Montessori Elementary Level

Montessori Elementary Level
Ages: 6 - 12 years
Hours: 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

From the ages of six to twelve, children are finding their places in society and are fascinated with the workings of the wider world and the universe. Rather than fight this social tendency, a Montessori elementary level education embraces it, allowing children to work in small or large groups. Although the teacher holds children accountable for their own work, this opportunity for collaboration allows children to find joy in new studies and to inspire others with their work. The teacher's presentations at this level appeal to the child’s sense of wonder at the universe and its marvelous details. Children are ready at this age, too, for their own research projects, chosen according to their own interests and passions.

Girls in a Montessori elementary classroom work together on a research project.

Children in the Montessori Elementary Levels have the opportunity for “going out” experiences – walking to the Lake Bluff Library and chaperoned trips of small groups to museums, colleges and local businesses to expand on research projects. Individual and group presentations from the teacher, as well as focused one-on-one instruction, prepare the students for each succeeding level in accordance with national academic standards.

Lower Montessori Elementary Level: Ages 6 to 9 Years

Children now stay at school until 3:30, engaging in a full day of academic work and exploration. Forest Bluff School utilizes the full and ambitious Montessori elementary level curriculum. Hands-on materials lead the students to a deep, abstract understanding of math, grammar, biology, earth science, geometry, and history.

Children learn music theory and composition, a variety of art techniques, and have the daily opportunity for outdoor play and exercise. The teacher presents new material to small groups of three to six children. In the remainder of their time, children choose their own work, either working with something they have been taught or launching out on their own explorations and research. Weekly individual meetings and a daily journal keep the students focused on their work and help their understanding of time management. 

Children in a Montessori Elementary classroom work on large bead frames

This is a short list of good books for children who are learning to read to themselves, typically around the time they enter the Montessori Elementary Level. While encouraging your children to read to themselves a little each day, continue to read to them, in addition, for at least 30 minutes. During this early reading stage, your children are sounding out words and drawing on their memory of phonograms and puzzle words. Our goal now is to help them decode sentences while looking for meaning. It is important, therefore, that the lines of chosen books have meaning, as opposed to “simple” readers. Around age six, children delight in using their imagination, so the world of literary fantasy is opened up to them.

Upper Montessori Elementary Level: Ages 9 to 12 Years

The older Montessori elementary level children advance their studies in all major academic areas, still structuring their days as suits them best and learning to take increased responsibility for their studies. Additional areas of study at this age include physics, chemistry, and essay and poetry writing.

Although hands-on materials are still used frequently for further clarification, by the end of this level most children have moved to a fully abstract understanding of all concepts. They are now completing their work on paper but with the deep understanding that comes from their years of working with tangible representations of complex concepts.

Montessori Elementary students perform a play about the origin of language

The upper elementary level book-list is comprised of many well-known classics recommended for nine to 12-year-olds. At this age, it is more important than ever that children read books of high quality with complex themes, admirable characters, meaningful dialogue and challenging vocabulary. Since this list encompasses choices for Montessori elementary level students up through age 12, some books begin to deal with issues (such as war) which might be frightening to certain children. For this reason, parents should ensure that the content is appropriate for each individual child.

Our children read every day at school during a “silent reading” period and the teacher reads to the class as a whole every day as well. Equally important, children are expected to read for an hour at home each day, with an additional fifteen to thirty minutes reading time when a parent reads aloud to them. 

The books on this list are just suggestions, and students are welcome to read other books for their school and home reading times, as long as those books are of similar literary quality (i.e., classics or “modern classics”). Children this age still need a great deal of help in choosing books that will contribute to their literary education, and we ask parents to be involved in the selection process. 

Every related study shows remarkable benefits for students growing up in homes with great emphasis on reading good literature. Among the benefits demonstrated by research are preparation for testing and performance in writing ability, language expression, vocabulary, spelling and comprehension.Please help our students choose the best quality books for their reading, and insist that they establish a daily reading and study habit at home.

* = very challenging books (most originally written for adults) that older children might attempt with some guidance;
these might also make excellent read-alouds.

We knew immediately that Forest Bluff School was the perfect education choice for our daughter once we toured the school, set in its prairie environment in Lake Bluff. The school’s global education credibility and soul starts with Paula Polk Lillard, the internationally renowned expert of Montessori education, who co-founded the school and co-authored Montessori from the Start with her daughter, Lynn Lillard Jessen. For the past ten years, our daughter (now 12 years old) and our family have been part of this incredible tight-knit parent-teacher community. We praise this education approach that truly focuses on the “whole child.” Our daughter is finishing her final year in Upper Elementary (grade 6) where she hones independent research skills and group work. Our daughter experiences the joy of daily learning with thoughtful teachers and multi-age classrooms where older kids model and help teach younger ones. We are excited for her to continue her studies in the Secondary Level (grade 7-8) where her academic studies will be amplified by longer trips that explore teamwork and community service. As a former corporate marketing and sports executive, I see the tremendous life value of Forest Bluff School’s approach in shaping my teenage daughter’s whole life readiness for high school, college, and adulthood as a strong and confident young woman.