Our Elementary program is based on the teachings of Maria Montessori, now being used by tens of thousands of schools around the world. The curriculum is rich and varied, and includes the following:
Core subjects - English, Mathematics, Science, Geography and History - taught in an integrative way using innovative hands on learning materials
French - Daily instruction for all age levels
Music - weekly class includes vocal and instrumental
Art - weekly
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program - weekly
Outdoor Education - weekly as well as outdoor education centre program
Physical Education and Health
Drama and public speaking
Computers: keyboarding, word processing, research, coding and robotics
A fundamental part of the Montessori philosophy is that children learn best through experience and ‘doing’.
We supplement the classroom learning with school trips that give students the opportunity to really experience what they have been learning about.
Sample trips we have enjoyed over the past few years have included: the Elmvale Zoo, local farms like Rockcliffe Farm and Everdale, Ripley's Aquarium, Mono Pollinator Garden, Black Creek Pioneer Village, the local SPCA and much more
We also do a two day overnight trip every year to Teen Ranch which includes many fun activities, cooperative games and outdoor education.
Our elementary students learn how to make use of computers in their everyday lives. They do research, word processing and learn typing skills. They also learn some computer programming basics.
We also offer programs that help children learn about robotics and coding, which in turn helps develop their logic, and understanding of cause and effect.
What you can do at home to support your child’s success at school:
Often parents are concerned with developing their child's academic skills at home. In fact, research indicates that there is no benefit to homework during a child's elementary years. Just as adults benefit from leaving work behind and taking the evening to enjoy family time, pursue leisure and extra curricular activites, so too do children.
This being said, there are so many ways in which parents can enrich and support what their children are learning at school. It needs to be recongnized that most of the activities you regularly engage in at home with your child contribute strongly to their academic success, and are actually a better support than academic homework.
The following are research-backed, strongest correlates of student success:
- Reading to and with your child every day is the most important way you can support his or her education. Reading will help your child develop a good vocabulary, but more importantly, a love of reading will develop critical thinking and open the world of independent learning up to your child.
- Eating meals together and engaging in family discussions is vitally important to children’s emotional well-being and social/verbal development.
- Talking to your child at night before they go to sleep – This is a good time to ask your child questions about their feelings. Children who feel emotionally supported and secure are able to devote their brains to learning rather than to anxiety. Ask questions, validate emotions no matter what they are, and remember that it is not necessary to solve their problems – only to acknowledge your child’s grappling with the circumstances of life. You can ask your child if he or she has any ideas on how to deal with something. This conveys trust in your child’s emotional capacity.
- Playing in nature supports the development of attention skills, emotional resources and grounding, as well as gross motor skills. This is particularly true when there are trees, rocks to climb, and trails to hike. Nature is a much stronger supporter of this development than playground structures, but any daily outside play is better than none.
- Having your child assume responsibility for particular chores is vitally important at all ages: tasks could include watering plants, care of an animal, shovelling snow, lining up boots, setting the table, doing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, preparing a meal, etc. Research shows that children who feel like they contribute to their family in some way are much happier beings and less likely to develop depression later in life.
- Lots of unstructured play time develops creativity and emotional development.
- Having strong limits around screen time is critical. This is about giving a child what they need rather than what they want. You will need to monitor what your child is being exposed to and draw boundaries. Children are highly susceptible to developing addictions around electronics and television. We need to be their supports around this until they are able to monitor themselves. More and more research is emerging on the negative impacts of electronic use on children’s emotional, physical and mental well-being.
- Involvement in sports or other physical activities promotes physical and social development, both important for health and brain development.
- Healthy nutrition is fundamental: Avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and colours, preservatives, fast foods and a lot of white flour products. Ensure that your child is getting a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, as well as good fats and proteins through whole foods.
- Plenty of sleep is critical and often the source of unrecognized stress in a child’s life is a lack of sleep. In a time of so much electronic stimulation sleep needs to be protected. Electronics should be discontinued a minimum of an hour prior to sleep as the direct light can affect a child’s ability to fall asleep. If your child wakes up easily and on his own in the morning, you know he is getting enough sleep.
- Your own participation in school activities as well as interest in what your child is learning are strong supports for home-school integration and deeply benefit your child.
Other activities you can do at home to promote your child’s development and support school success include:
Doing things together with your child in any capacity support self-confidence and esteem: e.g. building a deck, baking, gardening, creating art, camping, hiking, biking etc.
Cutting and colouring support early writing and fine motor development.
Cooking and baking support math development and fine motor development.
Learning to make purchases and make change supports mathematical understanding.
Learning an instrument has been associated with mathematical development and development of perseverance.
Please note that routine assignment of homework is not given as a matter of course at our school. We feel that, for the most part, children work very hard at school and benefit from engaging in other activities after school. The exception is if an Upper Elementary or Middle School child has not completed his work due to distraction or lack of effort. In such a case, it is a natural consequence to have to complete this at home. Another exception is the occasional project that is more home-based. We do recommend that caution be exercised with doing schoolwork at home, because it is important that children feel refreshed and ready to learn when at school. In particular, we find that children who have ‘worked’ in the morning before school seldom wish to work at school. Additionally, much of our instruction requires the use of Montessori materials and it may be a source of confusion to work at home without the materials.
Montessori classrooms always include children of mixed ages. This is equally beneficial both for the development of the younger and the older students in the group. The younger children are naturally drawn to learn what their older cohorts are learning. They observe and emulate the older ones, in the process activating and consolidating their own learning. Confidence, self esteem and mastery learning arise in the older ones who can offer mentoring and assistance to their younger classmates.
