Curious how we are different?

It’s a Mixed Age Classroom

Because the Montessori curriculum is individualized, your child can work at his or her own pace while participating in a mixed age classroom community. Your younger child learns by observing the behavior and activities of the older children. Your older child gains self-confidence, leadership skills and responsibility by setting an example for her younger friends.

The Gift of Choice

Your child will be introduced to a broad range of concepts and activities in individual and small group lessons. The real learning, however, occurs through independent activity by choosing to explore it, repeat it and perfect it.

A Deep Connection Between Teacher and Child

Our AMS certified teachers choose this career because of their love for children and dedication to Montessori. Their depth of training and knowledge is amplified by the joyful and deep relationship they develop with your child throughout the three-year journey together.

Beautiful Hands-On Materials Help Your Child Learn

The scientifically designed Montessori materials help your child learn through hands-on use and exploration. Through continued use, he develops as a concrete understanding of abstract concepts, such as mathematics, providing a solid foundation for learning into the future.

Group Activities and Play

While most of the day is spent in self-directed work, there are also times for group activity and play. The teacher may gather a group for songs or to tell stories about a cultural, scientific or historical theme of interest. Ample time is also given to run, dig, explore and play with friends outdoors.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Instead of a top down curriculum based upon age, the teacher is trained to respect your child’s unique potential and connects him with the lesson best suited at that precise moment of development. Your child will be challenged according to her ability, not to a generic standard.

The Children’s House

The teacher works to perfect the environment – in it, your child works to perfect him or herself. Our teachers put tremendous care and attention to detail into the classroom with low shelves, beautiful artwork, books and cultural items of interest to pique your child’s interest and stimulate his senses. The children respond by developing a sense of classroom ownership and a drive to care for it, further deepening the bonds of the community and their quest to learn.

Essential Skills for a Successful Life

The Primary classroom is designed to help your child become his best self. Through “grace and courtesy” activities, we teach your child how to solve conflicts, how to act politely in social situations and how to be kind and helpful to friends.

Kindergarten Included

Montessori is a continuum of education that allows your child to build upon experiences each year. Your child will stay in the Primary classroom for 3 years, including the traditional “kindergarten year” – when the seeds of learning come to fruition. Reading and writing come to life from sounds and symbols. She is introduced to numbers and the decimal system. She learns about geometric figures and the political countries of our world. She leaves the program with a strong set of academic skills; but, far more importantly, with the attitude that learning is fun, exciting and boundless.

International “Sing Peace Around the World” Event

All of the students from Educational Horizons Charter School and Country Day for Children participated in the International “Sing Peace Around the World” event on Friday, September 21st, on their campus in West Melbourne.  The students were led in song and the accompanying sign language by first and second grade teacher, Heidi Murphy.  This is a yearly event when children from schools all around the world sing for peace.  They join together for this historic day, “That our wish for world peace will one day come true!”

As the Montessori schools around the world gathered at their scheduled time, in their own time zones, and sang the same song, “Light a Candle for Peace” written by Shelley Murley, the website, posted a candle on the global map, marking their school.  It was fun for the students to watch the progression of the candles lighting all around the world in unity for their wish for world peace.

What Types of Sound Experiences Enable Children to Learn Best?

Originally published on KQED News.

By Linda Flanagan twitter_icon

What Types of Sound Experiences Enable Children to Learn Best?
Nina Kraus, a biologist at Northwestern University, has spent the better part of her professional career researching how sound affects the brain. What she’s found has important implications for how adults and children manage the sounds that envelop them. “Sound is invisible, but it’s a tremendously powerful force,” said Kraus. “For better or worse, it shapes your brain and how you learn.”

At Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Kraus and colleagues measure how the brain responds when various sounds enter the ear. They’ve found that the brain reacts to sound in microseconds, and that brain waves closely resemble the sound waves. Making sense of sound is one of the most “computationally complex” functions of the brain, Kraus said, which explains why so many language and other disorders, including autism, reveal themselves in the way the brain processes sound. The way the brain responds to the “ingredients” of sound—pitching, timing and timbre—is a window into brain health and learning ability.

