Why do you suggest a five day-a-week program for children at Summit?

The Montessori pedagogy maintains that consistency is incredibly important, particularly while the child is in a sensitive period for order.  A five day program allows the children to gain a sense of consistency and predictability, the ability to build trust, and an opportunity to develop relationships with the adults and peers in the classroom.

Why do you group different age children in the same class?

Maria Montessori believed that having mixed-age grouping in a classroom provided important opportunities for students to share experiences, learn collaboratively, and mentor one another.  Summit students have a range of abilities and interests that make the classrooms dynamic and exciting places to learn.  Students come to know each other like family, supporting one another when needed and celebrating triumphs together.  One parent shared, “This is a fantastic way to encourage a child to be a mentor to their peers while at the same time giving them the confidence they often need to complete a task themselves.” Since only one third of the students are new to a classroom each year, returning students are role models beginning in the fall; the older students enjoy welcoming new classmates to their community.

I have heard that Montessori classrooms have no structure, is that true?

Montessori classrooms have an inherent structure that the prepared environment provides.  Our teachers work very hard to establish child-centered classrooms that allow students to make choices throughout the day. In addition to teaching the basics, our teachers help students understand themselves as learners, pursue their own interests, work at their own pace, and choose challenging work.  The sequenced curriculum in practical life, sensorial, mathematics, language and cultural subjects offers each child a broad range of concepts to discover, explore, and master.  Our curriculum is developmental; we embrace the fact that children learn in different ways and at different times.  Our teachers observe their students and present relevant work when each child is most ready.

Elementary students use a weekly work plan to help them develop organization and time management skills.  The work plan provides an outline of required tasks, but the students choose the order in which they accomplish those tasks.  The work plan gives students a chance to make independent work choices and research their own individual areas of interest.  At the elementary level, teachers use the individual work plans to ensure that students acquire essential skills while allowing for individual passions. Using their individual work plans, students share what they have learned with their peers, thereby teaching one another.

How can Montessori teachers meet the needs of so many different children?

Our teachers are trained to be astute observers and to make curricular decisions based on the individual child and his/her interests.  In Beginners and Children’s House, teachers give lessons on a one-to-one basis.  Since teachers have students for three years, they come to know their students’ personalities, strengths and challenges.  This level of knowledge allows teachers to create a curriculum plan that is specific to each child and give each child the gift of time to master important skills and tasks.

Elementary students are in a new plane of development, and their curiosity and imagination are ignited by the world around them. They are ready to tackle big questions and big ideas, and to work collaboratively in new groups.

Is there testing done at Summit Montessori?

Assessment is an ongoing process in a Montessori classroom.  Children show mastery of materials in various ways: making presentations, teaching other students, and answering the questions their peers or teachers ask.  Teachers formally assess students individually in reading, spelling and writing.  Students in third through sixth grades take standardized tests (called ERBs) in the spring of each year.  Montessori students approach new tasks with highly developed skills and confidence; our experience is that the students in Montessori programs overall have excellent results on standardized tests.

Since there are no letter grades given, how will I know my child is progressing?

Summit holds parent-teacher conferences twice a year. At this time parents and teachers share their goals, their observations, and an understanding of the strengths and challenges of each student.  Since the child is in the same class for three years, a true partnership develops between the families and the teaching teams.  Families also receive an extensive progress report twice yearly.  In addition, our teachers are happy to schedule additional conference time by phone or in person, as needed.

Is there homework?

Children in Lower and Upper Elementary do have homework assignments.  In Lower Elementary homework comes home once a week and families are encouraged to help their child establish a plan for completing the homework over the course of a week.  Some homework involves specific skills the child needs to practice; other homework may involve completing an activity that the student started in class.

In the Upper Elementary, homework varies as students take on additional project work.  Homework may involve creating a PowerPoint for students in class research or completing a lengthy class assignment at home.  Teachers may assign individualized practice for areas such as math facts, spelling or Spanish, as needed, usually in conjunction with the parents.  Upper Elementary students are expected to read a minimum of 30 minutes each night, and record their reading in their daily planners. There are times when Upper Elementary teachers may assign homework designed to support a specific area of study and may require a written response.

How do teachers communicate with families?

In addition to the school-wide Monday Update that goes out every week, teachers in the Beginners and Children’s House classrooms email a classroom newsletter each week. Newsletters from the Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary classrooms are monthly. The newsletters include photographs of the students at work and describe group lessons and activities that are happening in the classrooms.

There are four touchpoints during the year when parents families receive information about their particular child – two parent/teacher conferences and two detailed progress reports.

In general, Summit teachers are always happy to share information via email, by phone, or by scheduling an in-person meeting.

Are there field trips or opportunities for children to learn outside the classroom?

Children’s House students have a field trip in the fall. Elementary students have multiple opportunities to go into the community and take field trips during the school year. Upper Elementary students take a multi-day trip to Nature’s Classroom in the fall, and travel to New York City for Montessori Model United Nations in the spring.

Do the children spend time outdoors?

Beginners and Children’s House students spend at least an hour outside each day.  Teachers regularly provide opportunities for gardening, nature walks, and outdoor journaling.

