The primary objective of Pre-School ("Maternelle") is to help children become students, introducing them to the challenges and pleasures of learning. Through class activities, children learn to evolve in the world around them and become conscious of their bodies, learning to hold a crayon, and then a pen, correctly, all in a stress free environment. Teachers provide reassurance and encouragement as each child experiences and develops his or her skills through play and small tasks.
Maternelle plays an important role in the socialization of children; it is a time of discovery, of the self and of the other, of the importance of sharing, of learning to manage difficult moments… All these social interactions and experiences are crucial to building a solid foundation for a successful education.
Petite Section (3 years old)
Ermitage welcomes children into Petite Section each fall who are or will be three years old that year (their birthday falls between January 1 and December 31 of that year; they must also be potty-trained). Children who enter Ermitage at this level will spend three years in Maternelle, unless teachers recommend differently.
It is essential for this first year of school to proceed as smoothly as possible; indeed, this is the child’s first contact with school and lays the foundations for his or her academic future. When possible, we recommend that children who begin in Petite Section wait to attend school full time until the end of the academic year to give them the time they need to adapt to their new schedule. Children entering Petite Section often begin by attending school a few half-days each week, then one or two full days, until they are able and comfortable attending school a full week at a time.
In Petite Section, each class benefits from the presence of two teachers: in the morning children are led by a Francophone and an Anglophone teacher; in the afternoon, after their nap, they remain with the Francophone teacher only. Each teacher speaks in her native tongue but fully understands the other language so that each child may feel confident to speak to and be understood by either teacher. Depending on the day, children will participate in activities that are led either in English or French; they listen to stories, sing songs, and play in both languages throughout the school day, becoming accustomed to French and English simultaneously, and increasing their proficiency in both each day.
Moyenne Section (4 years old) and Grande Section (5 years old)
Beginning in Moyenne Section (MS) and continuing into Grande Section (GS), children are grouped according to their dominant language, in French or in English. Indeed, experience has shown that children need to develop an extensive vocabulary of words and expressions in their first language in order to learn their second language with ease later.
Regarding children’s socialization, it has also been shown that children usually tend to associate with others who speak the same language (with the exception of perfectly bilingual children, who tend to associate according to their interests rather than language). Children in each language group mingle with the others during recess and other joint activities.
Children spend the morning with a teacher who speaks their first language, and spend the afternoon learning in their second language. Preschool activities are usually offered in the child’s first language; activities taught in the child’s second language will usually be centered around play, and focused on specifically developing the child’s second language skills. The fifth morning is usually dedicated to physical education, which means each child spends four half days learning in his or her first language, and four half days learning in his or her second language.
In GS, children who show an aptitude for or an interest in reading are led through a variety of activities and phonetic methods destined to initiate them gently to the written word (Ermitage uses the Borel Maisonny method for reading in French, and the Jolly Phonics method for reading in English, both long established and successful methods). Children who do not show aptitude or interest in reading are not obligated to begin the development of their reading skills.
After three years in Maternelle, children have developed key skills in speech, language, pre-mathematics and motility. These building blocks create the foundation for a successful academic experience in elementary school, where each child will continue to deepen his or her knowledge and grow into a confident student.