Lower School

Children's House (Pre-K & K)

Dr. Maria Montessori

The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.
Motivated by a desire to understand the world around them and a love of learning, children between the ages of three and six years experience a dynamic curriculum in an environment that fosters independence, concentration, order, creativity, grace and courtesy.

Our children’s house schedule offers long-blocks of concentrated academic time for children to work at their own pace through the Montessori curriculum. Teachers carefully design a comfortable and calm classroom with the structure, order, and freedom that allows children to move, touch, create, discover, and question. Individualized instruction is emphasized at this developmental age, group collaboration and cooperative learning are encouraged, and children often engage in spontaneous, small-group work. The Montessori classroom changes daily as the teachers observe the needs of the children and respond with challenging lessons.

Montessori materials invite activity through the hand. Each lesson develops creative problem-solving and conveys abstract concepts with concrete manipulatives. The children are able to work purposefully and productively with minimal adult interference as they perform independent tasks, beginning with the simplest and moving toward the more complex. In doing this, they are able to gain a true sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Children's House Curriculum

List of 10 items.

  • Practical Life

    The essential skills developed through the practical life activities form the basis for all further study and are a preparation for life. These activities serve as a bridge between home and school environments. Practical life exercises are performed throughout the routines of the day. They are complex because they require multiple steps for children to execute in a precise sequence helping to engage their executive function skills.

    Purposeful lessons in daily living prepare hands and minds for the challenging work by cultivating skills such as organization, repetition, problem-solving, and inner-discipline. A sense of pride comes when the child completes self-help tasks independently and when contributing to the classroom community. Practical Life includes exercises to refine small motor coordination through activities such as setting the table, washing cloths, sweeping the floor, arranging flowers. sewing, and art. This area develops the hand for advanced tasks – writing, woodworking, or playing a musical instrument.
  • Grace & Courtesy

    Greeting a visitor, serving tea, offering something, interrupting, restoring the classroom, and care for pets and plants are some of the lessons that are given to the children. Grace and courtesy activities instill a sense of citizenship and commitment to the environment and all living things.

    Children’s House classrooms are peaceful and respectful. Young children learn to negotiate freedom and responsibility with guided instructions and expectations. Simple, clear lessons in grace and courtesy provide the youngest children practice of the tools for social living while benefiting from the model of older peers who have an ethic of care and cooperation in their interactions in the classroom. The culture of mutual respect and shared helpfulness sets the tone in the classroom and honors the children
  • Sensorial

    Children this age are naturally curious and use their senses to explore their world. The materials in the sensorial curriculum are designed to appeal to the senses and enable the them to compare and contrast, discriminate differences, sequence and identify shape, size, form, and sounds. These essential skills prepare the child for language, math, geometry, music and science.

    Sensorial materials reveal mathematical relationships that exist in the real world and provide the foundation for understanding complex relationships. The language embedded within the sensorial materials is rich and descriptive (baric, symmetry, congruence, cubing, musical notation). Through repetition of lessons and the use of scientific observational skills, children learn to discriminate increasingly complex characteristics and qualities of shapes, sounds, algebraic equations, musical pitch, temperature, texture, weight, and volume.
  • Math

    For the youngest children, the sensorial materials provide an indirect preparation for mathematics. The use of these materials bridge into learning arithmetic and geometry through understanding of similarities, differences, variations, patterns, sets, and logical thinking. The concrete math manipulatives are uniquely Montessori in design. They build upon the Sensorial curriculum and advance to counting, recognition of numerals, matching numerals with quantities, the decimal system (place value), and all four operations (addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division – including exchanging, squaring, and cubing).

    All of these advanced principles are learned through the hand and are introduced well before children are capable of holding a pencil to complete math problems on paper. It is the visual, representational, concrete understanding of mathematical concepts that allow Montessori students excel beyond their peers.
  • Language

    A Montessori classroom is a language rich environment that nurtures the children’s development of reading and writing as a joyful and almost effortless experience. The Montessori teacher recognizes that for all children there is a sensitive period in their development for language and this occurs at a slightly different time for each child. When the moment is noticed, the teacher guides the child toward language in a precise sequence lessons using Montessori’s visually attractive materials. With great individualized attention and repetition of exercises, an explosion into writing emerges followed by the process of reading.

