Positive Discipline with Dr. Jason Rodker and Laura Soulages, April 1st and April 8th, 2019 - 9:30 -11:00 am

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Join us for Mondays on Education, A Positive Discipline workshop with Dr. Jason Rodker and The Cottage School’s Director, Laura Soulages, on April 1st, and April 8th, 9:30 - 11:00 am. These are both free workshops for adults and we encourage friends and parents to bring their friends!

We will be discussing distinguished licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor, educator, and mother of seven, Jane Nelsen’s book, “Positive Discipline.” In it, she tells us that “The key to positive discipline is not punishment, but mutual respect.”

An approach to discipline based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, Positive Discipline is designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities, and teaches important social and life skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults.

To RSVP, please sign up here.

The Cottage School is a multicultural non-sectarian, non-selective learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. Learn more at thecottageschool.net

Choosing a Young K / Kindergarten Program for Your Child

Choosing a young kindergarten or kindergarten program for your child is an important decision, and there are many different options to navigate. When doing your research, it’s vital to understand what makes a high-quality program.

While many parents’ primary concerns are around their kindergartener’s academic skills (i.e., reading, writing, and mathematics), it is also critical to consider the social, emotional, and physical aspects of childhood development. Research has shown that the elements of a classroom’s climate that support early learning include:

  • Close relationships between teachers and children

  • Opportunities to learn socially from peers

  • Classroom materials that invite open-ended play and exploration

  • Classroom schedules that give children adequate time to complete their work

  • Activities that combine learning standards (e.g., math and language simultaneously) (Christakis)

The importance of ample time for play in a young k/kindergarten program cannot be overstated, and high-quality programs acknowledge and reflect the research that play is the fundamental building block of cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Benefits of play include:

  • Improved memory

  • Better mathematical skills

  • Higher test scores

  • Decreased mental fatigue

  • Greater impulse regulation

  • More complex language skills

Here are some signs to look for when seeking out a high-quality young k or kindergarten program:

✔Small student-teacher ratio and class size

✔ Individualized learning plans to honor different learning styles and needs

✔ Child-centered environment

✔ Emphasis on social-emotional development

✔ Play-based, experiential learning

✔ Ample daily outdoor and free play

✔ Cross-disciplinary approach to learning that integrates the arts, foreign languages, and movement

✔ Positive approach to discipline

✔ Holistic portfolio assessment to assess students’ progress, rather than traditional tests

✔ Pace that supports a child’s natural development and interests

✔ Strong connection and communication between home and school

✔ Meets and exceeds New Jersey Core Curriculum standards

✔ Healthy lunch program

The Cottage School Young K / Kindergarten Curriculum

We believe in the organic education of our students and consider all aspects of the child’s development to be important. We integrate the arts and academics in all traditional subjects, and honor creativity in all subjects of learning, building confidence in students by allowing mistakes as a valid way to learn.

How Do We Teach Reading & Writing?

Language Arts

The Cottage School places great importance on the learning process to develop patterns of learning. Literary skills are developed not just to decode words for reading and writing but to foster comprehension, sequence, vocabulary, creative thinking, memory skills, and an appreciation of literature. All literature chosen is in its original unabridged format.

  • Reading, copying text in print and cursive, illustrating and familiarization of poems and stories

  • Language games

  • Playacting: drama and recitation

  • Storytelling

Rhythmic Writing

Rhythmic writing is a musical approach to writing that helps develop handwriting, hand-eye coordination, concentration, spatial sense, and focus. Children experience writing with their bodies, not just with intellect, understanding how individual parts of their scribble relate to the whole.

How Do We Teach Mathematics?

Children are introduced to math creatively and authentically through rhythm, movement, games, puzzles, blocks, and counting pebbles, seeds and shells. They measure when baking, playing with water and sand, and gardening. Origami, jump rope, hopscotch, knitting, weaving, and beanbag counting games develop math concepts. These activities improve coordination, concentration, and counting abilities. Certain concepts are learned using concrete elements and games. Geometry is absorbed and spatial sense is developed by practical experiences such as origami, painting, dancing, rounds, and playing with blocks and wooden forms.

  • Counting: ascending and descending scales

  • Estimation and comparison

  • Addition and subtraction

  • Introduction to time, money and measurement

  • Fractions

  • Writing numbers and simple operations in blank books

  • Math games

  • Daily mental calculations

  • Mazes

  • Board games

  • Simple origami and collage (geometry)

Foreign Languages

Spanish and French are learned through immersion by singing folk songs, play-acting, traditional games, reading aloud (original prose, poetry, and folktales) and speaking to the children as a parent would at home. This natural approach helps the students master other foreign languages later in life.

Natural Sciences & Social Studies 

The teachers sustain a permanent attitude of “discovery” and experiential thinking during the class. Great importance is placed on the quality of materials.

