The Montessori Casa program is best thought of as a mutli-year curriculum. The child’s growth and development in the classroom is much like the growth of a tree. First, the seeds are planted. Then, the tree is given the opportunity to grow and absorb all the rich offerings of its environment. Finally, the tree, with its roots firmly planted within the ground can begin to bear fruit. A child completing the full cycle reaps the full benefits of the meticulously crafted curriculum.
Planting the Seed
The First Year of Casa
This is the all-important getting to know you phase of the classroom; the foundational year for the rest to come. In this introductory year, the teacher gets to know the child – the child’s interests, learning style, strengths, challenges, and personality. The child is introduced to the routines, the freedoms and the boundaries within the classroom. The process toward self-regulation and self-discipline begins through experiences within the interconnected curriculum of the class.
Highlighted here are a few activities and areas of the curriculum whose thread we will follow to the culminating Casa year.
The Practical Life activities help the child strengthen their physical tools – their hands, balance, coordination, and gross motor – while helping foster the child’s concentration, focus and the ability to follow through on tasks from beginning to conclusion. To read more about Practical Life, please refer to the previous blog post below:
Children learn that the environment is prepared specially for them, to aid in their independence instead of relying on adult help at all times.
The Language curriculum begins with the sounds that comprise words. As children hear and distinguish the various sounds that make up words, the symbol that corresponds to each sound is introduced.
The Math curriculum begins with the foundation of all numbers – one to ten. Quantity is first introduced then the symbol. The quantities and symbols are then associated to provide a full idea of numbers.
The Geography curriculum begins with the big picture then hones in on the finer details – the Earth, then the continents, then the countries, and finally the states of the USA and the provinces and territories of Canada. Children learn to place the puzzles together, which become increasingly more complex. Language then follows. (Please click the photo below for a previous blog post highlighting Geography)
Socially, a child is learning how to interact and communicate with a variety of children at different ages and at different levels. The foundations of Grace & Courtesy are introduced by the teachers and older children in the classroom. (Please click below for more detail on Grace & Courtesy)
The Casa Middle Year(s)
The child hits the ground running at the beginning of the school year in the same environment, with the same teacher. The child has gained valuable first year experience and has taken strides in independence. This is often a period of wonderful growth, introducing more complex concepts and activities at the pace best suited to each child’s individual development. One can liken this phase as filling a child’s toolkit throughout the year(s).
Introductory concepts are practiced and are built upon.
In Practical Life, the child is introduced to more complex activities that require longer periods of concentration and more finesse. Activities become a link to the environment.
The Language curriculum branches into reading and writing. Sandpaper letters are practiced on chalkboard then paper. Words are built with individual sounds phonetically with the moveable alphabet.
In Math, children are working on both the decimal system and the teens & tens. Much like in the first year, the child is first introduced to quantity (concrete) then symbol and then the two are associated. Children are also introduced to the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). Please click on the photos below to read more in depth.
Geography continues with more complex puzzles and additional vocabulary. Children learn about various cultures, landmarks, flags, and people.
Children are demonstrating Grace & Courtesy more consistently. More social situations arise wherein children practice problem solving with the help of older peers and teachers. Children begin demonstrating a “We mindset,” as part of the larger classroom community.
Fruit & Flourish
The Culminating Year
The child’s final year in the Casa Program is the capstone for his or her experience. This is when the children take all the tools from the previous years to map out an education all their own. They are confident, capable, and on their way to a lifelong love of learning.
This is the year when it all comes together; learning is consolidated and children flourish.
Socially, these children are the leaders of the classroom, showing pride and demonstrating responsibility, having grown in the environment for the past few years. The teachers know these children very well, having spent years building that foundational relationship to help them grow.
In Practical Life, these children combine a variety of skills practiced previously. Baking consolidates reading, measurement, patience, and self-discipline to create a variety of treats and confections.
Children who’ve learned sewing a button, stitching, tying knots and bows bring all these skills together to create pillows or embroider wonderful creations.
In Language, children begin crafting stories and learning about the different parts of speech. This is the point wherein children begin using language as a means of self-expression and reading for comprehension and learning.
The Math curriculum solidifies the child’s experience with numbers, leaping off the solid concrete foundation placed in the first few years of Casa. The operations and number facts are practiced until the child is ready to move to more abstract methods.
Geography now serves as a launching pad for a variety of explorations; geography folders open the child’s eyes to different cultures around the globe; research projects often stem from children’s explorations.
The Full Casa Cycle
Bringing it All Together
The Casa Cycle strives to deliver an education aimed at the whole child; to help a child become fully confident in their own abilities, to express independent thought and action, to build resilience, to be critical and creative, to be self-driven, self-disciplined and self-regulated. Each year of the cycle serves a critical purpose for the child, preparing the child academically and socially for life.
As we follow the threads of a few activities in the classroom, the benefits of completing the cycle are apparent:
- Each year, the child builds upon the previous year’s learning, without a lag or gap wherein the child struggles to catch up or learn the same/similar concepts in a different way
- The Montessori curriculum is streamlined and interconnected to work fluidly for a child’s development, built year upon year.
- The child grows from one looking up to the older children in their first year, to having the experience of following, learning and growing in the middle year(s), to a true leader in their final year; Confidence naturally grows through this gradual process.
If the process is halted, the children gain only piecemeal benefits from the full curriculum scientifically designed by Dr. Maria Montessori.
The tree may still grow when replanted, but how much taller and how much sweeter could the fruit have been given a little more time, room, and opportunity to develop?