The Montessori pedagogy forms the foundation of our practice at City Country School, encompassing the philosophy, the curriculum and the methods of instruction. The methods of instruction include the rigorously prepared environment, the three-period lesson, close observation, concrete didactic materials, freedom of choice, freedom of movement, the three-hour uninterrupted work cycle, long works (which we call projects), going-out, independent, as well as collaborative work, small group lessons, individual presentations, direct and indirect instruction, mixed-age groups.
The Montessori prepared environment is an environment prepared especially for the interests and abilities of children at a particular stage of development, without any extraneous or distracting elements. Every part of the child’s environment can be an opportunity: a lost opportunity, or an opportunity that is maximized. If we keep foremost in our minds that a child is always learning, then we can understand that every moment is an opportunity to learn, the entire school must be a prepared environment: the hallways, the bathrooms, the dining room, the kitchen, the classrooms, the workshop, the outdoor area.
The emphasis on project-work as the children move into and through Elementary is simply to take Maria Montessori at her word. She describes the elementary child as intensely social, seeking to work collaboratively with his peers. She emphasizes the need for Elementary education to take the child out of the classroom: “The closed school… can no longer be sufficient for him… While the younger child seeks comforts, the older child is now eager to encounter challenges. But these challenges must have an aim” (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence). The children should “… consciously leave school having a definite and freely chosen aim in mind (Montessori).” At City Country School we call that aim a project.
A project is an inter-disciplinary, collaborative investigation of something in the real world. Project work requires students to apply classroom learning in other contexts and to bring the outside world into the classroom. Projects create the need to seek out essential content and to develop particular skills such as research, problem-solving, inquiry, critical thinking, effective communication, teamwork, collaboration, motivation and grit. Projects organize learning into purposeful action in the real world, structured around relevant, authentic questions or problems, producing real experiences and genuine artifacts.
At City Country School we cultivate a way of knowing the world through direct contact with it through the senses, beginning in Children’s House where all the materials are concrete, tactile and attractive and where the largest section in the classroom is the Sensorial Area.
In Elementary the child continues to use the concrete didactic materials in the areas of Mathematics and Geometry, and is introduced to the Montessori Cosmic Curriculum, which presents the universe to the child in large impressionistic narrative stories with concrete follow-up work and opportunities for individual exploration. We are careful to provide the child with direct, experiential, relational, embodied opportunities to meet the world, to recognize wholes and interconnectedness, to slowly create a relationship with the object of study. We place the emphasis not only on knowledge, but on the inner life and processes of the learner.
A school’s objectives for its graduates are reflected in what the school chooses to evaluate and how those evaluations are made. At City Country School we seek a holistic view of the child, that includes the virtues and skills we find to be most important to cultivate and develop. The CCS evaluation has two parts: a descriptive narrative of the social, emotional and academic progress of the child, and a rubric of virtues/strengths, and skills. They are based on careful observations and ongoing assessments of the child and his/her work.
Ongoing assessments are designed to track the child’s progress in all areas. We put great emphasis on assessing each child’s progress in the skill of learning to learn. The ability to learn supports the four major life skills: the ability to do, the ability to know, the ability to be in community, and the ability to be in the world. At City Country School we teach children how to learn.
Parents seeking admission for their child are asked to take the following steps:
Before inviting a family to form part of City Country School, we must evaluate closely whether the child and the family will be a good fit for the school. Montessori education is different in fundamental ways from the traditional school system and we must be sure that parents fully understand and support those differences. We must determine whether the child will be happy and thrive in the Montessori classroom.
Criteria for families wishing to enroll their child: