Our philosophy is based on the work of the Italian educator, Dr. Maria Montessori. Where everyone had always asked, "How should we teach?", Montessori asked, "How do children Learn?" Her keen ability to observe the learning process resulted in a method of education which is designed to help the child accomplish the task of becoming a person.
Montessori recognized early that different children mature at different rates and are ready for different learning experiences at different times in their lives. To teach children at a level for which they are not yet ready confuses them and creates a sense of failure and incompetence which may haunt them all their lives. To teach them beneath their ability wastes their time and bores them.
Many of the learning materials in Our Montessori School are "self-correcting." This means that if a child makes a mistake, it is not the teacher who points out the error. Rather, the material allows the child to find and correct the error. In this way, repeated trials are encouraged without a sense of shame or failure.
In a very real sense, our children become responsible for their own learning and their own behavior. They learn to respect themselves and others, and they develop the inner discipline without which true freedom is not possible.
Everything in our school is designed to encourage and aid the child's natural curiosity. There is freedom to move about and to join with other children in any of the hundreds of available learning experiences. There is careful daily record-keeping by the teachers to help them give the exact guidance needed at any given time. And there is an almost total absence of time-wasting activities and routines.
We believe that the children's level of development should determine what they are taught. Only in this way can they realize their full potential with confidence.
Why teach three-, four-, or five-year-old children anything in the first place? We feel that to leave children sitting in a sandbox until they are five years old and then when they are six suddenly expect them to be able to read creates a pressure-cooker atmosphere that is unfair to the children and sets them up for possible failure. More to the point, three-to five-year-olds have a voracious appetite for learning about their world, coupled with a sponge-like mind able to absorb facts practically without effort. In a relaxed atmosphere, we simply give children the possibility of doing what it is time for them to do.
A quotation from Dr. Thomas Harris' book, I'm OK, You're OK, illustrates the importance of this approach in a child's development. Dr. Harris writes, "Fortunate are the children who are helped early in life to find they are OK by repeated exposure to situations in which they can prove to themselves their own worth and the worth of others."
In our school, each child is treated as an individual whose needs are unique. Our excellent teacher-pupil ratio makes it possible for the teachers to really get to know the children and to know what particular activity will assure their optimum progress at any given time.
Rather than promoting competition, which tends to create one winner and many losers, we encourage the children to help each other in a cooperative, supportive way. The children share their learning experiences and reinforce each other's sense of accomplishment.
The complete set of the excellent Montessori material for mathematics, science, and perceptual learning is available to each class. In addition, we have developed dozens of original learning materials which extend and complement the standard Montessori set. Throughout, teachers encourage the children to learn through all of their senses. With the help of these materials, the learning of complex skills is broken down step by step, allowing the children to master one difficulty at a time.
For example, to write the letter "A" requires knowledge of the shape of the letter, as well as the ability to control the pencil. Little fingers learn to hold a pencil by working with special puzzles and other small pick-up games. The children learn to control the pencil by doing "insets," tracing the outline of a geometric figure and then shading the figure with parallel lines in various colors. At the same time, they learn the shape of the letter by using their fingers to trace it on the sandpaper alphabet and to copy it in a pan filled with sand. Next, they might write it on a piece of tracing paper laid over a large picture of the letter. Finally, they put all these skills together and proudly write the letter "A" on a blank piece of paper.
A large percentage of our three-, four-, and five-year olds are learning to read by using our reading program which was developed by Betty Hengst, based on Dr. Montessori's ideas. Reading is the key to advanced learning, and the program encourages our children to acquire this skill by making it an exciting, rewarding, and spontaneous activity.
Almost all of our teachers and assistants have Montessori training and all have been hand-picked for their effectiveness with, and understanding of, children. Their sensitivity to the children's needs and their loving warmth creates a friendly atmosphere that is apparent even to the casual visitor.
Our emphasis is on observing the children and on providing the exact kind of help they need. This highly individualized form of instruction is made possible by our excellent student-teacher ratio.
Location, Hours & Transportation
Our nursery-kindergarten classes are located in three Yorktown sites: at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, 2405 Crompond Road; in the Yorktown United Methodist Church, 2300 Crompond Road; in the Yorktown Jewish Center, 2966 Crompond Road. In Carmel there is one site at 4 Glenna Drive. We have large, modern classrooms with lots of sunshine and a warm, friendly atmosphere. For outdoor activities, there are large play areas. Our nature area is an inviting place for quiet walks or the study of plants and animals.
We are a non-denominational, non-sectarian school. Children are accepted without regard to race, creed, or national origin. Nursery children must be three by December 31 of the school year in which they enter.
The nursery-kindergarten program has both morning (9:00-12:00) and afternoon (12:30-3:30) sessions. Children normally attend five days a week, though a limited number of two-, three-, and four-day children are accepted in the nursery program. Some of our children attend both morning and afternoon sessions.
For the convenience of working parents, we offer a before-and-after school extended day service at the school for a nominal hourly fee. This service is available from 7:00-9:00 a.m. and from 3:30-6:00 p.m.
All-day children bring their own lunches.
Because we are a New York State registered school, kindergarten and elementary children are transported to us by the school system in which they reside. Stepping Stones, nursery children and infants are transported by their parents. There are many car pools.