The fundamental tenet of our Hacienda school is that students will learn to direct and manage their own learning. Child development is a process of stimulation and enrichment with cognitive and manipulative materials as well as hands-on activities. Students, individually and in small groups, plan and assess their goals in learning.
Our mission is to provide an enriched learning environment in which students develop optimally and fulfill their full potential as human beings in all their roles and relationships. We intend that they develop the intellectual and social skills, as well as character, to enable them to succeed in high school and college settings. We expect that they will not only take their proper places in society, they will come to influence and change society for the better.
The goal of our teachers is to create an environment that encourages the pursuit of excellence in all facets of a child’s work, to stimulate a sense of curiosity, and to encourage the development of independence and individual responsibility as well as a social conscience. As much as possible, our teachers avoid the role of “sage on stage” who imparts content to students that they can just as easily obtain from books or other sources. Instead, our teachers for the most part act like tutors who float from student to student, checking on progress, ensuring that skill development is continuing, and remediating any problems during the learning process rather than doubling back after a test failure to understand where things went wrong.
The cornerstone of a Montessori school is an approach that shows respect for the student as an individual striving for independence. The role of the Montessori teacher is to observe each student carefully and to facilitate learning through the student's own experiences. The teacher provides order to a student's learning, not to dictate what should be learned, but to help structure the process by which everything and anything can be learned. Even today, more than 90 years after the creation of Maria Montessori's centers, her program remains the only organized, sequential, and individualized preschool curriculum that has been tested and proven to work.
Unlike most traditional schools or other private elementary schools, our students interact with several different teachers. They benefit from understanding the differences among teaching styles and learning how to meet the varying expectations of individual teachers.
As students mature, more time is spent outside the classroom. The upper elementary and middle school students participate actively in “Socratic dialogue,” which involves close textual analysis of original texts and group discussion.
At our Hacienda School in Pleasanton, CA, we incorporate an individual curriculum that continues and expands upon the Montessori curriculum employed in the preschool program. The specific components include:
Students develop skill and fluency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, the basics of the language arts. Reading skills give them independence in learning and the joy of exploring appropriate literature. Students are involved in extensive writing, including creative writing and research projects appropriate to their abilities. They use their language arts as enabling skills throughout the curriculum.
Students gain a further understanding of the use of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division through manipulation of concrete materials. Their self-directed explorations and applications lead them naturally to the learning of fractions, geometry, weights and measures, estimation, and word problems. Older students will progress to algebra and high school math subjects. Further understanding and mathematical skills come through appropriate software and other learning technologies.
Through guided observation and exploration, students discover the basic elements of both the scientific method and the domains of the natural and the physical sciences. The school encourages the “doing” of science by means of hands-on activities that lead to concept development. Field trips help integrate real experiences into the science program. The three grand science cycles, each covering a year of study, include the life science (biology), the physical sciences (chemistry and physics), and the earth sciences (geology and astronomy).
History, geography, and anthropology stand foremost in the school. Teachers invite and guide students to become familiar with the heritage of the world, to learn of its significant figures, its cultures, its epochal events, and the places where history was and is being made. Students move to more advanced study through project-based explorations, leading to the areas of economics, politics, and business. This group of disciplines helps increase students’ appreciation for various cultures, ethnicities, and traditions. The three grand cycles, each covering a year of study, include the early period (through the Renaissance), the middle period (Reformation through the Industrial Revolution), and the modern period (World War I to today).
The school offers basic foreign language training in both Spanish and Chinese, which is intended to produce limited fluency by age 9 and conversational fluency with peers by age 12.
Students have ample opportunity and strong encouragement to express their creative talents in the visual, plastic, kinesthetic, musical and dramatic arts. Performance and museum attendance, theory and history of the arts, and the development of an aesthetic sensibility are integral parts of this curriculum. Lower elementary students learn both rhythm and melody as part of the foundational “Orff Music Program.” In third grade, students learn to read music and play recorders. In fourth grade, students move into band and learn to play a traditional instrument.
Students utilize information technologies such as computers and multi-media as learning tools in many of their curriculum activities. They acquire competence in the creation, production, and utilization of simple technologies by planning and building them. Students learn how things work and how to make them work, and invent new things that incorporate their skills and knowledge. Keyboarding is taught in the lower elementary program, and most school assignments are computer processed.
Playful and imaginative physical exertion is integrated into the daily activities. Students acquire increased body awareness, control, and wellness through stimulating games and sports calling for cooperative and competitive efforts. An outdoor program with walking, hiking, and camping plays an important role in students’ development.
While not a distinct subject, students learn the lifetime skills of how to learn, process information, solve problems, make decisions, and plan and complete tasks. Through modeling and encouragement, they learn to develop and manage their interpersonal skills and to cooperate and become effective, courteous, and happy members of a learning community.
Food preparation, gardening, animal care, technology maintenance, and care of the environment are essential components of each student’s growth and development.
To fulfill its promise to parents and their students, ELI schools offer novel features:
Our schools take pride in hiring the highest caliber staff and providing them with excellent compensation, benefits, training, and working conditions. Directors and teachers, without exception, possess bachelor’s degrees and many staff members have post-graduate degrees.
Our head teachers devote 25% of their working day to administrative responsibilities such as meeting with parents, training staff, and preparing classroom activities. This permits a mentoring of young teachers that is non-existent in traditional schools.
Head teachers are given annual memberships in the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the American Montessori Association, as well as monthly expense allowances for their programs. We provide all staff with an extensive in-service training program, monthly room meetings and monthly whole-center meetings with paid dinners, and funds for outside training.
Our schools never exceed a ratio of 12 students per teacher and smaller groups are often seen. Teachers are almost never alone in their classrooms, which facilitates consistency and quality control.
The full-day, year-round schedule, with only 10 scheduled holidays supports busy families who cannot be troubled to find alternative programs when traditional schools are closed. Parents have no requirement for service hours at the school, though they have numerous opportunities to be involved through parent education programs, the parent advisory board, and other activities. Semi-annual conferences, scheduled at times convenient to parents, and daily office hours permit parents to follow their student’s progress and address issues that arise throughout the year.
Because the basic skill development activities are individualized, students are able to take vacations at any time throughout the year. This accommodates parents whose work schedules do not permit time off during traditional school vacation periods. In a positive vein, family vacations taken during these non-traditional times are able to benefit from lower costs and more availability.