Cedar Tree Montessori to Host an Open House on August 10, 2023

By Debbie McMillen

At Cedar Tree Montessori, learning is individualized, and the focus is on success.

Owned and operated by Debbie and Aly McMillan, the school, which just completed its 16th year, offers toddler programs for children 18 months to three years old, and a Montessori preschool program for children who are two-and-a-half to five years old.

Cedar Tree’s programs are Montessori inspired: Montessori is a method of education based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. It consists of 3 work cycles – math and language, sensorial, and practical life.

The toddler program is loosely structured, and days consist of music, books, and group and individual play. One nap is required, and children in diapers are welcome.

“Because we treat children by abilities rather than age,” Debbie said, “as toddlers grow, we may feel they are ready for our preschool program and are happy to move them forward.”

Debbie and Aly believe a child’s emotional and social development is most important, and academics will fall into place as they go through the Montessori preschool program.

Cedar Tree’s program is unique among traditional preschools. In a traditional school, Debbie explained, every child is held to the same standard, given the same lessons, and urged to work at the same pace.

Once a child enrolls in Cedar Tree, Debbie said, “We take a few weeks to get to know children in order to develop an individual lesson plan.”

Teachers present lessons in all three cycles (math and language, sensorial, and practical life) to see where they fit. In math, teachers look at how far a student can count, whether they visually recognize numbers, and the quantity to go with each number.

In language, teachers look at whether children recognize letters or sounds, and the sensorial work cycle helps to develop all five senses through activities that help students study objects, colors, textures, tastes, grading, and situations.

Debbie said the practical life work cycle is loved by all ages. It focuses on the care of self and environment with lessons such as pouring, spooning, scooping, tweezing, and cutting. Dressing frames show teachers if students have the skills to dress themselves, including buttoning and zipping.

Teachers use the basics like shapes and colors as a basis for the lesson plan.  Water lessons are a great example of taking care of your environment by cleaning up spills, sponging, and squeezing with teacher guidance.  While teachers observe these lessons, they are not charted in the folder.

Once a student’s individual plan is in order, a folder is used to mark a student’s starting point and update their progress.

Debbie and Aly go over a student’s successes at parent-teacher conferences twice a year. If a child is struggling with a particular lesson, they stay on it until the student can complete it correctly with ease. In the meantime, students can move forward in any other area, promoting success and avoiding the feeling of failure.

In addition to the work cycles, days at Cedar Tree Montessori may consist of science, social studies, art, and music. There are free-choice lessons available after the work cycle. The school recently added a wonderful dramatic playroom.

“We continue to change when we see the need,” Debbie said. “COVID has certainly presented its problems/results. We are addressing these concerns and are confident we can make changes that will help.  We will be working on some extra math and language in the afternoon for the four- and five-year-olds who will be entering PUSD in the next year or two.”

Cedar Tree Montessori recently received a grant, which is enabling them to install a whole new playground, add climbing/play structures in two classrooms, and update each classroom with new materials, paint, and carpet.

LISC Phoenix is administering the Arizona Child Care Infrastructure grant through a partnership with the AZ Dept of Economic Security, Division of Child Care.

“We would like to give a shout-out to all our hundreds of families who have come through Cedar Tree,” Debbie said. “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the Prescott area.”

Debbie and Aly are hosting an open house Thursday, August 10 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. For more information or to visit before the open house, call 928.771.8785. Learn more at https://cedartreemontessori.com.