Alief Montessori Community School is a state of Texas charter school. As such it is mandated to follow the state curriculum guidelines known as the “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills” (usually referred to as “TEKS”). The TEKS was set forth by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). If you would like to see a copy of the TEKS it is available on the TEA website at, http://www.tea.texas.gov/ or it may be viewed in our school office.
It is important for parents to know that our experienced staff has excelled at the application of the Montessori curriculum to meet the demands of the TEKS. This is borne out by the student’s excellent test scores that have given the school exemplary or recognized status year after year since 1998.
For a clear and concise explanation of the basic structure of our curriculum we have chosen to quote from the NAMTA (North American Montessori Teacher’s Association) website at http://www.montessori-namta.org.
“My vision of the future is no longer people taking exams and proceeding then on that certification . . . but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher [one], by means of their own activity through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.” (Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence)
Montessori education is a flow experience; it builds on the continuing self-construction of the child – daily, weekly, yearly – for the duration of the program. Although Montessori schools are divided into multi-age classrooms parent infant (ages 0 to 3), preschool (ages 3 to 6), lower and upper elementary (ages 6 to 9 and 9 to 12), and middle school (ages 12 to 14) prepared environments introduce an uninterrupted series of learning passages, a continuum.
The prepared environments and the role of the teacher in the classroom distinguish Montessori from other educational approaches. For example, independent activity constitutes about 80% of the work while teacher-directed activity accounts for the remaining 20%. The reverse percentages are generally true for traditional education. The special environments enable children to perform various tasks that induce thinking about relationships. The prepared environment also offers practical occasions for introducing social relationships through free interaction. The logical, sequential nature of the environment provides orderly structures that guide discovery: Theorems are discovered, not presented; spelling rules are derived through recognition of patterns, not merely memorized. Every aspect of the curriculum involves creative invention and careful, thoughtful analysis. In viewing learning outcomes at each Montessori level, it must be emphasized that why and how students arrive at what they know is just as important as what they know.
The Montessori preschool classroom is a “living room” for children. Children choose their work from among the self-correcting materials displayed on open shelves, and they work in specific work areas. Over a period of time, the children develop into a “normalized community,” working with high concentration and few interruptions. Normalization is the process whereby a child moves from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disordered to ordered, from distracted to focused, through work in the environment. The process occurs though repeated work with materials that captivate the child’s attention. For some children this inner change may take place quite suddenly, leading to deep concentration. In the Montessori preschool, academic competency is a means to an end, and the manipulatives are viewed as “materials for development.”
In the Montessori preschool, five distinct areas constitute the prepared environment:
Practical life enhances the development of task organization and cognitive order through care of self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy, and coordination of physical movement.
Sensorial works enable the child to order, classify, and describe sensory impressions in relation to length, width, temperature, mass, color, pitch, etc.
Mathematics makes use of manipulative materials to enable the child to internalize concepts of number, symbol, sequence, operations, and memorization of basic facts.
Language arts include oral language development, written expression, reading, grammar study, creative dramatics, and children’s literature. Basic skills in writing and reading are developed through the use of sandpaper letters, alphabet cut-outs, and various presentations allowing children to link sounds and letter symbols effortlessly and to express their thoughts through writing.
Cultural activities expose the child to basics in geography, history, and life sciences. Music, art, and movement education are part of the integrated cultural curriculum.
The preschool environment unifies the psychosocial, physical, and academic functioning of the child. Its important task is to provide students with an early and general foundation that includes a positive attitude toward school, inner security and a sense of order, pride in the physical environment, abiding curiosity, a habit of concentration, habits of initiative and persistence, the ability to make decisions, self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility to other members of the class, school, and community. This foundation will enable them to acquire more specialized knowledge and skills throughout their school career.
The elementary program offers a continuum built on the preschool experience. The environment reflects a new stage of development and offers the following:
Integration of the arts, sciences, geography, history, and language that evokes the native imagination and abstraction of the elementary child.
Presentation of knowledge as part of a large-scale narrative that unfolds the origins of the earth, life, human communities, and modern history, always in the context of the wholeness of life.
Presentation of the formal scientific language of zoology, botany, anthropology, geography, geology, etc., exposing the child to accurate, organized information and respecting the child’s intelligence and interests.
The use of timelines, pictures, charts, and other visual aids to provide a linguistic and visual overview of the first principles of each discipline.
A mathematics curriculum presented with concrete materials that simultaneously reveal arithmetic, geometric, and algebraic correlations.
Montessori-trained adults who are “enlightened generalists” (teachers who are able to integrate the teaching of all subjects, not as isolated disciplines, but as part of a whole intellectual tradition).
Emphasis on open-ended research and in-depth study using primary and secondary sources (no textbooks or worksheets) as well as other materials.
“Going out” to make use of community resources beyond the four walls of the classroom.
As in the preschool, the Montessori materials are a means to an end. They are intended to evoke the imagination, to aid abstraction, to generate a worldview about the human task and purpose. The child works within a philosophical system asking questions about the origins of the universe, the nature of life, people and their differences, and so on. On a factual basis, interdisciplinary studies combine geological, biological, and anthropological science in the study of natural history and world ecology.
The program is made up of connective narratives that provide an inspiring overview as the organizing, integrating “Great Lessons.” Great Lessons span the history of the universe from the big bang theory of the origin of the solar system, earth, and life forms to the emergence of human cultures and the rise of civilization. Aided by impressionistic charts and timelines, the child’s study of detail in reference to the Great Lessons leads to awe and respect for the totality of knowledge. Studies are integrated not only in terms of subject matter but in terms of moral learning as well, resulting in appreciation and respect for life, moral empathy, and a fundamental belief in progress, the contribution of the individual, the universality of the human condition, and the meaning of true justice.