Our Elementary Program

Grades 1 to 6, for ages 6 to 12

Our elementary programs are truly unique: mixed-aged Montessori communities, with multi-year age bands learning alongside one another. Within the Montessori framework, we embed a sequence of classical academic content in the humanities and the sciences, which motivates student-led project-based learning.

why guidepost elementary?

  • Collaboration Icon
    21st Century Collaboration Skills

    Our Montessori work environment is supportive and inclusive. Our children undertake daily self-directed work, as well as ambitious projects, in both partnerships and small groups, learning to collaborate and problem-solve respectfully and effectively. These are the true skills needed for a successful, flourishing life in the era of the Internet and the gig economy.

  • Responsibility Icon
    Responsibility & Self-Direction

    Students choose their work and work partners during the daily work cycle, learning to set goals, challenge themselves, and tackle complex problems. Each child practices leadership and responsibility, playing a role as a mentor to younger students, caring for the school environment, and engaging meaningfully to resolve classroom issues.

  • Independence Icon grade 4
    Meaningful, Independent Work

    Challenging academic work inspires Guidepost elementary students to rise to the occasion, master difficult skills, and develop a broad base of foundational knowledge. Within this framework, careful attention and support is given to each student so that they're motivated to pursue their own goals and go beyond typical curriculum requirements.

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.

Maria Montessori
Meet Tristan, one of our elementary students

Meet Tristan Journo, an eight year-old student enrolled at our campus in Foothill Ranch, California. Tristan shares some of his favorite activities at school, as well as his work journal, projects with friends and peers, science experiments and history lessons.

“My favorite things about school,” Tristan says, “[are] probably, one, being able to learn basically the whole day...and my second favorite thing is that all the resources you need to do whatever you want to work on are all around you, if you know how to use them in the right way.”

Meet Lindsay Journo, elementary parent and Guidepost Executive Program Developer

What are some of the biggest benefits of a Montessori elementary education? How does it support rigorous academics, and at the same time make room for individual choice?

We sit down with Executive Program Developer and Guidepost parent, Lindsay Journo, to discuss our Montessori elementary program.

Both of Lindsay's children have been in Montessori since age 2, so she's been able to follow her children all the way through the Montessori curriculum to their current place in our elementary program.

Elementary students have mastered basic physical independence, and are ready for the dramatic step of practicing living independently thoughtful lives. We take full advantage of the Montessori three-hour work cycle, where students choose and organize their own work. Our students come to create, understand, structure, and interrelate their learning goals—to work both independently and collaboratively—and to persist in difficult thinking and abstract creative work.

You can read more about our culture of autonomy and work, and the character that it fosters, here. Executive functioning skills and work ethic are a core part of Guidepost's elementary program.

For content, the elementary-aged student is hungry for structured, abstract thinking—for the whole edifice of human knowledge. Guidepost's elementary program satisfies that appetite and then some, challenging students to grow their knowledge and their knowhow across every discipline. Read more about our approach to each area of academics:

  • Mathematics: a program of hands-on materials and a precise, rigorous sequence of mathematical content;

  • Literature: learning about human nature, through a curriculum of great works and a pedagogy of deep, personal comprehension;

  • Language Arts: a course of reading and writing skills that fosters reading comprehension, eloquent expression, and objective thinking;

  • Art Appreciation: an approach to “reading” and connecting with the fine arts;

  • Science: mastering evidential, causal reasoning via a foundation of scientific knowledge;

  • History: the chronology of history as a tool to understand the present human world.

The Guidepost elementary student graduates with an unmatched inner discipline and an internalized system of foundational knowledge. She is well on the trajectory towards becoming a modern citizen of the world—independent, versatile, knowledgeable, and self-possessed.

All other factors…sink into insignificance beside the importance of feeding the hungry intelligence and opening vast fields of knowledge to eager exploration.

Maria Montessori

From Our Elementary Community

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do Guidepost elementary students do throughout the day? What's the daily schedule?

    Elementary students have a three-hour uninterrupted work cycle each morning and a shorter work period each afternoon. Lunch typically happens before outdoor time in the elementary classroom. Elementary children take a very active role in managing their classroom and keeping it clean and organized, so time is set aside daily, typically at the end of each work cycle, for these tasks. Most Guidepost elementary classrooms include weekly meetings with the teacher at certain times or on certain days, and most have weekly presentation days for students to share completed work with their peers.

  • Tell me about class sizes and child-teacher ratios.

    As children get older, they become more interested in working with their peers. As a result, in the elementary classroom, the vast majority of lessons are given to small groups of 2-5. This instructional ratio far surpasses the typical instructional ratio in elementary classrooms, which is in the range of 1:25 (we recommend researching this for your area's public and private schools).