    Before children reach this period of development, lessons are given for the hand to be strengthened for writing, and the ear prepared for listening and discriminating sounds. These exercises are found in the Practical Life and Sensorial curricula. Oral language games include initial sound and rhyming fluency, sequencing exercises, finger plays, and storytelling. The process of writing to read in a Montessori classroom includes sounds and symbol, letter formation, word composition and structure (phonetic and non-phonetic words), grammar, and sentence structure. The Language curriculum brings children into the path of writing and reading early, which are the tools to access advanced learning in all other areas of study.
  • Kindergarten Writer's Workshop

    While individualized lessons are embedded into the kindergarten daily work cycle in the Language curriculum, the group gathering for Writer’s Workshop is a special time for kindergarteners to experience and appreciate the art of composition together as a community of authors. Writer's Workshop is led by Children's House Teacher and Reading and Language Assessment Specialist, Jamie Oakley.

    The workshop begins with a mini lesson focusing on aspects of writing such as use of capital letters, spacing, grammar, and punctuation. Elements of story development are introduced including creating a character, setting, adding details and description into their work. Kindergarteners continue with focus areas and use these skills to create their own creative stories accompanied by illustrations. An author’s celebration at the end of each term introduces the young children to reading their work to an audience and learning strategies for giving feedback to a fellow writer.

    Jamie Oakley completes reading and writing assessments and closely monitors the progress of each Kindergarten student throughout the year while also sharing feedback and educational plans with the students' classroom teachers. 
  • Natural World

    This area of the Cultural Curriculum ignites children’s sense of wonder and awe of the natural world and invites them to observe and understand the relationships between living and non-living in our universe. Through the Montessori curriculum, children are introduced to botany, zoology, physical and earth sciences. They discover hands-on detail through observing living things. Classification and vocabulary cards extend their study and real-world experiences, both on campus and off campus, draw the children into making connections from the classroom to their natural world.
  • Kindergarten Science

    Twice a week the kindergarten students gather for hands-on science class together. These lessons primarily focus on basic introduction to chemistry and physics. They begin with a mini-lesson on the topic, a review of the previous lesson and vocabulary, and a discussion to access prior knowledge. Next, they prepare the activity following the prescribed format of: question, apply or test, observe, review, record, restore the materials. At the end of each class children have a time to share what they have recorded in their Science Journal with the teacher, a partner, or the full group.
  • Social World

    The study of geography is divided along conceptual lines for young children and includes: physical and political geography, cultural geography, economic geography (natural resources production, transportation of goods to market), and map skills. History in the Harborlight curriculum has two parts: activities to introduce time and the stories that introduce the relationship of the universe, its parts, and the human’s role in it.
  • Physical Education

    Montessori embraces the development of the whole child. At Harborlight, our focus is on health and fitness for life. Freedom of movement and self-regulation is inherent in the philosophy and supported both in classroom practice and within the course guided by our physical education teacher. In their gym class, children are exposed to a variety of motor skills and movement drills that challenge their balance and coordination including running, jumping, climbing, throw and catch, yoga postures, and more. There are daily lessons on health, nutrition, sleep, emotional regulation and wellness.

List of 9 items.

  • Immersion Language Classrooms

    In Children’s House program there are two Language Immersion options: Spanish-English and Mandarin-English. What occurs in these classrooms is an emergence from bi-lingual fluency to being bi-literate in the prescribed languages. There are at minimum two Montessori teachers per immersion classroom, each speaking and teaching in their primary language at all times with the children.

    Through a full immersion in the language, young children begin to inculcate both languages in an authentic environment. The accent is native, the conversations represent everyday expressions and colloquialisms, and all of the vocabulary in each area of the curriculum is introduced, from math to geography. From this early environmental learning experience, the children are prepared for Harborlight’s elementary years and more formal instruction including reading, writing, and vocabulary development.
  • Kindergarten Art

    By the Kindergarten year, Harborlight students have had extensive experiences with art media and sensorial materials in their classroom. They grow into the developmental stage of expressing themselves through what is known as ‘representational art’. Representational art is when students begin to express themselves through symbols or recordings of their outer world. Early observances of this is seen when a young child names a vertical stack of blocks a ‘skyscraper’, or ais able to reproduce geometric shapes on paper, and by putting shapes together on paper to make named forms such as people, animals, flowers, etc.

    Kindergarten Art class teaches basic elements of art including: line, shape, form, space, texture, color and value (gradation).
  • Kindergarten Physical Education

    A hallmark of the kindergarten year is long periods of concentration and seated work. This transition of the children’s work ethic and classroom characteristics are met with the additional need for movement and rigorous exercise. Harborlight physical education for Kindergarteners takes them off campus for weekly swimming lessons at the local indoor athletic club and incorporates non-competitive on-campus physical education activities to build strength, stamina, and teamwork skills.
  • Library

    Library skills are necessary for the very youngest children; they teach about access to learning materials, reading to learn and enjoyment, and personal responsibility. At the beginning of the year, each Children’s House student will be issued a linen tote bag, just large enough to fit a picture book, and receive their own electronic Harborlight library ‘card’.

    Weekly visits to the library include a story time led by our Librarian, with activities to accompany the story, and a time to look at books alone or with friends. At the end of Library time, children select and check out a book to take home for the week. The home activity of reading the library books with adults each evening is special to the home-school relationship. Finding and returning the Harborlight library book to the ‘bin’ the following week teaches the child their first real world lesson in responsibility.
  • Performing Arts

    Early introduction to performing arts at this level includes daily practice in circle time activities and a weekly lesson with the music teacher. Music begins with the introduction to simple rhythm using voice, body movements (clapping and tapping), and unpitched percussion instruments to follow patterns of beats and rests. Next come the music theory activity of solfege and rhythm syllables.

    Students enjoy using their voice and bodies in a repertoire of echo songs, call and response songs, action songs, classic music movement to learn music vocabulary. The social experience of folk and traditional songs and rhymes add to their music fluency and are used to build classroom community.
  • Spanish

    Children’s House students have Spanish lessons four days a week. Lessons include circle time games and songs, read-aloud of Spanish books, small group and individual lessons across the curriculum (Spanish-Math; Spanish-Geometry, etc.). These activities are incorporated into the classroom environment and are accompanied by hands-on lessons for children to choose independently during their work time throughout the week.
  • Visual Art

    Art is a process of exploration and also an extension or bridge between learning through hands-on, Montessori hands-on materials and recording thoughts, feelings, and observations. During the classroom work period, children have an open shelf of art supplies and activities available to choose from. Materials and media for art such as chalk, clay, dough, paints of various types, collage, wax crayons, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, etc. that are accessible to perform a creative expression or experiment with the medium or to use for recording their observations and notations that are a product of their academic lessons.

    The young child in the pre-representational art stage will use the materials in the art area as a sensory experience or as an early literacy process (for example, illustrating a personal narrative). As they develop methods of recording their observations and work, children will access the art materials to create replications of the political maps, record observations in botany, illustrate their stories, and create three-dimensional sculptures of geometric shapes, creatures studied in zoology, or land and water forms.
  • World Language

    At Harborlight, the introduction to world languages is designed to create a foundation in speaking, listening, reading, and writing across multiple languages. For many Harborlight students, English is not the primary language spoken in the home. Therefore, with the introduction to social learning at a young age, it is important for all language instruction to be uniform and authentic. Our World Language curriculum begins at Toddler House and continues through grade 8 with a focus on two languages, Mandarin and English, added to English language instruction.

    The World Language faculty use an interactive, whole-body program called Total Physical Response (TPR). Beginning with the use of commands, children demonstrate their receptive language fluency by responding with their actions. The children hear the words, phrases, and see their teacher use motions with the language they are able to engage and respond while thinking in the language used. This kinesthetic response increases the long-term memory of the words and phrases. All world language activities are incorporated into the classroom environment and are accompanied by hands-on lessons for children to choose independently during their work time.
  • Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)

    VTS is a sophisticated program that uses art to teach thinking, communication skills, and visual literacy to young children. It is known to stimulate growth by looking at art of increasing complexity, learning how to respond to developmentally-based questions, and participate in group discussion facilitated by the VTS teacher.

    Harborlight is the first of the north shore independent schools to implement this strategy of thinking and communicating through art. Children have the opportunity to examine the art and express their personal opinions as they connect to what they see with what they already know. Each student has a turn to express their opinion and perspectives and be heard, understood and valued for their contributions. The VTS teacher guides a discussion further to illicit evidence to explain how they have developed their interpretive comments. Visual Thinking Strategies supports a concrete thinking and communication tool that builds a foundation for future engagement in Haborlight’s Socratic Method.

Schedule Options

Full Week
Monday through Friday
Half Day
Half Day + Lunchtime
Academic Day
Extended Day
Extended Montessori
Days in addition to the academic year calendar are available by prior registration and require an additional fee. 

Program Options

Immersion Language Classrooms

  • Children’s House Spanish-English
  • Children’s House Mandarin-English


  • Transitional Kindergarten (for students turning 5 years old after 9/1 ready to join Grade 1 the following year.)
  • Kindergarten (for students completing the Kindergarten year in the Children's House program, 5 years old before 9/1)

Lower Elementary (Grades 1-3)

Maria Montessori

Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence. 
Elementary-age children have limitless intellectual curiosity and are capable of great effort, concentration, and academic achievement. The Montessori curriculum is designed to utilize and strengthen these natural interests and energies within an environment that educates, inspires, and satisfies their desire to explore complex concepts and pose challenging questions.
Harborlight approaches learning using an integrated thematic approach that ties the separate disciplines together into studies of the physical universe, the world of nature, and the human experience. This method appeals to children’s developmental curiosity about the greater world beyond themselves. It engages their hands in discovering and understanding the interconnectedness of all things, both living and non-living.

The multiage elementary classroom resembles both a family and a work group. Together, students create a welcoming and accepting atmosphere while developing considerate and cooperative relationships. As they study the fundamental needs of humans in the curriculum, they are active participants in the social progress of their own classroom, investing in one another, and challenging themselves. As they developmentally grow towards cognitive and personal organization, the students prioritize, plan, and manage their time for daily work expectations and with long-term, independent projects. What they learn during this stage of development helps them as they continue on in the Upper School and into the real world.

Montessori’s Cosmic Education is rooted Five Great Lessons, which are stories that span the enormity of time and space.

These stories appeal to the child’s imagination and provide the framework from which all instruction in the subject areas flow: 1. The Story of the Universe 2. The Coming of Life 3. The Coming of Humans 4. The Story of Communication in Signs. 5. The Story of Numbers. The central theme of Cosmic Education answers how the world came to be, how life developed over millions and millions of years and then how humans came to be and learned to fulfill their needs. The Great Lessons are intended to give the students a perspective to understand their own place in the world and an internal motivation to pursue continuous learning.

The Montessori curriculum is taught from broad scope to small, moving from big-picture understanding to a focus on details. Each story provides a broad overview, each lesson and activity that follows invites new learning, provokes new thought, and refines each developmental skill.

When put together, these Five Great Lessons kindle creative thinking and lead students to contemplate not only the past, but the future. It is through the telling, and re-telling, of these important Cosmic lessons that students are motivated to pursue their learning, question, and conduct research in search of answers.

Lower Elementary Curriculum

List of 7 items.

  • Practicals

    Younger classrooms are spaces for developing everyday living skills that allow for children’s emerging independence and sense of responsibility to self, others, and environment. At this next stage of learning, Practicals are lessons and expectations that help children navigate the physical and social world they are entering. These activities now bridge from grace and courtesy to learning social norms of a group. Managing their use of time, planning and executing short-term projects, reflection on learning, and listening and respecting the ideas and thoughts of others in their group all provide authentic opportunities to understand themselves as a member of society.

