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

Open House at The Cottage School - Wednesday, January, 16 2019 - 9 am - 11 am

We welcome friends and families to attend our Open House event, Wednesday January 16, 2019 from 9am - 11am!

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

Mondays on Education Free Workshop: The Power of Play, December 3rd, 9:30am-11:00am

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Monday, December 3rd from 9:30 to 11:00 am, The Cottage School will be hosting "Mondays on Education: The Power of Play," a free discussion led by Dr. Jason Rodker.

Play is fun. As adults we seek play as a respite from daily life stress. Adults generally think of play as a frivolous activity to engage in only if/when the more serious matters of the day are attended to. However, to children play is serious business and it is essential that they prioritize play each day. Play is the work of childhood. Children use play as a primary means of communicating, learning, and connecting. When adults support a child's natural inclination toward play, the child comes to know his/herself in a deep way. The self knowledge that results from this serves as a foundation for resilience and inner security throughout life. This workshop will emphasize how we as adults can utilize play to connect with our children in ways that promote optimal development.

Dr. Jason Rodker earned his undergraduate degree, as well as a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology, from Rutgers University. During his training he worked in a therapeutic school for children and adolescents at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ. While earning his doctorate in Child-Clinical/School Psychology at Pace University, he continued his training by working with adolescents and young adults dealing with anxiety and depression, adjustment to life transitions, gender and sexual identity issues, and relationship difficulties. During his internship and fellowship training at Youth Consultation Service, Dr. Rodker developed specialties in child and play therapy. He has worked with children of all ages and with a variety of presenting issues, including disruptive behaviors, mood dysregulation, adjustment difficulties, attachment issues, and trauma. As a certified school psychologist, Dr. Rodker has worked on Child Study Teams in traditional and alternative school environments. Dr. Rodker currently works in private practice with children, adolescents, and adults, working with individuals and families.

If you’re interested in attending this free workshop, please RSVP online, email liza@thecottageschool.net, or contact us directly 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

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


The Cottage School Playdough Recipe

At The Cottage School, we make our own playdough every week. Children of all ages love to play with it!

Not only is playdough calming, but it gives our students an opportunity for an open ended activity where they can create what they wish.

Playdough gives tactile pleasure and sensory integration: children can touch it, see it, smell it and even taste it sometimes! At The Cottage School, we believe the more senses children can use and the more involved they get in the activity, the greater the learning experience is. Children need to use all senses and need opportunities to create, playdough brings a perfect combination!

Here is a tried and true simple recipe that we’ve been using for years…

You’ll need:
2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
1 cup of water
1 cup maizena (cornstarch)
food coloring (optional)

Directions
Mix the flour, salt and maizena in a large mixing bowl
Add oil and food coloring to the water then into the dry ingredients
Mix continuously adding the liquid
Knead some and let your child do the rest!

*If it remains a little sticky then add a touch more flour until just right (not too sticky and not too dry). You can keep it in the refrigerator for a week; add a little more flour each time you take it out to use.

*For a wonderful natural dye, try boiling beets and using the leftover water in this recipe.

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 Announcement

The Cottage School’s popular Mommy/Daddy & Me Fall Session is here!

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The Cottage School offers parents and caregivers a simple interactive group experience for their children—aged 1-24 months. Held in a warm, nurturing environment that’s firmly centered around The Cottage School’s philosophy, the play group offers storytelling, folksongs, talks, and gentle movement in a quiet and calming environment.

Fall Session: October 2nd - November 6th

If you would like to participate in this wonderful program please send an email to liza@thecottageschool.net, fill out the registration form online, or contact us at (908) 719-9610.

The suggested donation for each 6-week session is $50.

We encourage you to escape the house, meet new friends and discover the simple creativity that abounds at The Cottage School!

Sign up for our Spring session held February 19th through March 26th from 9:30-10:30 AM. (Note: no meetings will be held on April 23rd).


Welcome Back to School!

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Welcome back to school! I’ve spoken with multiple parents who have said their children were missing The Cottage School over the summer, and our household did too! Everyone is happy to be back.

Something that I’ve chatted about with both parents and teachers a few times over the past week or so is pace. I always expect the school year to significantly alter my children’s energy levels (being overly exhausted after a school day), especially as we transition into a new school year, yet I’m always pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t.

While they certainly have ample time to run and play and get their energy out at school—rain or shine!—my children are also replenished by the school day. I believe this is because the pace of the school day supports our children’s natural development. If you ever come to an Open House, birthday celebration or happen to observe any part of the school day, you will likely notice how calm a school of 30 children can be.

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Several weeks ago a book caught my eye at the library called The Importance of Being Little. The author, Erika Christakis, mentions that adults so frequently both underestimate and overestimate children; we underestimate their intelligence and attention spans, resulting in unstimulating preschool curriculums, and overestimate them pragmatically—how quickly they can and should be able to transition, and how long they should be able to sit still.

Last week I sat in at circle time on a natural sciences lesson about gravity. It’s possible that I learned about gravity in school, too, but I can tell you for sure that it wasn’t in preschool! I am so consistently impressed with both the caliber of the curriculum as well as the flexibility and creativity in the teaching methods—they are learning so much without even knowing it, and I can’t think of a better way to foster a lifelong love of learning from a young age.

If you have a chance to read the book, I think you’ll see that The Cottage School embodies its spirit so well. I’ve been hard-pressed to find a single quality that Christakis attributes to the very best preschools that our school doesn’t do. My two children who attend our school are very different, yet both of their needs are consistently met. The natural pace, nurturing environment, and high-quality relationships that our teachers take the time to build with our children make school a natural extension of our home.

I will be co-leading a book discussion with Laura Soulages on Monday, October 22 from 9:30-11am and I hope you can come!