Kraus has learned that the brain’s response to sound in children as young as three is predictive of their ability to read. Her lab can also identify those children who are likely to struggle to read before those kids show signs of the language disorder. This kind of forecasting, Kraus said, could help schools and parents direct resources where they’re needed most. The brain changes in response to the sounds it’s processing; a three-year-old’s brain can adapt if the sound environment is altered.

Though every brain has its own fingerprint for processing sound, some sound environments are better than others at promoting learning. Parents and teachers should “encourage activities that promote sound-to-meaning development,” Kraus said. She offers several practical suggestions for creating that kind of space, whether at home or in school:

Reduce noise. Chronic background noise is associated with several auditory and learning problems: it contributes to “neural noise,” wherein brain neurons fire spontaneously in the absence of sound; it reduces the brain’s sensitivity to sound; and it slows auditory growth. A study of two different third grade classrooms–one overlooking a highway and the other beside a quiet field–found substantially better learning outcomes for kids in the quieter room. Because income and noise exposure are correlated—the lower the income, often, the louder the environment—finding pockets of quiet are that much more important for disadvantaged children. In school, this means building a quiet classroom, with acoustics in mind.

Read aloud. Even before kids are able to read themselves, hearing stories told by others develops vocabulary and builds working memory; to understand how a story unfolds, listeners, need to remember what was said before. For children growing up in poverty, exposure to the spoken word is especially valuable, as studies suggest that these children tend to hear up to 30 million fewer words by the age of five. There’s no reason to stop reading stories aloud once kids can read for themselves. “Being read to is wonderful,” Kraus said, especially if the bulk of one’s day is spent hunched over a laptop or buried in a book. Hearing well-told stories can take a student away from her routine dilemmas and deliver her to a different world.

Encourage children to play a musical instrument. “There is an explicit link between making music and strengthening language skills, so that keeping music education at the center of curricula can pay big dividends for children’s cognitive, emotional, and educational health,” Kraus said. Two years of music instruction in elementary and even secondary school can trigger biological changes in how the brain processes sound, which in turn affects language development.

Listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Well-told stories can draw kids in and build attention skills and working memory. The number and quality of these recordings has exploded in recent years, making it that much easier to find a good fit for individuals and classes. “There’s a tremendous amount of didactic information in audio format,” Kraus said. Teachers can include listening exercises as part of their curriculum. In Kraus’s course on the biological foundations of speech and music, for example, she assigns a podcast from the WNYC program “RadioLab” The Walls of Jericho, to help students better understand decibels.

Support learning a second language. Growing up in a bilingual environment causes a child’s brain to manage two languages at once. The challenge required to make sense of two different languages bolsters the connection between auditory and neural processes, strengthening the brain’s ability to focus. Second-language learning is also associated with improvements in executive function.

Avoid white noise machines. In an effort to soothe children to sleep, some parents set up sound machines in bedrooms. These devices, which emit “meaningless sound,” as Kraus put it, can interfere with how the brain develops sound-processing circuitry. “A child’s brain is always seeking meaning,” she said. “If you give them meaningless sound, it may have a disruptive effect on their brain organization.”

Use the spread of technology to your advantage. Rather than bemoan the constant bleeping and chirping of everyday life, much of it the result of technological advances, welcome the new sound opportunities these developments provide. Technologies that shrink the globalized world enable second-language learning. Online videos allow aspiring musicians to listen and learn from others who are playing the same piece. The ease of travel invites opportunities to hear other types of sounds that might not be typical in a local environment. Assistive listening devices can help offset hearing loss and language disorders. Judicious use of technological progress can be used to build effective sound-to-meaning connections. And noise-cancelling headphones or simple earplugs can be deployed as needed to shut down the unwanted sounds that some technologies emit.

Cynthia Thomas builds The Montessori Group into a thriving enterprise

Cynthia Thomas builds The Montessori Group into a thriving enterprise
Educator and businesswoman Cynthia Thomas is head of schools for The Montessori Group, which has campuses in Indian Harbour Beach, Suntree, and Rockledge. She also owns the preschool Country Day for Children in West Melbourne. Thomas started one of the first charter schools in the region, Educational Horizons Charter School. She once owned 14 Montessori schools in Florida and Georgia. Thomas earned her master’s degree in education, with a Montessori specialization, from Chaminade University in Hawaii. She is at The Montessori Group’s flagship campus in Indian Harbour Beach.
Photo courtesy of Brevard Business News

By Ken Datzman, Brevard Business News

Long ago while living in Hawaii, Albert and Cynthia Thomas decided to enroll their two young children in a Montessori school. That decision not only brought them closer to the philosophy and learning concepts of Montessori education, but it also put them on the path to building a highly successful business in Florida and Georgia.