Elementary students have an extended outdoor time after lunch.  They also enjoy gardening, nature studies and science activities outside on Summit’s developing NatureScape.

Are there opportunities for families get involved at Summit?

We encourage all families to get involved at school; it enhances the experience for all.  We have a very active Summit Montessori Parents’ Association (SMPA) which plans and hosts many wonderful family events throughout the year.  Parents may also help teachers by chaperoning field trips, making materials and presenting to the class.  Summit also has a number of school-wide committees on which parents may serve.  And finally, our Board of Trustees is comprised of volunteers – current parents, alumni parents, and friends from the greater community.

What role does technology play at Summit?

Technology plays a role in everyone’s life today, not only in the tools we use but in the way in which we interact with the world.  Students in the Beginners and Children’s House are just starting to think about the world around them, and do so in a creative way.  These students are learning to use scientific materials such as magnifying glasses and binoculars.  They are learning to observe the environment around them.  They do simple experiments, create hypotheses and record their findings.

In the elementary years, students are introduced to a more formal scientific method.  They learn to write lab reports and to use computers for a variety of activities.  Students of this age come to school already skilled in some technologies; they work at their own pace to add to their technical repertoires.  Peer-to-peer teaching happens frequently as our students show a classmate how to create a graph or build a spreadsheet.

Summit’s technology task force is currently investigating how to integrate additional tools and materials into the already rich Montessori curriculum.

Does my elementary school-age child need to have had Montessori preschool experience in order to enter Summit at first grade or higher?

No, a Montessori preschool background is not necessary to be admitted to and succeed at Summit. Once here, new students readily learn how to use the Montessori-based materials used in the classroom.

How can I be sure that my child will feel comfortable in a Montessori classroom?

Come visit! Our classrooms are child-centered and that is easily recognizable to all students. All applicants will have the opportunity to visit Summit and spend time in the classroom appropriate to the grade-level they would be entering.

Is it true that students select their own work?

Students are involved in active choice-making at all levels of our program. This supports the development of self-directed learners who engage deeply in the process of their learning. It boosts concentration, motivation, and helps students to take responsibility for their work. That having been said, our Montessori environments are not totally free-choice classrooms. For younger children, choices are shaped by the materials that are present in the environment and by the teachers’ perceptions of a student’s readiness for a given material or lesson. Older students take responsibility for managing their time through completion of “work plans” that guide the student toward challenging activity in all areas of the curriculum, but also allow the learner to choose how and when s/he will complete a given task. With choice comes responsibility, and this responsibility builds as each child develops. Read more about our programs here.

How is physical education integrated into the program?

Physical education is part of the Kindergarten, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary curricula on a weekly basis throughout the academic year. Our program provides for seasonal activities and is reviewed annually. Past activities have included Frozen Ropes, yoga, and martial arts. In addition, all students participate in outdoor recess on a daily basis, weather permitting.

How do students transition from elementary school at Summit to public and private middle schools?

When students graduate from Summit, they are well prepared for further studies. In nearly a dozen years of graduations, our students have successfully transitioned to a variety of public and private schools. Among our graduates are National Merit Scholars at the semi-finalist and finalist levels as well as recipients of National Latin Exam honors, humanitarian and writing awards, art awards from the Small Independent School Arts League, and a special citation for outstanding musicianship from the International Association of Jazz Educators. Visit the Summit Alumni page here to see where students go after leaving Summit.

Does Summit have a cut-off date for Kindergarten like many schools in the area?

Yes, we do. We are licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care and are expected to follow their guidelines of respecting the September 1 deadline for turning five before entering Kindergarten. Those students who are three when they begin in Children’s House will be five by that date. Those entering before three years of age may spend an additional year in Children’s House. The classroom has materials for math, language, and cultural studies that allow children to explore up to a third grade level. Students are always challenged and allowed to progress at their own rate.

Does Summit provide foreign language instruction?

Foreign language instruction at Summit begins at the age of three with Spanish. Our Spanish teacher goes into the Children’s House classrooms to teach these young students. Beginning in Lower Elementary, the children participate in Spanish twice a week. They are placed in groups based on their experience with Spanish.

Could you describe Summit's art and music programs?

Summit integrates both visual and performing arts into the classrooms as well as in separate classes with a team of dedicated specialists who mentor our students. Beginning at the age of 3, all students participate in music each week. Upper Elementary students are also part of the Summit Band. Beginning in Kindergarten, all students have art class each week. Additionally, elementary students can choose to go to Studio Art on particular afternoons each week to work on projects that will be included in their independent research presentations. Each spring, Summit hosts a Night of the Arts when students showcase what they have been working on.

Does Summit offer extended care and after-school enrichment classes?

Yes. Summit offers both an early care and after care program each day. Early care is available from 7:00–8:15 a.m. and after care is available until 5:00 p.m. for Beginners and until 5:30 p.m. for the rest of the students.

Do you have a nurse on staff?

Yes, we are very fortunate to have Liz LaRocque serve as our full-time school nurse. She not only monitors the general health and records of the students, but also provides hearing and vision screenings. She teaches our health curriculum to Upper Elementary students and gives lessons to all students on oral health, nutrition, and the importance of good personal hygiene.

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