Bower Tree is an in-home Montessori/Waldorf hybrid program in NE Portland that focuses on the expressive arts, abundant outdoor play, food preparation, and reverence for the natural world. We currently welcome up to 8 toilet-trained children between ages 2 1/2 and 5 each year. The program is carefully designed to be a soul-nourishing sanctuary for early childhood, respecting the pace at which young children naturally develop and explore their surroundings. We believe in using the power of daily ritual, music, storytelling, and relationship to help children and families connect with their environment and with each other.
Our schoolyard is home to quails, vegetable gardens, a large sycamore maple, fruit trees, and native plants for the children to befriend and care for. We also offer plenty of climbing and building opportunities, plus guided exploration with child-size tools. During indoor time, Montessori lessons are offered at a relaxed pace (alongside free play and creative activities) to help build a rich sensorial foundation for future academic learning. Throughout the week the children are guided through a nurturing rhythm involving baking, painting, crafting, home-cooked communal meals, and song circles that celebrate the natural phenomena of each season.
Aside from its blend of pedagogical approaches, part of what makes the Bower Tree program unique is its high creative standard for the content offered to the children, including original poems and songs, original musical settings of children’s poems, skillful recitation of memorized material, and singing informed by experience in choral performance. We also offer an environment containing drawings, paintings, sculptures, and sewn toys made by the teacher and by children. Our teaching style prioritizes the value of surrounding the children with beauty and richness of expression rather than just entertainment. Bower Tree draws from a large repertoire of material to honor and celebrate every season, every occasion, and every part of our day.
Communal enjoyment of food is another important aspect of our program. Not only do the children help to prepare our meals and snacks (by chopping vegetables and fruit, grinding spices and salt, setting the table, juicing lemons, and more), they are also offered opportunities to try many new foods and flavors. All of our meals begin with a candle-lighting verse and a blessing in thanks to the earth, and we often discuss where the food came from and how it made its way to our table. As much as possible, children are invited to experience the full process of food production: backyard greens and herbs in our meals, hard-boiled quail eggs for snack, homemade pickled vegetables, homegrown wheat to grind into flour, and bread that the children help make by kneading the dough and forming it into buns every Tuesday.
The curriculum is designed to draw as many connections as possible between the children’s sensory experiences at school and the songs, stories, and poems that surround them. Each month is an artistic effort to weave together strands of felt experience, language, music, multicultural lore, and real-world context to create an immersive experience for the children that helps them to thrive in meaningful connection with the world, and with their own beautiful Willamette Valley.