About Our School
Ann Arbor Children’s House opened with 12 students in the fall of 2011. Demand grew quickly, and just one year later, AACH moved to its current location, serving 25 children.
At Ann Arbor Children’s House, we believe in…
- Family relationships. Strong personal relationships with parents and children help enhance education and ensure smooth transitions from home to school and back.
- Small class size. We have two traditionally trained Montessori teachers and two highly skilled classroom assistants who interact with 25 children. We maintain at least an eight-to-one child/teacher ratio at all times.
- Individualized learning. We listen to, follow, observe, and respect the children, guiding their natural interests and allowing them to realize their full potential.
- A mixed-age class. Children ages three to six work and learn together, allowing each to develop socially and intellectually at his or her own pace while encouraging older children to help younger ones, and younger children to model the behavior of older ones.
- a full Montessori environment
- morning and extended-day programs
- weekly half-hour classes in music and Spanish for extended-day students
- optional early drop-off and lunch
- occasional afternoon field trips to Ann Arbor’s many cultural resources, such as museums, parks, libraries, local businesses, and events
- special visitors to the classroom such as local musicians, animal specialists, and people knowledgeable about diverse cultures
We are members of the Michigan Montessori Society.
What is the Montessori philosophy?
We offer a prepared environment that encourages exploration, and our teachers are trained to interact with the children in ways that respect their choices and interests.
Young children learn with their senses; manipulating objects is essential to their development. In our Montessori classroom, children choose from a wide range of materials and activities. Because our children select what to work on, every activity has meaning, and often engages them completely. But the materials aren’t a random collection of objects or toys. Montessori teachers have observed children using these materials over many decades, refining them to encourage children’s natural curiosity, and satisfy their desire to learn new things and master tasks.
Everything in our room is child-sized and beautifully arranged into five main groups of related objects: practical life, sensorial education, reading and language, mathematics, and cultural studies.
Our teachers offer lessons to small groups of children, or lead activities with the larger group such as singing, movement games, or celebrations. But our classroom has no “front.” There is no teacher’s desk. The primary role of our teachers is to observe the children—everything else flows from that: directing the use of materials, keeping track of children’s progress, and encouraging without intervening. If a child misbehaves we don’t punish but instead help him or her select a more engaging activity.
What do children learn?
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed. “
– Dr. Maria Montessori
Children love to imitate adults. Everyday activities such as pouring, washing, or polishing—using familiar objects—help develop fine motor skills and provide a smooth transition between home and school. We focus on five areas: how to move in the classroom and early activities, manual dexterity, care of self, care of the environment, and social skills including grace and courtesy. Through Practical Life activities, children develop self-esteem, independence, hand-eye coordination, an ability to choose, spatial awareness, concentration, balance, language, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, order, and self-discipline.
Our sensory activities are unique to Montessori schools, developed by Dr. Montessori through observation and research. The senses consist of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and the stereognostic sense—a muscular sense, or impression through touching. Children work with materials that isolate one quality such as size, shape, texture, scent, loudness, weight, or temperature, allowing them to observe and compare. Exercises in perception, observation, fine discrimination, and classification play a major role in helping our children develop concentration and a sense of logic.
Reading and Language
Speaking, writing, and reading are important means of self-expression. In our school, children are encouraged to talk to the teachers and to each other. We compose and share stories, sing songs, and make language come alive. Beyond the spoken word, we introduce materials that prepare the children to write and read. Initially, our lessons rely on phonics enhanced by real objects and pictures, with other techniques introduced as the child progresses. We approach language with a “concrete to abstract” methodology. We relate all words and concepts to the child’s own environment to make grammar meaningful. With the Sandpaper Letters (wooden tablets with letters on them that can be felt and traced), reading and writing begin to come together. Children trace the letter with their fingers while hearing and repeating the phonemic sound it will make. We move through a sequence of activities as the child is ready, ensuring that the child does not miss a skill as he or she begins a lifetime of reading.
As with language, the Montessori math program takes abstract concepts and makes them concrete and accessible. Well-designed physical materials allow children to literally hold mathematical ideas in their hands, manipulating them and playing group games so that mathematical concepts are experienced sensorially and socially. The materials and activities are designed to clearly illustrate mathematical concepts. Children enjoy using concrete materials, and often learn the basics of math quickly. Mathematics activities are presented sequentially with one building upon another.
“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori cultural studies curriculum combines many subjects that connect the child to his or her place in the universe. Cultural Studies include botany, zoology, geography, science, history, and art, with the purpose of inspiring appreciation for the wonder of the universe and to encourage children to realize their part in it. If possible, children learn with use of hands-on materials instead of memorization, which is more appropriate at a later age. Again, lessons are presented concretely and then progress to the abstract.
Art is taught as means of self-expression. Emphasis is on process, and we take care so that the child avoids frustration. We make sure the materials are high quality and appropriate for a child’s use, such as easily grasped paintbrushes that produce a satisfying stroke. There is never a “right” way of completing a project, and the teachers are very careful when talking about a child’s art. Because children are given free choice of a variety of media, art is often created daily in a Montessori classroom.
How do children benefit?
Sensitive periods in a child’s development—when they are ready and able to learn something—are identified through careful observation. Children who show interest in reading, writing or subtraction are given everything they need to progress at their own pace. They are treated as individuals and are not pressured to work beyond their developmental abilities. In our classroom, children develop the ability to concentrate and focus, and exhibit self-discipline as well as an internal sense of order and purpose. Montessori students develop a spontaneous love of learning. Our Montessori teachers challenge children and set high expectations, while allowing each child to progress at his or her own pace.
But it’s the comments from our parents that reveal how special Ann Arbor Children’s House Montessori is, and what a difference it’s made in their families.
Amy, Allison, and Angela give the children the confidence to be curious and independent in the classroom, which is full of thoughtfully chosen and beautifully presented works. The classroom is lovely and full of interesting things to experience. I always want to stay! —Eva’s mom
We can’t thank Ann Arbor Children’s House enough for the individualized education they gave Rishabh—not just making him academically smart but also teaching him practical and social life skills that we could never have done by ourselves. Having an older child who went through a different pre-school program, I can vouch that AACH’s curriculum encompassing academics, social, practical and cultural education is very special. Thanks to Ann Arbor Children’s House for working with Rishabh and laying such a strong foundation for his life ahead. —Rishabh’s parents
Learn more about the benefits of a Montessori education:
Association Montessori Internationale
North American Montessori Teachers Association
We can’t thank you enough for providing such a wonderfully sweet, loving, stimulating environment for Paige to go to school. We have been so impressed with the work that you do, but even more importantly with the relationship you have formed with our little girl.