Adolescence is an age of rapid growth, emotional development, and the transformation of the child into an adult member of society. At this critical age, adolescents need more guidance as they develop key communication skills and a more mature and complex understanding of social interactions. They need creative and physical outlets, especially for processing complex emotional and psychological issues. They crave personal space, but they are also highly social! They still need to move on a regular basis, and being physically engaged in work that produces tangible results is rewarding to them.
The Middle School program at Alcuin Montessori School is designed to meet the very specific needs of children from 12 – 14 years of age and to support their families through this unique time in their development.
The program incorporates both traditional Montessori philosophy and current “best practices” for middle school education. The program emphasizes independent, project-based and student-driven work. Students are encouraged to do high-level critical thinking and to consider themes and issues across all areas of the curriculum. Daily and weekly homework is given in addition to student-managed long-term projects with the goal of having students engaged in 1 – 1.5 hours of homework a night. Students are introduced to formal lectures along with interactive presentations, dynamic activities, student-led research, group projects and more. Students are given quizzes and tests, as well as alternative forms of assessment and informal observation.
The program also includes weekly enrichment programs in art, theater and physical education led by child-focused specialists. They engage the students in learning about and through all areas of life (not just textbooks) by incorporating real-world applications of studied concepts. They discuss current events and their implications on all spheres of life and they contribute to our school and local communities through volunteering and service projects. The students take weekly trips into the Oak Park and Chicagoland area to facilitate curriculum enhancement, community engagement, and authentic orienteering and practical life experiences.
Our curriculum has been carefully designed to meet or exceed state standards in all fundamental areas of study, as well as to align with the benchmark outcomes of local public schools, ensuring full preparation for a smooth transition into high school. Our units of study are theme-based and center around several essential questions. The curriculum includes mathematics, the sciences, social studies, literature, humanities, writing, Spanish and more.
Alcuin Montessori’s teaching staff is fully committed to mentoring and coaching students through a sometimes complicated and confusing time in their lives. They facilitate appropriate, effective communication and problem-solving skills through one-on-one, small group, and large group interactions. Additionally, they support students in balancing their school and home lives, helping to plan homework around family time and extracurricular activities.
With a clear understanding of the emotional, social, and academic needs of this formative developmental stage, Alcuin Montessori’s program is specifically designed to guide and nurture students as they transition into high school and their teenage years.
Walking into an Alcuin Junior Elementary classroom, one is immediately struck by two things: there is a busy hum of activity, and the children are engaged and happy.
As children move through age six, they enter the second plane of development in which imagination and reasoning are used to gain knowledge and information. The Junior Elementary program gives these abilities priority in the child’s learning process, fostering an interest in facts and factual relationships. According to Dr. Maria Montessori, this is the time to sow the seeds of culture.
“What I think is special is all the kids are so kind, all the good lessons are so cool, all the people are so nice, and all the peace.”
“What I like about Junior Elementary is that I get to do handwriting and Spanish and landforms and small bead frame!”
“I like Junior Elementary because we get to cook, use the microscope, and do experiments. We get to grow crystals and go on field trips. We get to have school pets and great lessons.”
The above quotes are from Alcuin first, second, and third-grade members of our Junior Elementary program.
“Education begins at birth.”– Maria Montessori
Did you know that Alcuin offers a parent/infant class which meets one day week? We invite everyone to come and discover our Parent/Infant class. The Parent/Infant class, on Wednesdays from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m., gives parents the opportunity to observe and interact with their child in a rich Montessori environment in which both can explore and discover.
In the Parent/Infant class, children (ages birth to 18 months) can explore and develop social skills, concentration, coordination, and feel a sense of belonging to a group. It also gives parent and child a special time together — time that is all their own.
Led by Jamie Sloan, the class will provide helpful guidance and discussions on child development and how to incorporate the Montessori philosophy into the home. Grandparents and caregivers are welcome to attend in the place of parents.
According to Ms. Jamie, “We try to distill and honor each child’s natural tendencies toward healthy, authentic, growth and development. We learn to observe, wait, and trust in the child’s natural ability to self-create.”
To register for Alcuin Montessori's Parent/Infant class, or for more information, please contact our Director of Advancement, Alex Valera.
At some point in your child's life, whether they were two or even 11, you knew self-directed, hands-on learning and collaborative play were non-negotiable factors in picking their school. So, you opted for a Montessori program, which was developed with those principles in mind. However, as you began your search in the Oak Park River Forest area, you soon noticed that Montessori schools are popular educational choices, and therefore, they exist in great number.
"What sets a Montessori curriculum apart is the emphasis on the social and emotional growth of the student in tandem with their academic learning," explains Gina Gleason, head of Alcuin Montessori in Oak Park. "From birth through middle school, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about learning, while nurturing each child's individual strengths, challenging them to reach their fullest potential."
Alcuin Executive Director, Gina Gleason, was recently featured in Around Oak Park’s Know Your Neighbors segment. Thanks to Kelli Williams for the fun interview.
Around Oak Park
Where is home for you? And what brought you there?
I live in Oak Park and moved here about five years ago from Chicago. I wanted to be closer to Alcuin (where I work) and allow my kids the opportunity to be part of their school and neighborhood community.
What is Alcuin? What do you do there? How did you get your start?
