What’s Next? From Montessori to Willow
By Carol Fontaine, Willow fifth grade teacher and certified Montessori teacher
How do you continue to nurture your child’s love of learning after they complete their Montessori program?
The Montessori Primary program gives children the foundation for a lifetime of passionate learning, one in which they are nurtured and guided as they begin their educational journey. But many local Montessori schools only offer programs for children until they reach age six. As your child grows up, it can be hard to find a good next educational step.
The Willow School provides a wonderful opportunity to seamlessly transition from a Montessori school while continuing to nurture your child’s love of learning. A Willow education, like that of Montessori, fosters experiential learning and self-discovery.
While Montessori classrooms are mixed ages, we at Willow take advantage of opportunities to work with both older and younger buddy classes. This year, for instance, Pre-K and K have joined for enrichment activities, as have K and 1st. These relationships continue throughout the grades, including multi-grade advisory groups in middle school.
Teachers as facilitators
In both Montessori programs and at Willow, students are encouraged to discover their own paths to learning. Children are encouraged to work independently and transition from one activity to another of their choice. Willow teachers are facilitators who guide and support children as they pursue learning. Our experienced teachers design opportunities that encourage children to learn, providing guidance only as needed. Willow teachers respect a child’s innate desire to learn, and we are committed to creating opportunities for them to do so in a way that fits their strengths and learning style.
Some of Willow’s teachers are certified Montessori teachers, and they have introduced Montessori materials that have been incorporated by all teachers in the Lower Elementary program. The grammar symbols, moveable alphabet, phonics boxes, and word study can be found in all of our classrooms. Math materials, including the golden beads, bead bars, and stamp games, are used. Understanding the fundamental needs of humans is explored in Willow’s kindergarten and first grade and continues throughout Lower Elementary. As students progress through the grades, understanding cultures other than their own becomes an important part of our curriculum.
Emphasis on responsibility and respect
Maria Montessori has said that freedom requires responsibility. Like Montessori teachers, Willow teachers create an environment that emphasizes responsibility and self-discipline.
Children at Willow understand, through our virtues program, that respect and responsibility are at the core of virtuous living. They understand that they are part of a greater community, that their actions have an effect on others, and that they are responsible for what they say and do. Willow is a community of students and teachers that support each other while they learn together. Throughout the day, Willow students learn about responsibility and respect as they work together, care for each other, maintain the classroom environment, practice being stewards of the natural world, and use their time purposefully.
Encouraging gratitude and connectivity
What initially attracted me to Montessori education was Maria Montessori’s concept of cosmic education. Montessori said, “All things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” She believed that there were two things necessary for raising peaceful human beings: an awareness of interdependence and the sense of gratitude that comes from that awareness. This is so important, for it is those feelings of gratitude that motivate us to protect our planet and all life on it.
The Willow School is committed to Education for Sustainability (EfS), at the heart of which is the belief that a healthy and sustainable future is possible. A few key points embedded in EfS are the understanding that everything is part of a system and interconnected, that we are all in this together, and that we need to live by the natural laws. At Willow, we educate children to have a clearer understanding of the natural world, and thus themselves. We seek to empower children to believe that they can make positive changes for a better future.
We believe Willow is a great next step for your Montessori child. In the many ways outlined above, the educational environment and philosophy is similar, making for a smooth transition. Willow is a place where your child will be encouraged, challenged, and welcomed. It’s where your child will love to learn.