    Some examples of Practicals lessons include advanced everyday living skills such as working in the greenhouse, sewing, woodworking, and cooking. Other activities include student-led morning meeting and lunch preparation, student-guided mindfulness exercises, reading buddies with the Children’s House students, community engagement with the neighbors living at the nursing home next door, ‘turkey-chore’ project, beach clean-up, etc.
  • Social and Emotional Learning

    As students enter this plane of development, they extend themselves socially, collaborate more frequently, and share experiences together both in work and in play. It is during this period of academic focus and social experiences that they shift their understanding from self to the power of partnership and teamwork. Together, they benefit from the daily continuation of grace and courtesy lessons as well as the principles and activities from a comprehensive social-emotional curriculum that guides them through a period of growth and development in a nurturing and safe environment.

    An annual tradition that represents Harborlight’s openness and creates a welcoming classroom is called “Bundle of Sticks”. Following Aesop’s fable, the class community gathers sticks from around campus and constructs a tight, unbreakable bundle tied together with ribbons and twine. Each stick represents the individual student and the one value they contribute to the classroom constitution. This is just one of many unique class meeting activities that centers on the children working together in a promise of mutual respect and unity.
  • Math & Geometry

    The mathematics curriculum begins with the Fifth Great Lesson: The Story of Numbers. Through this story, students are introduced to the history and influence of numbers, arithmetic, and geometry in human life, culture, problem-solving, inventions and discoveries. The study of mathematics and geometry at the lower elementary level is extensive and exciting.

    The Montessori materials have a dual-purpose. They each house a lesson in history (inventions by the Sumerians, Ancient Greeks and Romans) to modern day examples of notation and numerals in world languages. These materials serve a means for the youngest students to compose numbers, solve problems of operations, measure, graph, etc. at an early stage because they allow for free exploration and manipulation to gain understanding of the following: numeration; operations, multiples and squaring, measurement, fractions, graphs, geometric concepts of line, point, solid form, angles and polygons. Math extends into everyday living skills for time, money, and measurement.
  • Language Arts

    The Fourth Great Lesson, The Story of Communication in Signs, brings students an understanding of how language (including the written form of communication) throughout history is a fundamental aspect of the creative human intelligence, which has influence and staying power in our forms of contemporary communication today.

    Lessons begin with stories of early man’s recordings around the world and the influence of Ancient Civilizations’ invention of letters and recording, to revolutionary devices that influenced communication systems and cultures. The formal study of Language Arts is integrated into all areas of the curriculum with the focus on reading fluency, writing, and verbal expression.
  • Reader's Workshop

    Harborlight incorporates a Reader’s Workshop model in the Language Arts curriculum. Workshop begins with a mini-lesson focusing on one aspect of literature or a reading strategy taught to a small group. The mini-lesson expands to engage students in authentic reading experiences through guided, small-group reading and independent (or silent) reading.

    Students maintain a Reader’s Notebook where they respond and reflect on the assigned literature, use strategies for selecting and reading books, and answer comprehension questions. The Reader’s Workshop includes exercises for writing about books and sharing ideas about books with partners or in discussion groups.
  • Natural World

    Harborlight’s Natural World curriculum fosters the students’ natural curiosity and ignites the imagination. The first two Great Lessons, The Story of the Universe, and The Coming of Life, set the scene for all emerging curriculum. Natural World begins with the creation of the Universe and its parts followed by the Timeline of Life. Through the Clock of Eras study, students are given a general overview of the work in Biology, History, and Geography. It is through these lessons that the students discover the answers to their “Why” questions. Science theory concentrates study of processes: hypothesis, procedure, observation, data analysis and conclusion or questioning. This allows students to think before deciding and use a logical method of testing to evaluate results and reflect on the process.

