorado, has been the beneficiary of WFF start-up support.
Additionally, James Walton set up a 501c3 private operating foundation called Great Work Education Holdings (GWEH) which focuses primarily on supporting Montessori schools through facilities and property development. Great Work Education Holdings wholly owns TGNA Holdings LLC which is considered by the IRS a “disregarded entity” and shares in the tax exempt status of GWEH.
We will be leasing our school from TGNA at a below market rate, thus giving us a state of the art facility designed specifically for our Montessori classrooms. The support and expenses involved in buying the property and building out the school building would not be possible without this generous philanthropy and we are grateful at the opportunity to better support our community through this property and building!