Pre-K & Kindergarten
Our six year elementary program has at its heart what Maria Montessori called “Cosmic Education.” The lower elementary portion, for those aged 6 through 9 years, is centered on Montessori’s Five Great Lessons.
These great lessons offer wide concepts and offer the structure into which all elementary learning can be integrated. Likewise, elementary students begin to move out of their narrow worlds into a newer, greater one, gaining independence as they care for their own classroom environment.
Preparing food and snacks, cleaning the classroom and tables at the end of the day, and disposing of compost, garbage, and recycling can now be the responsibility of the students. At the Homestead School, these early years also include venturing into a wider world of field trips, ski club, and outdoor adventures where exposure to new places, people, and ideas fill out a larger view of community.
“Our aim therefore is not merely to make the children understand, and still less to force them to memorize, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their innermost core. We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones.” Maria Montessori
The school year begins with the first great lesson, “The Story of the Universe.” Students are introduced to the birth of the Universe and the formation of the stars, galaxies, and planets. During the course of the school year, this story will lead to studies in Astronomy, Meteorology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, and Geography.
Because this initial lesson is given each year, the third-year students will often take on the role of teacher and give this opening lesson to the new members of the community.
The second great lesson, “The Coming of Life,” revolves around the Timeline of Life. The great diversity of life is emphasized, with special care paid to the contribution of each living thing to life on Earth. Year-long studies will include biology, botany, habitats, and ancient life. The Homestead’s 85-acre campus, with its fields, streams, pond and woods, lends itself easily to this exploration. The grounds offer a regular part of biology class for all three levels, but particularly the first-year students who are classifying life and are naming the internal and external parts of plants and animals.
There are hikes into the deep woods. There is wading in the stream and walking the nature trail. The treehouse on the edge of the wetland is a perfect spot for wildlife observation, especially bird watching.
It is after this great lesson that children are introduced to making topographical, biome, and finally political maps. Inspired by the second great lesson and their further understanding of world geography, students take up humanitarian causes with projects for raising both money and awareness. These initiatives are an integral part of the Homestead experience as we protect and celebrate the importance of the diversity of life on Earth. Elementary students plant and harvest crops such as gourds or potatoes, and create artwork to raise money to save rainforests, support animal shelters, or send relief money to global communities impacted by natural disasters.
The third great lesson is “The Coming of Human Beings.” It focuses on the uniqueness of the human hand, beginning with the invention of stone tools and continues to introduce the many gifts to humanity that tools have brought. This leads to the study of the needs of early humans and then to the study of early civilization.
The story of cultures includes arts and music, composers, discoveries, and inventions. Our Homestead elementary students have weekly studio or fiber art lessons, music, and Spanish, which always include connections to culture and history.
The fourth great lesson is “The Story of Writing.” It begins with tales of the development of the alphabet, placing emphasis on the ability that humans have to communicate their thoughts on paper. It starts with pictographs, hieroglyphics, and early alphabets, but then goes on to include reading, writing, spelling, language arts, grammar, and word study.
The fifth great lesson is “The Story of Numbers.” Beginning with the earliest civilizations, who only had the concepts of one, two, and more than two, this lesson progresses to the origin of numbers in our base-ten system and all of the mathematical operations with fractions, decimals, geometry, time, money, and word problems.
All these math concepts are enriched by Montessori’s exquisitely conceived materials. Beads of gold from the younger years increase in abstraction to color-coded beads on frames, on multiplication checkerboards, and in test tubes for division.
A very special community is formed by these children and their teachers during the three-year cycle, filled with memorable interactions and adventures in this unique environment. A highlight of each year is a three-day field trip offered to students and their families that combines units of study and is a culminating celebration of year long study.
Many friendships and memories formed here have lasted into adulthood…and may last forever!