    All students explore a sequence of hands-on lessons and activities that provide a basic knowledge and understanding of zoology, botany, matter, energy, earth science, astronomy, human development and personal health. Montessori materials promote learning animal classification, chemical processes, earth forces, botanical components, and rock types.
  • Physical Education

    With the philosophy of health and fitness for life, students at this level embrace both competitive and cooperative games and activities in the out of doors. Gym class rotations include project-adventure, hiking, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, kayaking, snowshoeing or ice skating, yoga, individual fitness testing and achievement. There are daily lessons on health, hygiene, nutrition, sleep, emotional regulation/mindfulness, and wellness.

List of 6 items.

  • Writer's Workshop

    Harborlight’s Writer’s Workshop is individualized and taught for small groups. This interdisciplinary writing model builds students’ fluency in writing through continuous, repeated exposure to the process of writing following topics from each curriculum area.

    Across the curriculum basic aspects of writing guide lessons and expectations for student work and include: writing mechanics, sentence structure, journaling, letter composition, and grammar, Student learn to write well through experiences with a variety of writing traits and within the six genres: narrative, descriptive, expository, persuasive, technical and poetic.
  • Social World

    The Story of the Coming of Humans, the third Great Lesson, sets the scene for the Cultural History Curriculum: Pre-History and Recorded-History. It tells how the Humans are different from other creatures because of their intelligence, talents, and capabilities.

    The study of geography is divided along conceptual lines for young children and includes: physical and political geography (nations, cities, boarders), cultural geography, economic geography (natural resources production, transportation of goods to market), and map skills. History in the Harborlight curriculum has two parts: activities to introduce time, and the stories that introduce the relationship of the universe, its parts, and the human’s role in it.
  • World Languages

    Elementary students have Spanish or Mandarin lessons three times per week and practice between classes using classroom materials. While in class, routine activities are carried out in the second language with an emphasis on pronunciation. Cultural topics are studied using games and interactive activities. As the students’ progress, basic writing skills, conversation, and verb tenses are studied. Our approach brings forward a confidence and facility with world languages in oral and written communication.
  • Visual Arts

    Art complements the Montessori curriculum through the study of art history, art appreciation, making and creating art. There is a balance of self-directed art activities and collaborative projects in the weekly block of time in the art studio as a class. Sketching, painting, sculpture, printing, pottery and fiber arts are some of the approaches designed to build on art skills as students strengthen and practice Visual Art techniques in the studio, the classroom, and at home.

    All elementary classrooms have an open shelf of high-quality supplies and activities available to choose from. Through art, children have opportunities for creative expression and to construct visual complements to their academic learning. Open Art Studio is available to students who wish to further their art instruction and practice or have an independent project they wish to pursue.
  • Performing Arts

    Connecting music and drama to everyday life and cultures is the premise of the performing arts program at this level. Students study composers, music genres, learn to identify instruments through the history of music and classical instruction. Formal instruction includes listening activities to analyze music, and introduction to reading and notating music, improvisation and composing music. Performance activities include singing alone and with others, playing pitched and unpitched Orff instruments, movement, dance and connecting music with drama. (read more) -Students enjoy using their voice and bodies in a repertoire of theatre games, skits, productions, and performances. Performing Arts at Harborlight is a safe and encouraging space to be creative and take expressive risks.
  • Library

    Library skills are taught gradually in the lower elementary, beginning with basic instruction on books and how the library is a tool for learning. Children are able to identify books, locate them on the shelf by classification, and become aware of good choices for reading and research. Standard use of the library resource section includes an awareness of encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesaurus, and atlases. Often, library skills begin to shift to technology standards to execute simple text entry and editing, how to use on-line resources, and elementary keyboarding skills. All technology is limited use and purposefully connected with curriculum under the supervision of a faculty member.

Schedule Options

Academic Day
Extended Day
Extended Montessori
Days in addition to the academic year calendar are available by prior registration and require an additional fee. 

About Harborlight

Harborlight Montessori is a non-profit, independent, day school for students infant through grade 8 that is committed to innovative teaching and learning.