Perth Children’s House’s (PCH) program, philosophy, and approach to working with children is inspired by Maria Montessori and as such is built around independence, a sense of order, and completion of tasks. PCH is a not-for-profit organization and is a registered charitable organization with a volunteer board of directors. PCH is a parent-run school, which means that parent/guardian involvement and assistance is required in order to operate the school. In an attempt to keep tuition affordable, the school relies heavily on parent volunteerism. In addition to the financial benefit, volunteerism helps parents become involved in life at Perth Children’s House, which helps build a strong community of families, one of our core values.
Perth Children’s House is licensed under the Child Care and Early Years Act (CCEYA) and follows How Does Learning Happen? (HDLH), Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years. The HDLH document is a resource that models learning through relationships with a focus on the child and the family. Learning and development happens within the context of relationships among children, families, educators, and their environments. The four foundations of HDLH are Well Being, Engagement, Belonging, and Expression. PCH Educators, along with the Board of PCH, strive to model these four foundations by ensuring that the points stated below are respected and carried out each day. Teachers always consider these foundations when creating policies and making decisions for the students of PCH.
The school offers a Casa Montessori program which has as a fundamental tenant that a child learns best within a social environment which supports each individual’s unique development. The Montessori Casa program is a 3-year program, which includes first year (preschool), second year (JK), and third year (SK). Perth Children’s House (PCH) offers children:
- a carefully prepared child-centered environment
- mixed-age groups
- an opportunity to progress at the child’s own pace
- activity-based learning
- freedom and responsibility
- cooperation and collaboration – not competition
The Montessori program provides opportunities, challenges, and experiences through which the child acquires co-operative and self-guided skills, initiative, and self-expression. In addition, there are a variety of games, songs, drama, arts and crafts, and outdoor play to stimulate the child’s interests and development. Individual progress in learning and enjoyment are keynotes of the program.
The Montessori method allows children to develop skills at their own pace. There are also different “Works” which promote learning of the same skill in different ways. Progress is tracked individually and encourages proceeding through each skill at its own appropriate pace. Students are to be designated a day of the week to be taught materials or more often if possible. This ensures all students are given opportunity with new materials and have one-on-one teacher time. PCH staff invest time with and give their attention to each child, allowing relationships to grow and a better understanding of each child’s learning style and individual needs.
PCH will promote the health, safety, nutrition, and well-being of all children and teachers and staff are considerate of each child’s emotional, physical, and psychological state. Teachers and support staff will provide supportive, positive, and responsive daily interactions.
Nutrition – Healthy snacks are provided daily and a healthy Hot Lunch program is available for students at an additional cost. Teachers and support staff monitor lunches to ensure that the students are eating healthy, well-balanced foods.
Safety – All teachers and volunteers have Vulnerable Sector Checks completed before being on-site. The staff and students practice fire drills on a monthly basis to understand what to do if a fire happens. Students line up and remind themselves to be safe with their saying “…Children hold partner hands, keeping them safe and walking carefully” while walking to the library and other outings.
Health – The program provides quiet time for resting and recovery; outdoor play providing gross motor movement, fun, exploration, and recreation; practices safe and regular hand washing to ensure germs are kept at bay.
The one-on-one teaching time, as well as constant observations by PCH Educators, allows a more intimate knowledge of each child’s emotional, physical, and psychological state. Staff are conscious of modelling positive interactions and using kind words to reflect the core values of the Montessori Philosophy.
PCH views all children as competent, capable, curious, and rich in potential. All children develop at their own pace and will take different cognitive and social skills from our Montessori program. Each child will experience their own unique and individual journey while attending PCH and will be given equal opportunities in learning. As part of our Grace and Courtesies curriculum, students will be taught self-help tasks (e.g. blowing nose, independent toileting, doing zippers, effective hand-washing)
On top of providing a Montessori learning environment, we have weekly French lessons for the different levels (1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students), which have prepared students for starting Grade One (1) at the French Immersion level. Montessori students learn diverse vocabulary to emphasize fluency and comprehension as it relates to interactive themes reflecting everyday life. This is enhanced with the AIM (Accelerated Integrated Method) that incorporates gestures, songs, plays, and games to enhance the Montessori Method. The French-language learning is reinforced throughout our time together to emphasize oral communication.
