FAQ: Our Virtual Program for Early Years (Ages 0-5)

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BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE PROGRAM

Young children grow up quickly and their needs change as they develop. Our program is designed to grow with your child from birth. For our youngest children, the focus of our program is engaging with you as parents alongside your child, equipping you to foster their growth and learning. As the child grows, their ability to engage meaningfully with our educators through a virtual connection also grows, so our lessons become more robust. In all of our Early Years programming, for children from birth to kindergarten, your family will have access to: 

  • Virtual learning experiences that engage children at developmentally and age-appropriate levels with lessons and activities designed with the Montessori pedagogy by Montessori educators.
  • Personalized plans, activity ideas, and inspiration developed by our Montessori experts: your child's Montessori guide and our team of Parent Concierges who specialize in bringing Montessori learning between the home and school. These plans will allow your child to engage in purposeful offline work with tangible experiences that build your child’s knowledge and independence in your home, tied in with the learning that begins online and continues throughout the child’s whole day.
  • Physical Montessori learning materials sent to your home designed to empower you and your family to continue the learning beyond the screen. 

With the combination of online direct instruction, offline plans, and physical materials, you and your child will be set up for learning all day long with a full-service Montessori learning experience both online and offline.


HOW IS THIS PROGRAM DESIGNED FOR CHILDREN OF DIFFERENT AGES?

We understand that the youngest of children do not connect very meaningfully through a computer screen; therefore, our program is designed to grow with your child as their ability to learn through a virtual connection increases. We also understand that adult interaction is crucial. Our program equips and empowers parents to continue the learning that begins online into the rest of their offline experiences in the following ways: 


For infants through age 2, you and your family will experience:

  • Two weekly Movement and Sound Parent and Child virtual experiences: our educators support you to share songs, stories, and games with your child inspiring active participation and modeling to interact in thoughtful and meaningful ways with your child. These classes are led by an experienced Montessori Guide, training to work with families of young children.
  • A weekly virtual parent-meet up: an opportunity to come together as a community to discuss specific infant and toddler related topics. These are also led by a Montessori expert who will share with you tips and tricks for aiding your child’s growth at home.
  • Through partnering with Monti Kids, a leading supplier of in-home Montessori materials delivered to your home, you will receive quarterly kits of Montessori materials designed for just the right time in their rapid development.
  • Access to Monti Kids’ online portal: educational videos empowering you to introduce the materials to your child in just the right way to encourage their natural desire to grow and learn.
  • In-Home prepared environment consultation: our team of prepared environment experts will work with you to optimize your home setup for your child’s independence. 


For children from age 2 through kindergarten, you and your family will have:

  • Daily 90-minute virtual classroom experiences with a trained Montessori Guide (our word for teachers) and a small community of children around your child’s age.
  • Small classroom sizes: our virtual classes are limited to 10 to 12 children with one trained and experienced Montessori Guide. This allows for a customizing of your child’s learning path based on their unique needs.
  • Guides are trained and experienced to plan activities that can be scaffolded to allow children to be challenged appropriately at their skill level.
  • Access to a 30-minute elective every afternoon led by our Montessori guides who have a passion for arts, music, dance, languages, and other engaging, well-rounded activities.
  • Customized lesson plans, activities, and challenges designed for your child’s learning offline. These will expand off of the lessons and skills introduced to your child in their morning classes.
  • Physical Montessori learning materials designed to participate alongside the virtual experience and continue learning offline shipped to your home.
  • Continuous and dedicated support from our team of Parent Concierges: an opportunity to connect with a Montessori export for help supporting things like troubles with sleep, picky eating, becoming independent from diapers, inspiring better learning. 

For children ages 2 to 4: 

  • The Virtual Classroom that runs for 90 minutes daily will include lessons in the Montessori curriculum, focused primarily on Practical Life skills that will help develop your child’s independence and concertation. We also develop emerging literacy skills, beginning with oral language games, letter sound and symbol recognition, and sound games.
  • For this age-range, 90 minutes is a lot at first, and your child might partially participate, building up to the consistent meaningful engagement.
  • In addition to the morning class time, your child will also be invited to 30-minute afternoon “electives” where they will be able to join classes such as yoga, art, etc. 

For children ages 4 to 6:

  • During the Virtual Classroom that runs for 90 minutes daily, your Guide will offer lessons in the Montessori curriculum, focusing primarily on math and reading and writing skills, as well as doing some Practical Life and movement activities.
  • This program uses Montessori materials online and inspires movement and engagement with materials in your home, with a heavy focus on language and math, and inspires children to continue the work offline through cultivated follow-up activities.
  • In addition to the morning class time, your child will also be invited to 30-minute afternoon “electives” where they will be able to join classes such as yoga, art, etc.

HOW ABOUT THE KINDERGARTEN YEAR?

