The Primary Class is composed of children ages 3-6. Generally a child spends 3-4 years in the Primary Class. Each year builds on the previous year. The first year, the child is mostly working in the Practical Life and Sensorial areas. The second year, the child continues working with Practical Life and Sensorial, but also begins to work with Language and Math materials. In the final year, the work of the first years culminates in the more complex Language and Math work. All along, the child is learning how to be a part of a community, to make choices, and how it feels to complete meaningful work independently. You can read about the Primary curriculum in more detail here on our website.
The child above, age 4 1/2, is working on embroidery. This type of work helps strengthen the muscles in the hands and fine motor skills. It also builds concentration and self control to make all those tiny stitches! It is hard to tell in the photo, but the shape is is sewing is the outline of an alligator. It will end up being part of a pillow for his baby brother. How sweet!
Here, we have one of our younger students working on cloth washing. In the classroom, many tiny cloths are used for polishing and dusting work. When they are dirty, the children put the used cloths in a small basket under the cloth washing activity. Once a child notices the basket is getting full, he or she may decide to wash the cloths.
Not only is it a wonderful sensorial experience, it is one of the more involved practical life activities that helps build focus, logical thought, and a sense of order. Cloth washing also allows the child to contribute in a positive way to the community.
Pictured here is the 'Decanomial Square.' This is a 2-D representation of 1 squared, 2, squared, 3 squared...all the way up to 10 squared. The tiny red square in the top corner represents 1, and each subsequent colors corresponds with the next number. He is in the middle of the activity, with brown representing the number 8.
The Moveable Alphabet is a language material that allows the child to write before her hands are able to form all the letters. For many children, this is their first writing experience. It is very powerful for them to see their thoughts formed into words. We focus first on phonetic spelling, and being able to hear all the sounds that make up words. Phonograms and 'puzzle words' are learned along side the work with the Moveable Alphabet.
A quiet moment in the reading corner.
Two friends working on shoe polishing. This is a favorite activity among the children. They love making their shoes, as well as their friend's shoes, clean and shiny!
The girl pictured above is making a booklet from her number writing practice.
Here, two friends are sharing a table. One child is creating geometric shapes, and the other is searching for words in a book. She could be searching for certain sight words, like 'the', or words containing a certain phonogram, such as 'ph'. When she finds these words, she writes them down, making this an opportunity for handwriting practice as well.
Grace and Courtesy is part of the Practical Life curriculum. Snack offers the perfect opportunity to practice Grace and Courtesy lessons. When a child sees snack is available, he or she can take a plate and check the 'menu.' The menu tells them how many of each item to take - for example, 5 crackers, 10 grapes, 2 pieces of cheese. Each child has a reusable cup with their name on it for drinking water. The children love sitting with a friend and eating snack together. When they are finished, they wash their dishes, dry them, and put them away. Leaving the table clean and tidy for the next person is part of snack.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
Come before the Lord with joyful songs.
-Psalm 100 1-2
Cross of Life Montessori is one of the few Montessori schools to use the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) curriculum. The materials for the CGS work are kept in a special place called 'The Atrium,' which is where the children are invited into a loving relationship with God.
Here, children can experience God as love. Between the ages of three and six years, the child's capacity for prayer is that of praise and thanksgiving. Children learn that there are many ways to pray, including silence and singing. In the silence is where we can learn to hear God. This silence is nourished, not enforced during the child's time in the atrium.
Children in the Primary class enter the Atrium in small groups. Similar to the way a new presentation is given with the Montessori teaching materials, the Catechist (teacher) introduces a scripture passage and a corresponding material. The child pictured above is working with the Good Shepherd material. Previously, the Catechist read the parable and paused in her reading to act out the story with the sheep and the shepherd.
After the scripture reading, the children talk about questions such as 'What does the good shepherd do?' 'Why won't the sheep follow a stranger's voice?' or 'What does it mean that he knows all their names?'
It's ok if the children don't know or don't want to talk about the answers. This is a time to wonder and reflect on the mystery of God. In asking reflection questions about the materials, we become aware of the child's capacity to understand and we respect his response.
The Parable 'The Kingdom of Heaven and the Pearl of Great Price' is pictured here. After reading the scripture booklet and acting out the story, the children are free to work with other materials in the atrium.
The three and a half year old girl pictured here is working with the material to re-tell the story of the pearl. The beautiful and simple materials provide an outlet for the child to process and begin to understand the wonderful stories in the bible.
The children in the Atrium are given a simple, limited amount of material to work with. This way, they are not overwhelmed and can begin to generalize the lessons learned to other areas of their lives. Sophia Cavaletti, on of the co-founders of CGS said 'The youngest children are capable of the greatest love.'
The children above, ages 4 and 6 are pictured reflecting quietly at the prayer table. God and children are already in a relationship - the work with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials simply affirms what they already know. As one of our parents said, 'Children show you the simple things God wants you to see.'
It is our hope at COLM that by nurturing the children's faith through joyful and loving experiences, this faith will stay with them for a lifetime, leading them to many years of happiness, service, fulfillment, and peace.
The girl pictured here, age 4, is working with the Adoration of the Magi.
The children use these specially made linens to learn about the colors of the liturgical seasons.
The material above is for the Last Supper.
These materials give the children a way to process ideas that are even difficult for adults to understand. With the 'Mystery of Life and Death' (pictured above), we plant seeds and talk about how they change as they grow into plants.
On this day, we finished our time in the Atrium by acting out the song of the Mustard Seed. It goes like this:
'The mustard seed is very small
Until it starts to grow
Then inch by inch it reaches up
So all of us will know'
'That even though we're little now
One day we're going to be
Big and strong and full of power
Just like the mustard seed'
'Can you believe the power of God?!'
Even though Christmas decorations go on sale in September, retailers start their Chrismas specials before Thanksgiving, and for weeks leading up to Chrismtas there are lights, carols, presents, visits with Santa, parties and much more; in the church the actual holiday of Christmas does not begin until December 25th. While our culture may take a collective deep breath before hitting the after Chrismas clearance sales, the 12 days of Christmas are just beginning in the church. Christmas day itself ushers in the celebration of the birth of Christ, and the celebration on Epiphany on January 6th marks the end of the season.
What better way to celebrate than to look back at the sweet Christmas play the children preformed before we started our break? Thank you to Meg Porter of Meg Porter Photography for these photos. The children all did a wonderful job telling the story of the birth of Jesus!
The toddlers were cows and lambs, and the primary children chose their parts. We had angels, kings, shepherds, stars, donkeys, a dove, and more.
Once everyone was dressed, we were ready to head upstairs to the sanctuary.
When everyone was in place, we were ready to start with our first song - Light One Candle. The toddlers took turns placing (electric) candles in the advent wreath. It was very exciting to see the whole wreath lit up! During Advent, we prepared for Christmas by lighting one candle each week. Finally - we got to see the wreath with all the candles lit!
"Light one candle for hope,
Light one candle for peace,
Light one candle for joy,
Light one candle for love."
Then it was time to say a little poem based on the 12 Days of Christmas. We were so proud of the children for learning their lines and standing up in front of the whole church. They really did an amazing job!
We finished up by singing 'Away in a Manger' and 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas'. We hope everyone had a wonderful break and we are looking forward to seeing you back at school next week!
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!