Cynthia Thomas led the effort more than 30 years ago and is seen as a pioneer in Montessori education in this region. She once owned 14 Montessori schools, including three in Tallahassee and one in Georgia. Cynthia Thomas still owns Seminole Montessori in Tallahassee, in addition to a portfolio of such schools in Brevard County that are attended by more than 350 students.

“We are very proud of what we have built over the last 33 years,” said businesswoman Cynthia Thomas, head of schools for The Montessori Group, which has its flagship campus on Banana River Drive.

“Our former students are out in the world doing great things. We have terrific teachers and staff at all of our schools. They are dedicated to the Montessori Method. The average staff tenure is close to 20 years. We are very fortunate in that regard, and it’s how we’ve been able to build a really strong group of schools.”

Her schools’ programs emphasize science, mathematics, language, and research. The classrooms have unique Montessori learning materials, meticulously arranged. The materials are displayed on accessible shelves, fostering independence as students go about their work. Montessori education is a hands–on approach to learning.

The materials provide “passages to abstraction,” and introduce concepts that become increasingly complex. Each material teaches a single skill or a single concept, one at a time. “Three–dimensional grammar” symbols, for instance, help elementary students analyze sentence structure and style.

There are small tables and seats for the children in the classrooms. “But we allow the children to move about in the classroom all day,” she said. Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop “order, coordination, concentration, and independence.”

In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory–motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experiences, such as seeing, hearing, and touching, said Cynthia Thomas.

The classes include multi–age groups of children that foster peer learning, and uninterrupted blocks of work time for the children. The teacher, the child, and the environment create a “learning triangle.”

Computers and laboratories are a central part of the learning experiences, too, as are field trips. “One of our most popular field trips is to St. Augustine. Our third– and fourth–grade classes go there every other year.”

Her students have excelled competing in the local Science Fair. “We do very well in the Science Fair. We have a very strong science program. The projects are a year–long undertaking,” she said.

The students start their projects early and have “log checks” along the way and various deadlines to meet. Once they have their projects completed, they go around and make presentations to the different classes, and they do that multiple times.

“They eventually present their projects to a ‘judge’ at our school. We tell the kids you have to be able to sell your project to a judge. When we choose the projects that will go on to compete in the District, we refine the work and even teach the students how to walk across the stage and accept an award. The Science Fair competition gives our students some wonderful life skills.”

On this day, one youngster in the classroom at the Indian Harbour Beach Montessori Especially for Children was busy tracking the tropical storm Fiona that was moving across the central Atlantic Ocean. He had his official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracking map. His lines were drawn on the chart and his projections made. He stood up in front of his classmates and gave a detailed analysis of his forecast, with the confidence of a certified meteorologist.

“The Montessori Method teaches children at the earliest age how to learn, how to research, how to think on their feet, how to speak in front of their classmates and in front of people, and much more,” said Cynthia Thomas. “Montessori education offers children opportunities to develop their potential step–by–step, to be engaged, competent, and responsible. Our own children have seen the fruits of this type of education.”

The Thomas’ two children have gone on to successes in life. Dr. Leslie Thomas is a board–certified veterinary surgeon in Tampa. It was her life–long ambition, her mother said. Jeff Thomas is a local entrepreneur who owns Comfort Air Inc., a well–known business in Brevard County.

Cynthia Thomas said their children’s launching pad to success was Montessori education.

“When we were in Hawaii and our children were in a Montessori school they had an incredible educational experience. I said, ‘Wow! If every child had this type of experience there would be no learning failures.’ It teaches through all the modalities. Montessori really brings out the giftedness in every child. It’s amazing what happens.”

Cynthia Thomas said she was intrigued by the Montessori philosophy, so she enrolled in Chaminade University in Hawaii, where her husband was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. That university specializes in training Montessori teachers. She graduated from Chaminade University with a master’s degree in education, with a Montessori specialization.

