Montessori Education for Ages 5-13
Tree of Life Charter School was started as a Montessori elementary for ages 6-13. At the request of the community, it added a primary level class for children age 5 or who will turn 5 by December 2nd of each school year. Following Montessori philosophy, we group children by developmental levels rather than by grade levels, so there may be some overlapping of ages in classroom environments. Usually a student remains with the same Guide, or Teacher, for approximately three years, which allows the Guide to learn the student's strengths, challenges, and interests in a more in-depth way.
The multi-age classroom environments provide the opportunity for students to work at their unique levels of challenge. More importantly, they offer the chance for students to master skills and develop self-confidence by becoming teachers and leaders in their classroom community. Collaboration and community building, as well as individualized and independent work, are supported in each class. Daily classroom meetings and group lessons provide opportunities for the class to work together, while small group and individual lessons during the main work times allow students to learn at their own levels. Each classroom is specially prepared with beautiful learning materials for the developmental level of the students who work in it. Many of these materials contain a “control of error” that allows the child to learn independently and in a concrete, hands-on way.
Students plan their work time and reflect on what they've learned in their work journals. This helps them learn to choose challenging goals and to manage their time, as well as to keep track of their progress toward completion of projects and assignments. there is a communication folder that goes home weekly (or more often, if needed) between the school staff and parents/guardians, and it is important that it is reviewed each week and signed by the parent/guardian. Writing in both work journals and portfolio reflections exercises the important process of metacognition, helping the student become aware and understand what she or he is learning and thinking. At the end of each quarter, students put together a portfolio of work that shows their progress, and they meet with their parents/guardians and Guide. The Guide also prepares and presents a Progress Report at the end of each semester. Review and discussion about the portfolio and student's progress helps to guide the student's goal-making process for the next school quarter.
Before and After School
Tree of Life Charter School has optional, fee-based Before and After School Child Care Programs from 7:30-8:30 AM and from dismissal until 5:30 PM. Typical activities during these times include outside or inside play or games, art projects, gardening, and time to work on class projects or assignments. Branches Extended Learning Program is available free to students for one hour after dismissal. Branches activities include tutoring, math and reading activities, and STEAM activities.
Communication and Parenting Education
Communication among the school community provides an important way not only to convey information, but to support our educational and developmental goals. In addition to a monthly newsletter that contains information about school activities and Montessori education, the school staff frequently send out messages by a group telephone and email system. Meetings with families about their student's progress happen at the beginning of the year, mid-semester, and end of semester. Family or staff may meet more often to discuss a student's progress or other issues. The school also has a Montessori recordkeeping system called Montessori Compass that can be used by families to check the progress of their student, and by staff to send information about class or student activities. A parent resource lending library of books and videos about child development, parenting, and Montessori education is available to the school community, as well as Montessori education and lesson information parents can view on Montessori Compass. Tree of Life's Parent Council meets 5-6 times per year, with a portion of the meeting devoted to parenting education.