Students also take part in a weekly 45 minute group music session. The music session is planned for a day of the week on which the most students from each age group are in attendance. Music is presented live mainly through voice with guitar accompaniment. Small rhythm instruments of professional quality are shared with the students. Basic techniques in rhythm, tempo, volume, and pitch are introduced throughout the year. In each music class, children are invited to listen, sing, dance, create, and play along with the shared music.
PCH plans for and provides positive and creative learning environments, both in the classroom and during outdoor play. PCH provides an environment that will allow children to take manageable risks, while allowing active play and exploration. Encouraging children to initiate and seek out their interests and actively explore and investigate their surroundings will promote a healthier growing sense of self.
In collaboration with promoting peace in our learning environment, PCH staff will observe outdoor play and allow freedom to explore their indoor and outdoor environments. PCH staff will judge if a child is in distress or needs a teacher to intervene. Our PCH philosophy is to promote and provide child-initiated and adult supported play, as well as to observe and prevent abusive, controlling, or intentionally harmful or cruel behaviour. PCH supports a stimulating, active, and interesting environment where a child may establish a true sense of self and where self-regulation is encouraged.
PCH fosters ongoing engagement and communication with families regarding our Montessori program and your child. Communication will be ongoing with the use of the HiMama app as well as through attendance of the First-Year Orientation (mandatory), and the Second-Year and Third-Year Information evenings that are organized for the parents each year. A monthly newsletter is distributed by e-mail. As a parent, you can expect ongoing feedback on your child’s progress, an invitation to participate in many aspects of school life, and an environment where parents/guardians and teachers support each other with the desire to help your child be successful.
Outside the classroom we strive to provide a diversity of activities in keeping with the philosophy of learning through play. PCH attends the public library monthly, skates weekly at the local arena during winter months, and participates in community events. We also have a variety of field trips throughout the year. There are also several events throughout the school year (BBQs, board meetings, fundraisers, a wine and cheese evening, etc.) which encourage families to become engaged with the program and community.
Perth Children’s House is committed to providing a schedule that meets the needs of parents/guardians while maintaining a learning environment consistent with Montessori philosophy. First year students may attend full days, mornings only, or a combination of both mornings only and full days. No afternoon-only half days are permitted for first-year students. Second and third year students are required to attend a minimum of three full days. They may attend afternoon-only half days when space is available, only after meeting the minimum requirement of 3 full days. They may not attend mornings-only in order to allow space for first-year students. All students must attain a minimum of three “starts” on a different day of the week.
All educators are to use electronic documentation (HiMama) to document (pictures and written explanations of observations) and communicate with families. Staff will show on a bi-weekly basis or more frequently if possible, “HOW LEARNING HAPPENS” in our Montessori Classroom. A monthly curriculum for outdoor play and monthly activities will be posted and implemented into our yard. An “Art Wall” or display area is also offered outside for completed works and to show “HOW LEARNING HAPPENS” in our yard.
PCH staff attend planned bi-weekly reflective practice meetings, monthly staff meetings, and monthly board meetings. Discussions are initiated by THINK, FEEL, ACT videos prepared by the Ministry of Education and follows the “How Does Learning Happen” Pedagogy, as well as daily student observations, books, and literature which allows teachers time to reflect on their work and to further observe the classroom and learning experience. Collaborative reflective inquiry and ongoing opportunities allow educators to engage in critical reflection and discussion with others about pedagogy and practice to support their ongoing professional learning and growth. All educators attend professional learning conferences and workshops to stay current in the field of Montessori and ECE.
PCH Educators promise to students and parents/families of PCH to ensure that all of the above stated approaches that are set out in the program statement are implemented into the daily curriculum.