Later, with her husband at her side, who retired from the military and once was a commander at the Eastern Test Range at Patrick Air Force base, the two devoted their energies to Montessori education, creating a network of schools in the area. Albert Thomas is the chief financial officer for The Montessori Group, which they operate.

The Montessori Group provides “child–centered” education for students ages 1 to 12. Their group includes the Indian Harbour Beach Montessori Especially for Children, with an enrollment of about 130 students, from 18 months through sixth grade; Suntree Montessori, where 30 youngsters are in the 3– to 6–year–old program; and Rockledge Montessori, a kindergarten program for ages 1 through 6, which has some 80 students.

The Montessori Group will host Open House Week from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sept. 12–16, and 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 14. The phone numbers for the individual schools are: Indian Harbour Beach Montessori (777–1480), Suntree Montessori (254–7500), and Rockledge Montessori (639–2266).

In 1983, they started their enterprise in one small facility they built in Indian Harbour Beach, near Charlie & Jake’s Barbecue on East Eau Gallie Boulevard. The program was so popular they had to offer “double sessions.”

Two years later, to accommodate growth, their business built a facility on Banana River Drive in Indian Harbour Beach, which is now the main campus for The Montessori Group. “We opened in 1986 at that location with one building and we’ve had four expansions since,” she said.

The pretty, wooded campus features two playgrounds and a basketball gymnasium, which includes a theater where all students participate. “We have a tremendous sports program and have won a lot of honors. I think that our sports teams excel because the students are taught in the classrooms how to work in teams. They learn the importance of teamwork.”

Cynthia Thomas was one of the first education entrepreneurs in this area to start a charter school. In the late 1990s, she founded the public Educational Horizons Charter School in West Melbourne, and is still involved with that venture. About 120 students are enrolled there.

The school serves kindergarten through sixth–graders, utilizing a Montessori elementary curriculum. Educational Horizons Charter School was recently ranked the 37th best school of its kind in the state. “We are proud of that ranking.”

Also on that same West Melbourne campus is the private preschool Country Day for Children Montessori School, which Cynthia Thomas owns.

Her schools hold a range of affiliations and accreditations. For example, Indian Harbour Beach Montessori is American Montessori Society–affiliated, and accredited by the National Independent Private Schools Association, and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In the last 15 years, interest in Montessori education has surged across America, including in the local market. This interest is evident in the rise of research on these types of programs, increased mainstream press, and the opening of new Montessori schools.

“We have seen tremendous growth at our schools,” said Cynthia Thomas. “The visibility of the Montessori name has risen in communities around the nation as more parents come to embrace the program and enroll their children in these types of schools. Montessori is a time–tested, proven method of education.”

She added, “The concept was started more than 100 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. She was the first female physician in Italy. Dr. Montessori was a great observer of children. Part of the Montessori Method is to serve the child and watch how they learn. It’s a child–centered approach to learning.”

Since 2000, more than 300 new Montessori programs have opened, not only in the private sector but also in the public sector. Scientific research confirms that Montessori children have an advantage not only academically, but also in social and emotional development.

Cynthia Thomas said her students score in the “top percentile on testing.” They use the “Iowa Test of Basic Skills,” which is standardized testing.

In the early 1990s charter schools were introduced in America. Then came the expansion of choice options in many urban school districts. Now a growing number of parents and educators are seeking alternatives to conventional public–school education, and many are turning to the Montessori schools.

Dr. Montessori observed that children experience “sensitive periods,” or “windows of opportunity,” as they grow, said Cynthia Thomas. As their students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials to these “sensitive periods” when learning is most naturally occurring.

“One of the hallmarks of Montessori education is multi–age groupings in the classrooms,” said Cynthia Thomas.

“There are many advantages. For instance, the younger children learn from the older children in the classroom. When a 3–year–old hears a 4–year–old or a 5–year–old working on sounds to reading, he or she is listening. It’s common to see the students of different ages working together. The older students enjoy mentoring the younger students.”

In the elementary years, the child continues to organize his thinking through work with the Montessori learning materials and interdisciplinary curriculum as he or she passes from the concrete to the abstract. The student begins applying their knowledge to real–world experiences.

“We feel that our curriculum does everything for us,” said Cynthia Thomas. “Montessori is one of the most trusted education plans. I only see Montessori education growing in scope in the future.”