The other aspect of a mixed age classroom is that students are less likely to compare themselves with others. Students understand that everyone is at a different place in their learning. They are more likely to help one another and true collaboration is the result.
We have a number of special days throughout the school year. Most of the evening events are held on Thursday nights and are held early in the evening so that children can still get to bed on time. Please check out the school calendar on our website for exact dates and times: www.headwaterhills.org/calendar
- Welcome Back Orientation and Potluck – Early September - An opportunity to meet new families and hear news about what the school year will bring.
- Terry Fox Run – end of September – Parent volunteers are welcome to help out with our trail run at the school!
- Photo Day is held each year during the Fall term. The photographer takes a picture of the entire class as well as individual pictures. You are not obligated to purchase these, but they do make wonderful memories of your child’s early school days. You will receive a class photo free of charge regardless of whether you make a purchase.
- For Halloween, we hold a parade during regular school hours on the 31st of October (or on the Friday closest to the 31st). If your child wishes to participate in the parade he or she may come to school dressed in a simple costume that allows for easy access to the bathroom. Please send a bag along with regular clothing as we change to play outside.
- Remembrance Day – On years when this falls on a school day we hold a short student assembly in recognition of this day. Students will receive a poppy and are asked to bring in a small donation.
- Literary Tea – In November we hold our Literary Tea. This is an afternoon event where we welcome parents, grandparents and friends to listen to poems, stories and speeches created by the students. We share some treats that the students bake as well as tea, of course!
- Celebration of Light - On the Thursday evening before the Christmas vacation begins, we hold the Celebration of Light. At the school, we teach tolerance and inclusivity towards all religions and cultural traditions. Our Celebration of Light is a time to recognize and share our true and essential nature as human beings, and to celebrate the spirit of our community. We sing songs and the children work together to create their own skits. We welcome family and friends to this event.
- International Day – This is an event held during the day, usually in February, and is just for our students. We choose a different continent every year for all of the classes to study. On International Day we share the food, art, and culture of this continent. 2021/22 is the year of Asia!
- Children’s Demonstration Evening – Just prior to the March Break we hold our Children’s Demonstration Evening. This is an opportunity for your child to show you his or her favourite materials and perhaps give you a lesson (or two!). The Elementary students also make presentations to Casa parents so that they get a taste for what our program offers in future years. Dalanda will show you some of what happens in French class at this time too.
- Spring Soiree – This is a very special tradition for us and we invite all families to attend. It is an evening where the students present plays in both French and English.
- Track and Field Meet – For Elementary and Middle School students, held at Montessori Country School in Nobleton. We all wear an HHMS team track and field t-shirt for this day and will notify you when it is time to order your t-shirt.
- Overnight Field Trip – Elementary and Middle School usually go on an overnight field trip. For Elementary students, this is usually to an educational field centre. For the Middle School, it might be an educational field centre, a camping excursion or a city trip.
- Graduation – We recognize the students who are graduating from Casa to Elementary and the students who are leaving our school for high school. The whole school is involved in presentations of various kinds.
- Science Fair – Elementary and Middle School students put together science experiments and demonstrations for the parents.
- Last Day of School – We have a special fun day with games for the students to participate in.
At Headwater Hills Montessori School, we are very fortunate to be located on several acres of naturalized land, which includes nature trails, a wooded area, meadowland, seasonal marsh, and a sand pit. On certain days, we spend a more extended period of time in our diverse natural environments, participating in outdoor learning. Elementary students spend time on a weekly basis, Forest Friday, participating in a nature-based outdoor education curriculum. This may include shelter building, creating a bird feeder, nature walks and scavenger hunts, nature art, campfire and much more. All of our students are outside in all kinds of weather and in order for it to be an enjoyable experience for the children, it is very important that they are appropriately dressed to stay warm and dry.
There are huge benefits to allowing the students to explore and enjoy these semi-wild lands. Exposure to a natural landscape over a long period of time greatly improves both fine and gross motor skills. The important skills of self-regulation and risk assessment are developed. Cognitive skills (exploration, application of lessons, cause and effect, mindfulness...) are used, improved, and taken back into the classroom. Also, this type of experience allows the students to develop socially in their interpersonal skills.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) means the processes by which children acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to:
- recognize and manage their emotions,
- experience and show genuine care and concern for others
- establish positive relationships and utilize strong communication skills
- make responsible decisions and
- constructively handle challenging social situations
At HHMS we feel that social emotional learning is equal in importance to academic learning and needs to be integrated in our curriculum. Just as we don't expect children to be able to do advanced algebra when they are first learning math, we recognize that social emotional learning requires a curriculum too and involves a great deal of instruction and practice. In addition to teaching a weekly SEL program, we take every opportunity when there is conflict between children or when a child is having strong feelings to develop each child's capacity for communication and self understanding. The result is emotionally resilient children with strong communication skills.
We offer our students a rich and varied program of physical exercise. It is becoming ever more important, in this society of computers and televisions, that we teach our children to value and enjoy physical exercise. We want our students to know the joy of feeling confident and competent in their physical bodies.
For many of our physical education activities we go out into the community to take advantage of different kinds of facilities and expert teachers in the fields. Depending on the year, we offer soccer, volleyball, badminton, downhill and cross country skiing, squash, tennis, fitness, yoga, bouldering, rock climbing, curling, hiking, cross country running, gymnastics and dance. We also do a track and field meet with other Montessori schools in the spring.
As you can see, our students enjoy a varied and active physical education program designed to develop their bodies, their love of movement, and their confidence.