Robotics Program at The Cottage School!

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We're excited to introduce a new six week Robotics Program to our Elementary students, with the help of the Peapack-Gladstone Library. Our first session was on Monday, March 25th, and the students were thrilled throughout their initial encounters with the robots.


Below are some details on the program:

  • Each class will be approximately 45 minutes

  • They will start by learning basic movements forward and backward, left and right. 

  • They will progress by teaching the robot how to do multiple sequences of maneuvers. 

  • Overtime they will teach the robot to navigate through the story map. The story map will be based on our school play. They will program the robot to navigate a map that visits the different ecosystems: the Antarctic, the Sahara desert, the rain forest and, a coral reef. 

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


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

Open House on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 - 9 am - 11 am

We welcome friends and families to attend our Open House event, Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 from 9am - 11am!

Families are invited to our Opening Circle, tour the school with Kirby Baldwin, and enjoy an informal conversation with Laura Soulages, Director of The Cottage School.  Please contact us here to RSVP.

If you are searching for a wonderful school in Somerset County that nurtures the whole child, come see what a typical day is like at The Cottage School.

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

Mommy/Daddy & Me Spring Program

Join us this spring for our Mommy/Daddy & Me Program, Tuesdays 9:30 am to 10:30 am!

Parents and caregivers will have the opportunity to come together with their child(ren), birth up to 24 months, in a warm, nurturing environment, centered around The Cottage School’s philosophy. Each week there will be storytelling, songs, finger plays, rounds, and other activities that will fulfill the children and parents alike. In addition, age-appropriate manipulates for fine and gross motor development will be available for the children.

If you’re interested in participating, please fill out our online registration form.

($50 suggested donation)

Spring Session: February 19th - March 26th, 2019

 Anthony (Milo) Miller, a Cottage School teacher, will lead the Spring 2019 session. Milo received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and his master’s degree in K-6 Education from Holy Family University, Philadelphia, PA. Prior to joining The Cottage School in 2015, Milo was a lead teacher in early childhood classrooms and a mentor for youth for nearly two decades. Milo brings humor, insight, and creativity to the learning environment. He enjoys sharing his love of nature, building and landscaping, fitness, and culinary arts with students and his three lively children.

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

Why Cottage School Elementary?

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The Cottage School will be hosting an informative educational session for parents who are interested in the elementary program for their children on Monday, February 11th from 9:30am to 11:00AM.

Our students enjoy school and are engaged members of our community because their individual curiosities and creativity are nurtured in a non-competitive environment. The Cottage School emphasizes the learning process, forming patterns of learning in an environment that is free from pressure, which is a unique quality in today’s achievement-obsessed educational culture.

This workshop is specifically designed for parents to understand our pedagogy and curriculum. In addition, our elementary school parents will share their thoughts on Why Cottage School Elementary?

Our elementary school teaches children ages 5 through 14, with its unique, well-rounded academic program integrating traditional subject areas of language arts, literature, foreign languages, mathematics, natural sciences, world studies, physical education and the fine arts, in a cooperative- not competitive environment.

Using the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards as its foundation, The Cottage School has developed its own curriculum and materials to exceed expectations on many levels. Please refer to our interviews from alumni Emily Vasconez and Francisco Guglielmino and their experiences at The Cottage School.

If you’re interested in attending this workshop, please RSVP here, or email  liza@thecottageschool.net or call 908-719-9610.

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. 

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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.

Handmade Materials at The Cottage School

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Empowering students and teachers is one of the main components of The Cottage School's Organic Education. Throughout the year, teachers (and some parents, too) prepare handmade toys, materials and games for the students to play and learn with. In this way, our community embodies the concept that “things” can be custom made, and repaired when necessary.

During playtime, our students have the opportunity to use handmade toys and dolls made either at school or around the world. When a teacher is crocheting a dress for one of the dolls while the children play, there is a great learning experience taking place in the playroom. Children feel the full satisfaction of the organic process of having seen the dress being made that it is now ready to use with the doll. Children feel that toys can be made, and in fact, very soon start making their own at home as well. They come to the realization (perhaps not conscious at the beginning) that there is no need to go to the store to buy everything.

 I remember one time, when one of the alumni mothers told me that she was looking for post-it notes to mark paragraphs on a book, but couldn’t find any. Soon after, her son said: “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll make them for you!” And so he did! This approach in education empowers the student by fostering self-sustaining, problem solving, and creative thinking skills.

 In addition, creating our own materials allows for a genuine integration of arts and academics in all the traditional subjects. At The Cottage School, teachers design the curriculum and make play-based customized teaching materials. There is no textbook in sight. Commercial textbooks are created for a mass of students for massive curriculums that don’t take into account the needs of the particular class/student. By using their own self-made materials, our teachers create a flexible and dynamic class for an organic learning process. 

They produce a range of materials which include jigsaw puzzles, bingo, word-to-image and memory games, all of which provide benefits to the students' overall physical, social-affective, and cognitive development. There are also specific health benefits associated with using hands-on materials. For instance, working on and solving jigsaw puzzles increases concentration, improves attentiveness, and expands creativity. When students focus on the same image for longer periods, it becomes a meditative process. Since the mind is focused on visualizing images, it concentrates on this alone in exclusion of everything else. By participating in such practices, students experience reduced heart rate and blood pressure.

The Cottage School teachers do research and study from original material, which encourages their students to do the same. The result is an engaged, mutual effort to go deeper in knowledge. While the internet and other educational resources provide teachers with an endless supply of materials, at The Cottage School teachers receive a lot of joy from "doing it themselves" and, as a result, intrinsically motivate their students to be independent creators, as well!

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


Free Workshop on The Importance of Arts in Education & Holiday Card Painting

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The Cottage School is pleased to host “The Importance of Arts in Education & Holiday Card Painting” November 29th from 6:30pm - 8:00pm. The workshop with be co-hosted by Liza Scher who holds a degree in Art History and a concentration in German Expressionism, and Laura Soulages who is the Founding Director of The Cottage School. At the end of our discussion, attendees will be given the opportunity to paint their own holiday cards.

A core belief at The Cottage School is that art, in all forms, be it visual arts, music, dance, imaginative play or drama, positively influences children in their physical, affective, and cognitive development, their desire to learn and their love for school.

The process of creativity and expression is one that should not be oppressed. Creativity is an instinct and a need for all and it is imperative that we allow children to create. Art enables children to be critical, innovative thinkers, to problem solve, create, communicate, express and experiment. Art helps children to develop inventive and productive ways to think outside the box, and is an indispensable tool when it comes to developing physical, cognitive and social skills.

If you’re interested in attending this free workshop, please RSVP online, email liza@thecottageschool.net, or contact us at (908) 719-9610.

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