Alcuin Montessori School is the second oldest Montessori school in the country and have a very long and proud history in the Oak Park community. We were founded in 1961 by six local OP families who were looking for a different way to educate their children. Alcuin is a very special place, with some of the most talented and committed teachers that I’ve ever met. Together with a strong sense of community and commitment to Montessori education we can really provide an exceptional experience for the children.
I am the Executive Director at Alcuin. I started at Alcuin in 2003 as an intern in a Primary classroom (3-6 year olds) and have been there ever since. This is my 7th year leading the school. I was actually working at several graphic design shops in the beginning of my career out of college and learned about Montessori from a good friend. I visited a few schools to see what it was all about since I didn’t have children and hadn’t studied education. I instantly fell in love with the independence that such young children had and the endless learning opportunities and had to learn more myself. I took the training that summer to become a Montessori teacher and the rest is history. I love the fact that Alcuin has so much history and I have the great privilege of carrying on the legacy and dreams that our founders began so long ago.
Where in Oak Park is Alcuin located?
Alcuin is located in the heart of Oak Park so we have the opportunity to use the OP Public library and parks on a daily basis, our kids swim at the YMCA as part of our fitness program and our middle school kids use public transportation as part of their “beyond the classroom walls” learning. We are lucky to be so immersed in our community and the children have a lot of opportunities to feel connected outside of the classroom.
In celebration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, the students at Alcuin Montessori School in Oak Park joined over 100,000 children from schools around the world to sing for peace on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016.
“Peace education is a key component of the Montessori philosophy," explained Gina Gleason, executive director of Alcuin Montessori. "Peace isn't just taught as a one-time lesson; rather, it's integrated into the curriculum throughout the year for all of our students, from birth through middle school. It's just as important as math, language, and music in creating a well-rounded child."
As part of the "Sing Peace Around the World" movement, the song Light a Candle for Peace was sung by schools around the world, starting on the shores of New Zealand and continuing from country to country until it reaches the shores of the Hawaiian Islands 24 hours later. Students at Alcuin Montessori sang their song and performed it in American Sign Language at 10:00 a.m.
Once we had a good night's rest, everyone woke up at 6:45 am (willingly or unwillingly I can't say) and started getting ready for breakfast in the hotel. Breakfast consisted of bagels, fruit, pancakes, cereal, etc. After breakfast, everyone filed into the bus and headed towards the Capitol Building. It was a colossus of a building, and it was covered in scaffolding, which made it which made it even more intimidating. The security was the strongest we would have to deal with on this trip; however, it was efficient.
Once inside the building we were greeted by a dozen marble and copper statues. They were depictions of famous people (mainly politicians) from all fifty states. After the statues, we saw an interesting video about the founding of the nation and the Capitol.
After the tour, we went to the Library of Congress. It was a beautifully made building with many arches and mosaics. The most popular thing there was Jefferson's library. There were so many books!
Yesterday, we woke up at 4 am, and we didn't know that a hard walking day was waiting for us. First, we got dropped off at the airport; all of us were excited about the trip. At the airport, some people got breakfast, and others just stayed reading. We were really tired! As we arrived in Washington, we got dropped off at the Smithsonian American History Museum. We stayed for an hour at the museum in which we were able to see exhibitions and learn about the American presidents, the First Ladies, and the wars that the US joined (among other things). The First Ladies dresses were gorgeous and elegant!
As our trip finished at the museum, we walked back to the US Department of Agriculture building (and that was just the beginning of our walking day) and had lunch at their amazing cafeteria. After we recharged our batteries, we headed to the Holocaust Museum in which we saw a huge exhibition about the horrible genocide that happened during World War II. We recalled what we learned about World War II, saw heartbreaking photos about what the Jews suffered, learned facts about the Holocaust, and got to know stories from the ones who survived it.
At the east end of the classroom, atop a small, wooden shelf, sits a rather
inconspicuous, wicker box that has earned the trust of every child in our
When a student is reluctant to have a “peace talk” with a friend or have a heart-
to-heart with a teacher, they write their worry on a little strip of paper, drop it
almost reverently into our “peace box,” and quietly resume the day’s activities.
Often, just the simple act of writing down a concern and placing it in this box is
all it takes to give the child a sense of peace. Writing down their troubles is a
way for them to begin healing. It is, in itself, an act of unburdening. But they
also know that their concern will be heard, that their community will listen to
them, and most importantly that their friends will be there to help them find a
peaceful resolution to their problem. They know that on Friday, the Peace Circle
Guide will open the box and voice their concern.
A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
Roxy Krawczyk, Middle School Teacher.
Parenting a tween can be a daunting task. We often hear parents bemoaning the alien that seems to have taken over their sweet, darling child and left them with a moody, defiant teenager. They worry that this new phase will be permanent, and they worry even more that they are ill-equipped to deal with it.
Never fear! The transition from childhood to adolescence is indeed a marked one, but it is simply another phase of normal human development. Knowing what changes are taking place inside your adolescent’s body and brain can help you understand what to expect, and being aware of their shifting needs and priorities can help you keep your own expectations in check. The tween years can look different for each child, but there are some developmental markers that are universal. Knowing what’s coming will help you maintain your sanity, and theirs.
Articles and posts by our teachers, staff and administration.