The Core Montessori Curriculum

The core curriculum of a Montessori classroom consists of practical life, sensorial, math and language. These areas of the classroom have activities for all ages, and lay the foundation for learning throughout the child's life.

Skills learned in this area of the classroom lay a foundation for the rest of the curriculum. We introduce socialization skills and the work cycle, and practice fine and gross motor skills. The lessons teach responsibility for oneself, others, and the environment. They encourage independence and promote the development of a sense of order. Some examples of these lessons are: spooning and pouring, scrubbing, polishing, sewing, food preparation, and grace and courtesy lessons.
spooning sewing scrubbing a stool scrubbing a table washing a plant opening and closing pouring cutting apples
These lessons sharpen the senses through comparing and contrasting activities, such as matching, grading, and sequencing objects.  Together, these activities form the foundation for mathematical, musical and scientific studies. Examples in the Sensorial area are: matching sounds or smells, matching or grading colors, grading by size, and learning plane and solid shapes.
the knobless cylinders the tower of cubes the knobbed cylinders the geometric cabinet the color tablets the tower of cubes and the broad prisms the constructive triangles the trinomial cube
Lessons in this area begin with the very concrete and move to the more abstract. A variety of objects are manipulated to learn basic number concepts; place value is learned through manipulating the golden beads. Some examples are: sandpaper numerals for learning the symbols 1–9, the spindle box for understanding the concept of 0, the teens board and tens board for matching quantity and symbol, and the golden beads for understanding the decimal system and performing mathematical operations.
cards and counters the spindle boxes cards and counters multiplication bead board addition with the bead stair the golden bead layout the cubed chain
Our language materials are phonetically based and will help your child develop the skills needed for verbal communication, reading and writing. Examples in this area include games that provide opportunities for speaking, sandpaper letters for learning the sounds of the alphabet, the movable alphabet for constructing words and sentences, many opportunities for reading, and metal insets of design for perfecting the pencil grip.
reading in the reading corner matching sentences and pictures the movable alphabet the sandpaper letters the metal insets of design the grammar symbols the phonogram alphabet


Additional Curriculum Areas

The core curriculum is supplemented with these additional areas of the classroom: geography, science and nature studies; art; and peace education. In these areas of the classroom, the children learn to understand and appreciate the world around them.

Our geography studies begin with learning about the land, air, and water that covers our globe.  We then move on to study the World's seven continents with globes and puzzle maps, cultural items from the continents, and opportunities for tasting foods, dancing to music, and enjoying folk tales. We try to understand the similarities and the differences in the way plants, animals, and people adapt to the ecosystem in which they live.
children displaying traditional Mongolian dress the world map discussing world affairs writing the names of animals of the continents map of North America sorting land, air, and water cards
Through observations, experimentation, and research, we explore the worlds of physical and natural science. Starting with the basics, we explore the concepts of living and non-living, plants and animals.  Then, in zoology we study the five types of vertebrate animals and the invertebrate world’s insects and arachnids. In botany we learn about trees, seeds, and flowers through gardening activities and observations on our playground. Our location at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston is an accredited Backyard Wildlife Habitat as certified by the National Wildlife Federation. It’s a perfect place for walks by the stream and exploring nature.
studying and sorting types of rocks parts of the leaf puzzle tracing parts of the tree, flower, and leaf sorting foods in the food pyramid sorting items that have iron and do not have iron parts of the solar system sorting living and non-living cards

Maria Montessori said that "The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth." Reflecting her philosophy, our science and nature studies give the children a deep appreciation for our earth and everything in it. Our children's garden, part of a setting certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Schoolyard Habitat, helps the children understand the cycles of life of plants and animals. From bulb or seed to flower, children plant and maintain the garden in both summer and winter. Food and water are put out for birds, chipmunks, and butterflies. Food scraps at lunchtime go into the compost bin and become soil for the garden. Worms found in all parts of the playground are carefully placed in the garden soil. Weekly nature walks in the surrounding woods provide an opportunity to see deer and hawks in their natural setting and to monitor the flow of the stream. We even have a bug catcher in the classrooms so insects that wander into our classroom can be safely returned to the outdoors. Through real contact with living things in nature, the children learn to share their world and live in harmony with all living creatures.

Our "Earth Keepers Program" is our way of teaching the children about taking care of our earth. It involves the use of The Four R's -- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, and Respect -- to help the children understand their role in protecting and preserving our environment. We have recycle bins in each classroom that everyone uses to take care of their unneeded papers.  We have craft projects which re-use items from home and school. We discuss reducing our use of water and electricity in our classrooms and at home. Respect is always a part of our environment, whether as respect for each other, for the materials in the classroom, or the animals and plants we see on our nature walks. The "Earth Keepers Program" is brought to life for the kindergartners as they take a field trip to the Montgomery County Recycling Facility to actually see where the recycling we collect goes and how it is turned into new products.

Our "nature studies" culminate with a three-day cabin camping trip to Prince William Forest Park in May.  We hike, do crafts, sing songs and eat "s'mores" around the campfire, and of course leave time to just explore the woods around us.  A feeling of family is fostered as we cook and eat meals together in the large dining hall.  One of our parents had this to say about the camping trip.  "...not many people have this kind of experience with a school. ... it’s not just a school, we’re a family.  It just goes to show that [Children's House] has built something so wonderful… A definite gem!!'"

Living in harmony with nature is part of our mission statement, and we strive to live it every day.

jumping the creek on a nature hike the four parts to a habitat - water, food, place to raise young, and cover sweeping the garden taking a nature hike on our nature trail taking a nature hike taking a nature hike planting flowers in our children's garden lessons on our National Wildlife Federation School Yard Habitat
The world of art is opened to the children through a comprehensive, process-oriented program. The easel is always available for mixing colors and self-expression. Concepts such as primary, secondary, complementary, cool and warm colors are taught with a variety of media available to the children. Art appreciation is introduced by a simple overview of the history of art, which is then brought to life by the study of individual artists and their work. The children enjoy learning about many famous artists through activities such as painting the famous Japanese Bridge by Monet or creating their own "cutouts" as did Matisse. These lessons culminate in the Kindergarten year with a trip to the National Gallery of Art for a look at "the real thing!"
gluing primary colors sorting types of art painting at the easel cutting primary colors drawing with secondary colors children's art work

Our Peace Education program is one of the most important components of our curriculum. We understand that there is peace and goodness in every child, but not all children have the words and actions to give outward expression to their inner peace. We feel it is the responsibility of all the adults in our environment to encourage peaceful thoughts and actions, from the children and from each other.

We incorporate peace and understanding in our everyday conversations with the children. We encourage them to settle conflicts using peaceful words and phrases. We talk of feelings and encourage hugs and handshakes to bring children’s disagreements to a peaceful conclusion. We employ the concept of virtues presented by The Virtues Project on a daily basis. Respect, Kindness, Patience, Responsibility - the virtues are universal positive qualities of character found in all cultures throughout the world. "Virtues are the essence of the human spirit and the content of our character." (The Virtues Project) At Children's House, we speak the language of virtues every day to help children develop character, settle differences, and delight in the goodness within. We discuss virtues every day in our group time activities, compliment the children on the virtues they display, and call the children to virtues they may need to settle differences or be a contributing member of our school family. We provide workshops for teachers and parents so that all members of our school community can use the concepts of the virtues in their daily lives, in and out of school.  The Virtues are an integral part of our school culture, and we invite you to join us in making the world a better place through their use.  You can view a video of our friend Dara Feldman presenting the concepts in The Virtues Project on the National Education Association Academy On Demand Website.

We give the children opportunities to create peace within themselves. Each classroom has a Peace Corner, a small, cozy area set aside for quiet contemplation and activity. The word "silence" written on a card and a 3-minute timer encourage children to sit in silence and peace. There are beautiful artifacts from nature to hold, a book about our peaceful classroom to read, and a mirror to see one's own inner peace. At various times of the year, we add new items, such as a "peace bear" to hold or Zen rock garden to rake the sand around the stones. It is a quiet place where children know they can go to contemplate a flower, feel the beauty of a smooth stone, or just sit quietly.

As we study different cultures of the world throughout the year, the children learn to appreciate the diversity of our planet. They love hearing the stories and songs of other cultures. The diversity tray, with its collection of rocks, pinecones, and shells, allows children to compare their skin, hair, and eye colors to each other and to things in nature. Multicultural paints and art supplies provide the children the opportunity to create their own visions of peaceful people. Children can copy and illustrate sayings about peace, such as "Peace begins with me."

Often our circle time activities are given over to a Peace Ceremony. This is a time set aside for group activities to encourage an understanding of peaceful behavior. A peace globe is passed as the children promise, “I will share peacefully today.” The children share their ideas about peace concepts such as joy, calmness, and acceptance. We sing, move, and listen to peace music. Sometimes we use our calming stones to help our bodies lie very quiet and still. We practice walking carefully while holding a bell and try not to let it ring. We use our "trust" scarves over our eyes as we lead our friends around the room, trusting they will keep us safe. We end our Peace Ceremony with a poem and a promise to "Do all the good you can."

Maria Montessori also said, "What is generally meant by the word 'peace' is the cessation of war. But this negative concept is not an adequate description of genuine peace." We feel genuine peace comes from the heart, and starts with the children. We believe that we must nurture that peace through word and deed, every day.

For more information and activities on encouraging peace within children, you may also want to visit The Peace Company.

choosing a tracing a labyrinth in the peace corner using the peace rose to settle differences practicing yoga reading to polar bear in the peace corner singing peace songs at circle time Sing Peace Around the World Ceremony in 2009