The Kindergarten year is simply the final year of our program described above for children ages 4 to 6. We can customize their learning path and introduce our kindergarten curriculum when it is right for your child. Our kindergarten year runs in the same manner as our program for four-year-olds, but the content and challenge grows with the child. It very well could be that if your child enrolls in our program at age four, then the following year, when they are in kindergarten, they will remain with their familiar guide and classmates, and the class will grow into the kindergarten year program without the need for a transition. 

Each Kindergarten class will be comprised of other children in their kindergarten year so that the lessons and activities are challenging and engaging at the right level for this unique foundational year.

WHAT IS THE DAILY SCHEDULE?

The day combines intentional offline experiences with the virtual online gatherings that add up to a full, productive day at home. Here’s a sample schedule that combines what we recommend for the full day and what your child will receive through virtual events. Please note that these are sample times that may be different depending on your time zone:


WHAT IF MY CHILD HAS TROUBLE FOCUSING FOR 90 MINUTES?

We do not expect children this age to be 100% engaged with the virtual class, 100% of the time! It is perfectly natural for your child to be more interested in some activities and not others. Joining classes online is challenging for this age group and like other skills, requires some practice! The cadence of the lesson will allow for movement activities interspersed with those that require attention on the screen. The Guide is trained to find new and exciting “hooks” to draw your child’s attention back to a lesson, based on their interest in specific topics. Additionally, you and your child’s guide will have regular check-in meetings to troubleshoot any issues that may come up and discuss any questions that you may have along the way. Like adjusting to any new school, we view this transition as a process, and we have many tools to help your child and your family adjust to the virtual program! 

It is helpful to establish a “classroom workspace” for your child. Ideally, this can be at a table with your child's working materials close by and easily accessible. (Paper and writing/coloring materials are highly recommended to have on hand). Your child’s Guide will update each family with any additional materials that are needed weekly. Some children enjoy preparing and enjoying a snack during class as well! 

Invite (but do not force) your child to do any other activities in front of the camera. This way, the other children can observe, and your child can listen in on the lesson being presented.


HOW MUCH SUPPORT WILL MY CHILD NEED DURING THE VIRTUAL LESSON?

There is no magic answer to this, but we do want to set the expectation that they will need more support in the first few days and weeks and will grow continuously more independent and confident as time goes on. For the first few days, we do recommend that an adult is available as your child adjusts to the virtual class. A student’s individual facility with new skills will vary depending on their age, experience, and motivation. You can support them in building endurance, persistence, and independence by being there at first, and “showing” rather than “doing”. 

After the first few days, expect some questions to arise as new tasks and challenges come up and be patient with yourselves and your children as things get underway and strong habits are built. During the second week, your child will likely become more focused, independent, and engaged for longer periods of time, and by the third week, their level of independence and interaction will typically be what you can expect moving forward. 

We will continue to scaffold the parent and student experience over the first few weeks and offer individualized support with any challenges that arise.


WHAT DOES PARENT COMMUNICATION LOOK LIKE?

Distance learning at this age is complemented when your child can complete follow up activities at home while offline. Although we will not physically be in your home to enable these activities, we will do everything we can to help support you in creating the conditions for your child to be successful outside of class, including:

  • An initial home setup consult: We will help you set up your home environment and send you a set of basic materials (this will be included in the fee, and at no additional cost to you).
  • Parent Concierge access: You will have a designated expert at your fingertips! You can meet with your Parent Concierge as often as you like to help you set up routines, offer suggestions, or troubleshoot any issues you may be having at home. 
  • A regular check-in meeting with your child’s Virtual Guide: In these meetings, you can discuss what your child is working on in class, and how you can support at home. Your Guide will also walk you through how to work with any materials in alignment with the Montessori program. As a part of this, and through email communication, your guide will help you design lessons and activities for offline learning as well as provide you with how you can best prepare supplies and materials on a given day to match the lessons they will receive during their virtual class times.


HOW DO I KNOW HOW MY CHILD IS LEARNING? 

Your biggest resource is your child’s guide! They will share with you in regular check-in meetings and through email communication in between about the lessons and activities your child is engaged in and how those activities develop conceptual understanding. In addition, the guides will be planning and tracking understanding and with this knowledge, they will create custom reports twice per year to show progress.


IS YOUR PROGRAM A HOMESCHOOL OR A PRIVATE SCHOOL PROGRAM? WILL IT "COUNT" AS REAL SCHOOL IF MY CHILD WERE TO MOVE ON NEXT YEAR TO A DIFFERENT PUBLIC OR PRIVATE SCHOOL?

For our Early Years program, you can attend with confidence that your child will learn and be prepared for any Kindergarten program there is. As pre-school is not compulsory, there is no need for any program to “count” in order to be accepted into kindergarten. 

Many states, however, do require that all children attend a kindergarten program, so it is important that our program does meet these requirements to meet that obligation. 

Guidepost Virtual School is a private school program that is attached to our network of brick and mortar private schools. Anywhere where we have a school, we have a relationship with the state’s educational departments and therefore are confident that attending our virtual program will have all the same benefits of attending any school. 