    Our ideal elementary class size is larger (25-35) than in our earlier programs. This allows smaller peer groups to develop within the larger age range in the program, and for children to find other peers with similar interests with whom they can connect and work.

  • Tell me about your teachers. Are they Montessori/AMI/AMS trained?

    Our hiring process is very rigorous. We start by carefully choosing teachers who have the right kind of personality and the patience that is our requirement for working with children. We look for teachers who are calm, who treat children with deep respect, and who know how to help children increase in independence.

    We hire professional educators who view Montessori as a calling, not just a job. Next, we consider applicants who have existing high-quality Montessori training (often from two of the most established training institutes, the Association Montessori Internationale or the American Montessori Society), but we've also developed an extensive in-house training program, so we can either add to the training many guides come to us with or so we can offer opportunities to our own staff who has earned it through their work. We can often promote assistant guides who have undergone our extensive in-house training program, which is accredited by MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Accreditation). We also provide substantial ongoing professional development opportunities so that our staff members can hone their craft.

  • Why do you use the word “guide” instead of teacher?

    Montessori teachers are often called “guides,” to describe their role in the classroom more precisely. In addition to teaching small group lessons, Montessori guides also “guide” the child as he pursues his interests and makes his own learning discoveries using our rich classroom materials. In the elementary program, teachers take on even more of a coaching role, meeting regularly with the children to help them plan their time and achieve personal and academic goals.

  • Do you give tests to the children? How does assessment work?

    We think it is neither necessary nor helpful to administer or depend on traditional tests and assessments, especially with young children. Ongoing, detailed assessment happens in lessons, when the teacher presents a new material, often one-on-one with the child (or in small groups with older children) and through daily observation of the child’s work with the materials. As they get older, a child's completed work becomes more important in the assessment process as well, but early on, the child is primarily working on developing internal skills and understanding, rather than producing a particular external result. Because the child's aim is to build him or herself, careful observation of the child is necessary.

    When children move from our program into elementary school, they typically do exceptionally well on standardized tests, but even in schools where we have elementary programs, we do not teach to tests. Instead, we encourage each child's intrinsic motivation by responding to and developing the child’s natural developmental interest. Near the end of elementary, children do practice taking tests so that they are confident and comfortable when taking tests beyond our classrooms, but these are never the goal of daily classroom work.

  • There seems to be a lot of choice given to Montessori students. What if my child never chooses math/language/another type of work?

    Our teachers receive training and professional development in the craft of Montessori education. One of the skills they learn is how to “entice” children and draw their interest. If it happened that your child was not expressing interest in some particular category (this would be very unusual), your teacher would ask herself why, and would closely observe your child in order to figure it out. Then she would craft a plan to help spark that interest, possibly drawing on other areas of interest that your child has.

    The Montessori experience is based on the principle of “freedom within limits” or “freedom with responsibility.” Your child is free to choose any work he’s had a lesson on, and to use it as often and for as long as he wishes, as long as it's exercised responsibly. In the highly unusual scenario that he never chooses work in a given area, the guide has a number of strategies she can employ depending on the age of the child (repeating a lesson with the child, working together with the child, enticing the child to observe or work with other children doing that work, etc.).

    In the elementary classroom, children are expected to become active members of their society and expected to learn the necessary skills that will allow them to actively participate. They are coached to master key skills and use those skills to explore and demonstrate their knowledge in all areas of learning.

  • How does Montessori support creativity?

    Children that grow up in Montessori schools are exceptionally creative, and many well-known entrepreneurs and artists grew up in Montessori schools (the Google founders, Jeff Bezos, Anne Frank, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name a few).

    In order execute on a creative idea, a person needs to have technical skill; the artist must be able to employ the paintbrush or the clay with skill in order for it to become the thing that he or she imagines. In our classrooms, children are exposed to an abundance of information, and they practice using their hands in many different ways. Finally, they are given real tools with which to do art, from early on.

    Elementary students are given real, beautiful, high-quality art supplies to work with The elementary-aged child has a creative imagination and is exposed to an abundance of information and ideas in the classroom. He or she can then begin to put these ideas together in new ways-as an artist, a writer, an inventor, or an entrepreneur.

  • Will my child have trouble transitioning to another school?

    Children typically transition very easily to other schools from our program. We recommend that you choose a school that is sure to challenge your child, as one of the biggest issues after a transition is lack of challenge.

    Children from our elementary classrooms are typically sought after by middle schools, and typically become leaders in whichever schools they attend, public or private.

Guidepost Montessori elementary student with her mom
Beth with her daughter Molly (age 6),
Guidepost Elementary student

I love the teachers and community at Guidepost; how loving everyone is. The teachers and administrators are so caring — they want the best experience for our family. I love how much they want to get the children excited for learning and how they apply Montessori to help the whole child develop to their best potential.

thanks for your interest!

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