  • Hands-on experiments

  • Gardening

  • Geography

  • Cultures

  • Weather and seasons

  • Plants

  • Animals

  • The Universe

In addition, once per semester, the students are assigned a natural science topic to research, study, and create an oral presentation to give to their peers, which allows them not only to learn in-depth about the topic, guided by their areas of natural curiosity, but also to develop self-confidence and comfort with public speaking.

The Arts & Music

  • Painting and drawing

  • Weaving

  • Felting

  • Finger knitting

  • Recorder

  • Daily singing

Physical Education & Movement

  • Folkdancing

  • Traditional games

  • Creative movement

  • Outdoor play

  • Yoga

Special Activities

  • Baking: Breads, cookies, cakes, rolls and pizza

  • Festivities

  • Guest speakers

  • Field trips

The Cottage School is a multicultural non-sectarian, non-selective learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. Learn more at thecottageschool.net

The Cottage School Alumni Profile and Interview – Emily Vasconez

We are so proud that the children who attend The Cottage School go on to become socially confident students and strong leaders amongst their peers.  We’re also thrilled when we hear that they look back fondly on their time here at The Cottage School. 


Emily Vasconez was enrolled at The Cottage School since she was 2 1/2 years old, so she was able to take advantage of all that we offer here – beginning with the playgroup, transitioning to the preschool and finally through the elementary school.

Emily completed 6th grade at The Cottage School, transferred to a public school in 7th grade, and was able to easily adjust to a different system of education. Not only is she thriving academically, testing above her grade level in reading, she is also very helpful with her classmates and has begun tutoring younger students. She comes back to visit The Cottage School often and during her last visit,  we asked her to tell us a bit about her experiences transitioning to a public school setting after leaving The Cottage School.

During this impromptu interview, Emily talks here about her experience tutoring other students, how she easily made friends when she changed schools, her experience transitioning to a test taking education model and how she is passionate about her studies, especially math!  She also discusses how The Cottage School helped to foster her creativity and how it is apparent in her current school work. 

As a bilingual student, whose home language is Spanish, she was able to speak up for other students who were not fluent in English when they couldn’t understand why they were being teased. 

For parents that have questions about how the children develop in a small alternative school setting and transition later on, this is a great way to hear first hand from a Cottage School student!

We asked her to write a bit about her experiences here at The Cottage School and she gave us permission to share here.

Here’s what she had to say:

“The Cottage School is wonderful and I had an amazing learning experience there. At The Cottage School, you experience this whole other dimension of creativity that no other schools have. I ,for one, have experienced this and I have done things that I thought were impossible to do. With the help of amazing teachers and the bolster they gave me and the wonderful creativity of the school, I was able to write a play.  Then, with the help of my classmates and teachers, we made the play come to life.

I also learned during the years that I was at the school, that creativity has no limit and if you have the proper tools and imagination, you can create anything. During these years, I watched how our classmates helped each other out and how we cared for one another.

This school has taught me to never let anything stop me from being creative and to care for others and to have a fun learning experience.

Thank you, The Cottage School, for letting me be in a amazing place of creativity and fun learning.  This is a school that I will never forget being in and experiencing the fun I had every day.” – Emily Vasconez , 13yrs old

You can listen to the whole interview on the right.

Free Workshops on Mindfulness with Dr. Antoinette Welsh, January 24th & January 28th

We welcome Cottage School parents and friends to our Mindfulness workshops! Please note that our workshops are for adults only.

Mindfulness is becoming a popular method for use with children to help them to learn to center themselves, become aware of their emotions, and improve focus. Current Cottage School parent, Toni Welsh, will discuss what mindfulness is, what its benefits are, and how to incorporate it into daily life.

Dr. Antoinette Welsh is a licensed psychologist in New Jersey and New York specializing in neuropsychology who works with individuals with traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, memory loss, brain tumors, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and other conditions affecting cognitive functioning. Toni (Dr. Welsh) has an interest in mindfulness, particularly the effects of mindfulness based interventions on cognitive functioning. She has had experience running mindfulness groups with a variety of populations including The Cottage School students and enjoys using mindfulness techniques within her own family.

After graduating from Lafayette College with Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience, Dr. Welsh went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Counseling Psychology from Seton Hall University. She completed a concentration in neuropsychology, focusing her studies and clinical experience in both adult and pediatric neuropsychological assessment, including training at the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Hackensack University Medical Center, and Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.  

Thursday, January 24th at 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, at The Cottage School at 224 Main Street, Gladstone, NJ 07934

Monday, January 28th at 9:30 am to 11:00 am: ‘Mondays on Education’ at St. Mark's Episcopal Church at 9 E Main Street, Mendham, NJ 07945 (Google Maps)

If you are interested in attending any of these workshops, please RSVP here. Please note that our workshops are for adults only.

The Cottage School is a multicultural non-sectarian, non-selective learning community that values and fosters the children’s spirit of discovery to sustain their innate abilities and passion for learning. We create a non-competitive environment where creativity and the joy for learning are nurtured. Learn more at thecottageschool.net