The Primary Program
Full Day: 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Half Day: 8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Montessori Primary programs should embrace some fundamental guidelines: attention to the sensitive periods of a child’s development; a prepared environment; guidance in the academic areas of Practical Life, Sensorial, Geography, Science and Nature, Language, and Math; and a mixed-age grouping. Beyond these shared characteristics, schools’ styles and energies vary widely from campus to campus. Here at Athena, we embrace the concept of the “whole child.” Students are immersed in an atmosphere that enhances their physical and socioemotional as well as their academic needs. Senses of independence, curiosity, empathy, and confidence are fostered both in the classroom and the outdoor work and play environments.
The Primary Program is a three-year Montessori cycle, and there is an expectation that enrollment in this program is a three-year commitment. The three-year cycle allows for each child to experience the newness of their first year with older peers to help guide their transition. At Athena, first-year students are paired with a “Big Buddy”—a third-year student who has waited for their turn to guide and mentor their “Little Buddy” for two years. The older children have the opportunity to be role models of appropriate behavior and reinforce their skills by helping the younger children who are new to the class—they give basic lessons and assist with tasks such as helping with lunch, potty, or hanging a coat; holding hands in line; and making sure their buddy has a playmate on the playground, just to name a few. Research shows that mixed-age grouping provides many benefits for younger children and older children alike—especially in the areas of social and emotional development.
If the child will turn five years old by September 1st of their third year of the cycle, the child will be officially a Kindergartner, and in addition to the regular academic Montessori customized curriculum, the child will also receive our proprietary Kindergarten Curriculum, participate in the Kindergarten Science Club, and will graduate prepared to enter first grade. If the child does not turn five by September 1st of the third year of the cycle, the child will be considered an “older” or a “third year”, or “leader”, will receive their academic Montessori customized curriculum, and will graduate prepared to enter Kindergarten. Some exceptions may be made depending on the child’s birthday and where the child will go after Athena, in which case we will be in conversation with you as to our recommendations as to how we can best prepare them for the next step.
As Athena students enter the sensitive periods for various concepts, our classrooms offer prepared environments and individual instruction to fill their needs. Dr. Maria Montessori believed that each child, from birth through ages six or seven, moves through a series (sometimes overlapping) of “sensitive periods” in which they are capable of absorbing seemingly difficult stimuli simply and organically. These periods involve readiness for subjects ranging from language acquisition and an understanding of numerals to learning skills in grace, courtesy, and conflict resolution. Once a child has left one of these periods behind, it becomes much more difficult to learn some of these concepts (foreign language is a prime example). In order to fully embrace these sensitive periods, a child must be immersed in an environment where the materials and guidance meet their needs. Our Primary classrooms are mindfully prepared with both Montessori materials and other artistic and educational materials so children can acquire these skills in a comfortable, natural, beautiful, and engaging setting.
The Primary guides record the lessons given to the children in all areas of the curriculum as well as track their socioemotional progress and goals. The guides share and discuss this information with parents during parent conferences at least twice a year.
Physical Education for Primary Students
Physical education is an integral part of our curriculum, not only because of its importance for the young child’s physical development, but also because of its connection to cognitive learning, body awareness, flexibility, and core strength, which are essential for this age group. Our guides receive regular training provided by a physical education specialist in games, skills and activities designed to meet the physical education requirements for this age group, in a fun, engaging way. These activities, implemented during outdoor play, are designed to ensure the children are crossing the mid-line, learning how to cooperate, breathe deeply, and use all their muscles. The Primary children participate in a fun year-end Field Day on the main lawn, designed by Michael Zumpano of Minds in Motion.
Spanish for Primary Students
It is our aim to incorporate exposure to the Spanish language during the child’s school day. We work with native and fluent Spanish speakers on staff to provide regular training for all guides in how to provide Spanish materials on the shelves and how to facilitate Spanish lessons during Circle and work time. Your guides will share a new list of vocabulary words with you each month in their newsletters, so you can support your child’s learning at home.
Typical Daily Primary Schedule
We offer both a Morning Program and a Full Day Program for our children. Upon drop-off, your child will enjoy some time outdoors. After moving inside, we begin class time with a group lesson on circle, followed by a minimum of two hours of independent work time. The Montessori-trained Lead Guides give individual, one-on-one, and group lessons to each child during work time, while the Assistants move through the classroom and outdoor work environments ensuring that all the children are busy working on materials (“works”) in which they have already received a lesson, or that do not require a lesson (such as puzzles, games, reading corner, art corner, practical life, and manipulatives). Snack is set out and available during the work period so the children may serve themselves whenever they feel hungry, followed by washing their dishes. After work time, the children reconvene for a brief second circle and community lunch, followed by a second outdoor play period. Morning students are picked up at 12:30, and our remaining students transition into either Nap or Zen Time/Second Work Period, and the children are picked up between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m.
Full Day Primary students are divided by developmental readiness into either our Primary Nap Program in the gym or a second work period with their guides in the classroom. If the Primary child is still napping or benefitting from a rest period, he or she will be placed in the Nap Program. (We start the three-year-olds and most four-year-olds in Nap then assess readiness for a second work period after the first three weeks of school.) During nap, the children gather in a designated space on campus with soft music, white noise, back rubs, and a sweet rest time with our Nap team and several of our Assistant Guides.
Second Work Period
Once Primary children grow out of their nap they participate in a second work period, which starts with a quiet story time from a chapter book, which we call “zen time”, with lessons in reading comprehension. Following story time, the children are placed with peers of similar academic, social, and emotional development for the remainder of the work period.
The younger children traditionally work with the Assistant Guides in a creative environment, which includes art, stories, practical life activities, outdoor work, on-campus field trips, and gardening. Younger children also participate in Nature Club with students from other classes.
The older children, typically the five- and six-year-olds, but some older four-year-olds on occasion, work with the Lead Guide in a more academic environment that includes our proprietary Kindergarten Curriculum in preparation for elementary school, where the “olders” and “leaders” work on advanced lessons in reading, writing, advanced math materials, conducting science experiments and making maps. Kindergartners also participate in a weekly Science Club with the Kindergarten students from other classes.
We give much thought, observation, and conversation to the question of which afternoon program is best for each child, in an effort to follow each child’s needs and developmental readiness. The child’s Lead Guide ultimately makes the placement decision for each child, and he or she will discuss this decision with parents/guardians. Please note that we put much consideration into supporting afternoon transitions for our children regardless of which program they are enrolled in.
Meet the Instructors
Summer P1/P2 Lead Guide / Fall Primary 1 Lead Guide
Summer Alumni 1 Lead Guide / Fall Primary 1 Assistant Guide
Fall Primary 1 Assistant Guide
Primary 2 Lead Guide / Education Director
Summer P1/P2 Co-Lead Guide / Fall Primary 2 Lead Guide in Training
Fall Primary 3 Co-Lead Guide
Fall Primary 3 Co-Lead Guide
Fall Primary 3 Assistant Guide
Fall Primary 4 Lead Guide
Primary 4 Assistant Guide
Summer Primary 5 Guide / Fall Primary 4 Assistant Guide
Primary 5 Lead Guide
Primary 5 Assistant Guide