Montessori Middle School at Charles Towne Montessori
Our new Middle School
After much dreaming and planning, Charles Towne Montessori is opening the doors to a new middle school program. CTM is a well established AMI certified Montessori school that has served families in the Lowcountry since 1972. Yet the continuum for ages 12-18 was always on the minds of teachers and parents. This year will form the bridge year between upper elementary and adolescence and the very first 7th-grade class will enter a brand new building in 2020-2021.
What is Montessori Middle School?
Most families entering their children into a Montessori Middle School program are already familiar with the Montessori philosophy and model. It is strikingly different than a traditional program. The focus is on the whole child, providing a nurturing environment for the care of self equally with academics. For more information on the toddler, primary and elementary programs offered at CTM, you can visit our main page here.
Montessori for middle school uses these same principles but keeps the needs and characteristics of the 12-18-year old in mind. There are many ways in which the adolescent is different from the elementary child in both body and mind.
Puberty is one obvious difference. Children grow rapidly, have new hormones in their bodies, and different needs to meet. They need more sleep, have emotional outbursts, and are literally growing into a new body.
What is less obvious is the adolescent’s emerging outlook on the world. Students begin to see social circles and the intricate construction of a community. They begin to ask questions like “Where did we come from?” and “Where do I fit in?” Montessori called the 12-18 year-olds “Social Newborns” for this very reason.
These two factors cause a whole slew of new problems to solve. Suddenly, the child now views himself as an adult. He struggles with inner turmoil and anxiety about his place in the world while at the same time is driven to make deeper connections with peers. Social and physical needs conflict with academic needs. This conflict can extend to home life with parents who still view the child as…well, a child.
Educating the Adolescent
Montessori for middle school takes into consideration the transformation that is happening within the child. It provides rigorous academics, as adult-like in quality as possible, while giving equal regard to their exploration of society. Montessori believed it was best if the child was able to separate from the family, create a micro-society, and explore different roles until the difficulty of transition has eased. Here are some of the basic principles of educating the adolescent—and in particular the middle school student (12-15):
- Ideally, the environment and experiences provide a way for students to separate themselves from their childhood identity. Some Montessori schools are boarding schools for this reason. For non-boarding school options, it’s important to give students experience in practical life skills away from the family. These skills are taught during odyssey trips, daily field trips, responsibilities within the classroom and garden/farm, and even specialists.
- Students are in charge of their environments and have opportunities for practical work that accompany their academic studies. For example, rather than reading about the four stomachs of ruminants, they may raise some cows, goats, or sheep. Then their studies include both the biology to learn about the animal as well as the work it takes to care for one.
- Similar to elementary, academic lessons should provide materials to work with their hands as much as their minds. There are much fewer “Montessori” materials at the adolescent age because Maria Montessori died at the very beginning of the 12-18 work. However, materials are most commonly found in organic ways such as the microscope to view animal cells, wooden tiles to manipulate algebra equations, and the shovel when cleaning a stall.
- Specialists teach within the classroom, and students connect with local professionals. Experience with the adult world is paramount to their motivation to learn. They are constantly asking themselves, “How will learning this help me?” Montessori for middle school attempts to answer this question by connecting their learning to the adult world.
- An understanding of the needs of the social newborn permeates the entire plan of study. Time for reflection is set aside so students can slow down and process their learning: physically, socially, and academically. Conflict resolution is intentional and guided as students “bump up” against each other in their practice of society. Wellness is incorporated in their daily lives, whether it is physical activity, meditation, or creative expression.
- And finally, the family and local community are very much a part of the process. The students reach out to volunteer in their community. Families are brought into the school to participate and educate each other on their child’s new development.
The Middle School Environment at Charles Towne Montessori
Charles Towne is adding one more component: integration. Previously, the model for Middle School Montessori has not been able to quite reach the philosophy of multi-age lessons and open work cycles. It has been a challenge to understand providing Algebra lessons while also specializing in Ancient Chinese history. Since lessons in mathematics and world languages are also dependent on skill levels, another hurdle has been to integrate different levels of skill-based academics.
The program at CTM will use thematic integration and lesson differentiation to solve both of these problems. Every 4-5 weeks, a themed unit is carefully prepared. Students are allowed to explore an environment where history is integrated with math, art with science. Practical life skills and wellness are a thread that ties them all together.
With different options at different levels of skill-based classes, the issue of differentiation is solved. Students can work side-by-side on the same theme, chosen by the students themselves, and yet learn at their own pace and level.
How exciting!! Especially for the students who have already chosen their themes for the year and can’t wait to get started.
What is the Best Part about Montessori for Middle School?
The best part about Montessori education at any level is the type of people our children become. Care of self, care of others, and care of the environment is a big part of their education from pre-birth to 18. When this is as much of a focus as academics, the result is a pretty amazing group of children.
Just as importantly, this type of education provides what Montessorians call “valorization.” Valorization is the ability to work with joy and confidence, self-discipline and caring, and above all, the unshakeable inner knowledge that one can succeed. Whether a child is a typical “book worm” or an “overactive young man,” Montessori provides the ideal setting. Students are given a choice to explore their own best learning practices and also their own passion. They gain the confidence that their passions can support themselves in adulthood.
Isn’t this exactly what we all want for our children?