At each level, children are grouped in classroom communities for multiple years. These small communities provide a number of advantages not found in traditional schools. Children work with others who are older and younger than themselves. The older students serve as role models and tutors for the younger students, and in the process they gain confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem regarding their skill level and expertise. The younger ones watch the older ones, and in the process they gain a clear vision of what’s expected of them, and have the benefit of working with and learning from their peers as well as the teacher. The classroom community is a direct preparation for life in the family and in the workplace. Communicating and working well with others are important life skills.
For most children, the Toddler program is the child’s first school experience. To prepare your child for this transition from home we encourage you to give your child some space at home to do independent work; to have some time alone to complete tasks, read or play. The child should also be introduced to the concept of orderliness; i.e. a place for everything and everything in its place. Create special areas for reading, sleeping and playing in the bedroom.
For some children, entrance to the Primary class is their first school experience. For some, it is a transition from another environment. Independent care of self is one sign of readiness for the Primary class: this includes toileting and dressing. We also look to a child’s sense of order and independence. The sense of order can be seen in careful handling of classroom materials during the observation process. Independence is shown by the child’s successful separation from the parents.
When a child in the Primary class turns five, he or she is ready to transition into the pre-school/afternoon program. Children in the all-day class transition away from napping and into the afternoon class when they turn five. Many 6 year olds benefit from spending an additional year in Primary to gain greater social and emotional maturity or to hone academic skills. The decision to remain an additional year in Primary is considered by the Primary and Elementary teachers, the School level coordinators and in consultation with the parents.
The transition from Primary into Lower Elementary marks the end of the first plane of development and the start of the second plane. The minimum age for entry into the Lower Elementary is six years by September 1st. In determining a child's readiness for moving up into Elementary, faculty and the Primary and Elementary Coordinators first consider social and emotional maturity. We also look closely at the child's academic skills: he needs to be reading and writing with fluency to prosper at the Elementary level. He also needs to have a strong sense of self-direction and independence, and the ability to work with concentration— alone or in cooperation with a group.
The transition into Elementary occurs when a child enters the second half of the second plane of development, at approximately nine years of age. Each student's transition is considered by the faculty with the Elementary Coordinator, and in consultation with the parents. To make this transition successful, the child must demonstrate increased independence as a student, in both academic skills and personal responsibility. Academically, he needs to be ready for complex research and mathematical problem-solving skills. He also needs a high degree of self-direction to be able to consistently choose challenging work. Lastly, he needs to show that he is capable of being a respectful and cooperative member of the classroom community.