The Earth Tortoise School

  A Montessori Community for Infants and Toddlers

"The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth. From this affirmation comes what may seem a strange conclusion: that education must begin at birth."  - Maria Montessori

Creating a Sense of Trust
One of the most important lessons an infant must learn is to have trust in the world - the knowledge that their needs will be met and the world is a safe place to explore. We strive to create this attachment through following the child's cues instead of following a pre-determined schedule. This will help them understand that their communication is heard and respected. We are fully engaged with the child when feeding, diapering, and helping them fall asleep - making eye contact, touching, and explaining our actions to them. As they become mobile, the relationship with their caregiver gives them the courage to explore farther knowing they can always return to that safe place.

Freedom of Movement
In our environment, you will not find cribs, swings, or bouncy seats. This is important to the child's physical development - learning to roll over, crawl and then walk. The children are given lots of time on the floor to discover the way their hands work, play with their feet, and grasp for toys just out of reach. With each new discovery the child gains the confidence to try new things, and reach a little further. Children trust themselves and their abilities. We feel that using such equipment restrains them from their natural development. Although they have a quiet room for their infant needs, they also have opportunities to explore the larger classroom, and to be a part of the larger toddler community. This way they will be able to try new challenges whenever they are ready.

Practical life
Infants are active participants in all of their routines from the very beginning. With this in mind, we feel it is of utmost importance to always communicate what is happening with them - telling them when we are going to pick them up, the steps of changing a diaper, talking about the food they are eating. As they learn these routines, children begin helping in small ways as they become physically able: lifting their arms as their shirt is taken off, opening their mouths in anticipation of another spoonful. The children are given the opportunity to learn a new skill as soon as they show interest. As their skills allow them they will learn to sit at table, use a spoon,set the table,sit on the toilet, take off their socks or put on their shoes. Being able to take care of one's self is an important step in becoming a self-motivated learner.

 Sensorial
Everything an infant learns comes through their five senses and so we provide them the materials and experiences that help them take in everything around them. The children are stimulated through the light coming in the window, the feel of a wooden shaker, the sounds of music and song, the texture of different fabrics under their feet. These experiences are rich but not overwhelming. As children cannot filter out unnecessary information, their surroundings are simple and focus on a few characteristics at a time. Battery operated toys that shake,light up.and play electronically created sounds have no place in our environment. Instead children are exposed to the beauty of the natural world and develop a love for calmness, beauty, and learning.

Language
Children are in a sensitive period for learning language. Long before they can talk, children understand the language around them. We feel that it is important to talk to your infant  with the greatest respect, so they too learn to talk with respectful words. Communication is a huge and ever-present part of each day as we name everything in the environment, talk with children in simple yet not "dumbed down" terms, provide exposure to a huge variety of objects, pictures, books, and songs. We use baby signs and encourage the children to do so too until their spoken vocabulary expands.