In states where we do not have a physical location, we do know that you could register as a homeschool to ensure that the programming “counts”. There are unique pathways to do this in each state. 

In all instances, it is important to note that it is ultimately the school you attend after our program that will determine how they “count” our virtual school. Even if they are required to count it as Kindergartenbecause you have either registered as a homeschool or because it is in a state where we are licensed, the school will be able to decide as to whether or not your child will be accepted into a particular magnet program or school of choice or if they will place you in a different program even if it isn’t your preference. School districts are required to provide schooling, but not necessarily at a location or in a program you choose. 

We will do everything we can to support getting your child into the program you desire. We are happy to provide letters, progress reports, and overviews of our curriculum to any school that you’d like to transfer to when the time comes.

If you live in the following states, please check with us about the need to make a plan to register your home as a homeschool: DC, MA, MD, ME, MI, NE, NH, ND, NV, PA, RI, SC, TN, WA, WV, WY. 


DO YOU OFFER ANY KIND OF FINANCIAL AID OR DISCOUNTS? 

We offer a 10% sibling discount from one tuition for the younger child and we have a financial aid program. Our goal was to make this program as affordable as possible, so only limited funds are left for financial aid. Please apply early if you’re interested! 


HOW DOES SOCIALIZATION / PEER CONTACT WORK AT A DISTANCE?

We are intentional about creating a sense of community and building in opportunities for children to collaborate and socialize with each other, which is why the classes have only 10 students in them. There is time built into each class for the students to engage in conversation and make connections to each other and the Guide, sometimes around a group snack gathering and at other times by book readings that encourage a discussion. In addition, we integrate rituals (spoken appreciations at birthdays), special projects (baking pizza or ice cream in a bag!), and games (can you find something orange and bumpy in your room and show it to us?) to foster connection.


HOW WILL YOU ASSESS MY CHILD’S LEARNING? 

Ongoing and informal assessment happens daily when the teacher presents a new lesson and through daily observation of the child’s work. The Guide will keep you informed about your child’s progress in your check-in meetings. The Guide will follow the same curriculum sequence as an in-person Montessori program, which aligns with Core Curriculum standards for each state. The engaging Montessori curriculum allows children to progress through lessons at their own pace, based on their motivation and interest in subject areas, while we ensure that they are introduced to core skills crucial for each year of development. 


MONTESSORI REQUIRES HANDS-ON MANIPULATIVES. HOW DO YOU DO THIS FROM HOME?

Many of the hands-on materials have been effectively reproduced in digital form or paper form. For example, we have either sourced, or created ourselves, reproductions of the Golden Beads, the MovableAlphabet, and the Spindle Box just to name a few. 

Other materials can be easily reproduced with everyday homemade objects. We have a plethora of quick and easy substitutes for materials like the Cards and Counters or the Color Box using materials like construction paper, paper clips, and beans. 

To make this as simple as possible for you, we will ship a “starter kit” to you with different contents depending on your child’s age. For infants through age two, this will be beautifully designed, wooden Montessori materials aimed at supporting learning at the exact moment your child is ready. For children two and older, we will send a combination of basic learning supplies like paper, art supplies, and more. In addition, you will receive materials designed for learning with the Montessori approach: practical life activities, at-home reproductions of the materials that are found in Montessori classrooms but made with laminated paper instead of the wooden and metal materials that would take up your whole home if we sent! Here are some examples of what you might receive depending on your child’s age:

After your initial set up, you will receive replenishment kits of materials about every three months while enrolled in the program. 

Lastly, some math concepts don’t need specialized materials – in fact, they are best taught embedded in Practical Life activities! This includes mastering money (use real money!), measurement (use measuring cups, rulers, tape measures!), graphing (pie, bar, and linear), and of course word problems.


WILL I NEED TO PURCHASE SPECIAL MATERIALS OR SUPPLIES?

No. We will be shipping your child's supplies and materials to you on a regular basis. These shipments will consist of a mixture of Montessori materials and child-constructed materials. Of course, if you’d like to supplement the learning with more permanent Montessori materials, you are welcome to and we can help you source the best ones. 


ARE YOUR TEACHERS MONTESSORI TRAINED? ARE THEY PREPARED FOR TEACHING IN A VIRTUAL SETTING?

Yes! All our lead teachers (Guides) are Montessori trained, with many having ample teaching experience both in the public and private sectors. All our faculty is supported by a central Montessori coaching and professional development team to ensure they are set up for success in a virtual learning environment. 


DO YOU HAVE LANGUAGE IMMERSION PROGRAMS? 

Yes. We have courses in our Early Years program in Spanish or Mandarin. Courses divided by ability level. If an older child doesn’t have strong skills, offer separate tutoring for math and language development in English.

Guidepost Montessori is a a global network of schools serving 3,500+ families with early education programs, including Emergency Care for Essential Workers (ECEW) during the COVID-19 crisis. Looking for more free content? Download Guidepost Parent from the App Store for personalized Montessori inspiration and activities.

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