In these years the pillars of the Saint Nicholas curriculum continue: The Romance Languages of Latin, Spanish, and French; the Montessori environment for 3-6 Years; and the Languages Through Phonics, NB to Age 4, our phonetic/ linguistic method of oral language, reading, and writing skills. As in all Montessori schools, the environment includes the main areas of practical life, sensorial, language, and mathematics, as well as the cultural subjects of science and geography. The Montessori environment cards have been translated into Latin, Spanish, and French, as well as English. The classrooms have computers and a printer.

The students have a Morning Prayer service daily with Bible story, and learn new hymns each week. Language activities include grace and courtesy, position and comparison, body awareness, and feelings and emotion.

Music, movement, and art are used to develop language and cognitive skills. Music theory and reading begin with the xylophone and vocalization and singing with the Kodaly technique. Drawing, painting, and molding are introduced with a variety of art activities. A courtyard and playground are designed for their age, and they have PE classes. In addition to the homeroom or Montessori teachers, students have qualified subject teachers for art, music, Spanish, French, Latin, and physical education.


In these 3 Year Old groups the Languages Through Phonics, NB-Age 4 series continues in four languages. An oral phonological awareness program, Focus, begins at this age.

The sensitive period for writing is expressed with many pre-writing activities and children write their name, working on one letter at a time. The sensitive period for reading is expressed with learning sounds, blends, and short vowel words. Little phonetic readers are begun.

Montessori key topics in mathematics and sensorial for this age are: rods/numerals, spindle box, odd/even, geometric solids, and the geometric cabinet. Montessori key topics in science are parts and function of the plant and seed, and vertebrates and invertebrates. Montessori key topics in geography are continents and oceans and the globe.

PRIMARY III, IV, and V: 4 Year or 5 Year (Bridge Class)

In these 4 Year Old groups students begin the Languages Through Phonics, Book R, and Handwriting R, are reading and writing, and have a Dictation Test each week showing what they have learned by writing dictated words, marking the sounds, and numbering the syllables. At this age they do their work in divided line composition books. The oral phonological awareness program Focus continues.

The sensitive periods of spatial relationships and mathematics begin at this age. By meeting these passions with an appropriate environment and instruction for the next two to three years, the sensitive period can culminate in achievement and a love of number sense, geometry, and problem solving.

The key topics for mathematics and sensorial for this age are cubes, boxes, teens board, tens board, hundreds board, and static addition and subtraction. The key topics for science are sink and float, parts and function of the stem and leaf, and five classes of vertebrates. The key topics for geography are the seven continents, land and water forms, North America, South America, and puzzle maps with labels and tracing.


The Absorbent Mind, by Maria Montessori, is a key writing and is recommended for parents and teachers to understand the philosophy and benefits of Montessori school. The “absorbent mind” refers to the ability of children before the age of six to absorb their environment into their being. After about age six it disappears. Lee Havis, Executive Director at International Montessori Society has said: “Whatever gains in normal being that the young child acquires through Montessori teaching before age five, is therefore LOST if before the age of six they are returned to a conventional setting, because they absorb instead that conditioning that is deviated from true normal development. Keep children in the normalizing condition until six, and the qualities of normal being will remain. Otherwise they will not.”

Maria Montessori observed a set of motivations shared by children around the world that are developmental stages that she called “sensitive periods”. A sensitive period is an overpowering force, interest, or impetus that is directing a child to particular elements in the environment. It is a passion derived from the unconscious that leads the child to conscious and creative activities. After a time the sensitive period disappears, and is never regained.

The sensitive periods identified by Maria Montessori from birth to age six

(Ages 2-6)
Spontaneous interest in the development of pitch, rhythm, and melody.

(Birth to Age 6)
From babble to words to phrases to sentences, with expanding vocabulary and comprehension.

(Birth to Age 1)
Random movements become coordinated and controlled.

(Ages 1-4)
A fixation on small objects and tiny details.

(Ages 3-5)
Spontaneous interest in the symbolic representations of the sounds of the letters and in the formation of words.

(Ages 4-6)
Forming cognitive impressions about relationships in space, including the layout of familiar places and puzzles.

(Ages 4-6)
Formation of the concepts of quantity and operations from the uses of concrete material aids.

(Ages 3-4)
Fascination with attempts to reproduce letters and numbers on paper, which precedes reading.

(Ages 2-4)
A desire for consistency and repetition and a passionate love for established routines. Children can be disturbed by disorder. The environment needs a place for everything and carefully established ground rules.

(Ages 2-6)
Fascination with sensorial experiences (taste, sound, touch, weight, smell) resulting in children making refined sensorial discriminations.

(Ages 2-6)
Imitation of polite and considerate behavior leading to an internalization of these qualities into the personality.

Keep in mind that the child’s learning during these early stages is not complete, nor has it reached the internalized abstraction stage that will develop as he grows older. It is, however, the foundation upon which much that follows will be built. Wherever this solid foundation is lacking, children will experience difficulty in learning and operating later on.

From Tim Selden, the International Montessori Council

© Margot Heard 2014

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