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.
Alcuin’s Junior Elementary teachers make sure the children’s academic work is balanced but also empower them to make their own choices. The children are taught independence and how to manage their time. They manage their daily goals and their week’s worth of work. They are positively challenged academically, socially, and emotionally.
In addition to a strong academic curriculum, the children's social skills are enhanced through an emphasis on independent learning, cooperative group relationships and personal responsibility. A sense of respect and collaboration creates a social community that encourages cooperation rather than competition. The children work collaboratively, showing that they can work well with peers and enjoy their time in the classroom. They are learning and having fun in the process. Self-discipline, independent work habits, and self-direction are required of the children in these classes.
Junior Elementary teacher, Nicole Cochrane, states, “I love in Junior Elementary that we are teaching them how to maneuver the difficulty of socializing. At 6-9 years old the children are learning how to socialize, they care what others think of them, and they have a strong sense of justice. The teachers guide the children in standing up for what they believe but in a peaceful and respectful manner. When social mistakes are made, we teach the children how to request a peace talk and let someone know they are upset. We also teach the children how to give meaningful apologies and reflect on their behavior.”
The Junior Elementary children also benefit from the strong peace curriculum offered. At Alcuin, there isn’t just one unit on peace. It is interwoven into everything the children do and equally as important as learning to read, write, or solve math equations. The children are taught how to be the best they can be, how to act and react in difficult situations, how to be a good friend and classmate, and how to have respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment.
Resourcefulness, problem-solving, self-advocacy, compromise, listening skills, executive functioning, conflict resolution – the children in our Junior Elementary program are fortunate that along with great academic preparation, they are also given the skills they will need throughout their lives from childhood to adulthood.
A blog by various Alcuin staff members.