Preschool Garden at The Cottage School in New Jersey The Cottage School is pleased to announce it has received a $500 grant from the Garden Club of Somerset Hills Community Grant Program.  These funds will help expand The Cottage School Garden Program.

Students are engaged in caring for the garden through weeding, watering, and harvesting crops, and receive monthly gardening lessons on such topics as composting, seed saving, crop rotation, bee friendly plantings, and other aspects of organic gardening. a drying rack for drying and saving seeds and herbs and a drop irrigation system to maintain the garden during the summer months.

Founding Director of the Cottage School, Laura Soulages explains, “The children benefit immensely from The Cottage School Gardening Program, as it provides an outlet to foster inquiry about the love for the natural world. The program integrates health and wellness education by encouraging students to eat a healthy and balanced diet that incorporates fresh, organically grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. Extra plants are often divided and made available to the students to bring home, encouraging a dialogue about health and wellness between parents and children at home. Children are also taught the beneficial health aspects of good bacteria from the soil and the medicinal used of herbs, and the gardening program has helped the students experience a sense of community as they garden with their classmates.”

The Garden Club of Somerset Hills awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process. They provide funding for outstanding projects located in Somerset, Morris, Hunterdon and Essex Counties.  They continue to be committed to helping preserve and protect natural resources, furthering horticulture projects, and encouraging an awareness and appreciation of the natural environment around us. 

For more information about The Cottage School visit,

The Cottage School Summer Program – Argentina

During week #2 of our Spanish Immersion Summer Program, the children learned about Argentina.

Starting at 9:30am and ending at 12:30 pm, each day is divided into two parts :  1 hr. 30 min for Spanish language immersion, where children learn about the country of study: its geography, people, traditions, food, music, and dances, and 1 hr. 30 min. for art, inspired by that particular country.

One of the highlights this week was making Paper Mache Masks for the Carnivals in Gualeguaychú! And, of course, the children have been loving our early morning Zumba class taught by teacher Juana!

We end each week with a traditional food from the country that we are exploring. This week, we made a sweet Argentinian favorite, Alfajorcitos de maicena and the children LOVED them! Scroll down below the photos and video for our recipe if you’d like to make them at home.

 Here are some photos and videos of the week :
New Jersey Alternative Elementary School

Alfajorcitos de maicena
  • 100 grams of unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 egg
  •  1 yolk
  •  3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp. of vanilla
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • Dulce de leche
  •  Coconut (optional)
1. Mix the dry and wet ingredients thoroughly.
2. Place dough in plastic wrap/bag and refrigerate for two hours.
3. Roll dough flat and cut into small circles.
4. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.
5. Let cookies cool, spread a teaspoon of dulce de leche to flat surface of one cookie and flatten with another cookie to make a “sandwich.”
6. If desired, roll the dulce de leche part of the alfajorcito in coconut


To learn more about The Cottage School, visit

The Cottage School Summer Program – Costa Rica

Our Summer Program is in full swing and we are having so much fun.  Last week the children learned all about Costa Rica.

Starting at 9:30am and ending at 12:30 pm, each day is divided into two parts :  1 hr. 30 min for Spanish language immersion, where children learn about the country of study: its geography, people, traditions, food, music, and dances, and 1 hr. 30 min. for art, inspired by that particular country.

On Tuesday, the children learned about the Costa Rican flag, it’s  culture and geography.   On Wednesday, we explored the animals and plants of the country. On Thursday, we explored traditional Costa Rican dances and on Friday, the children made and ate traditional Tortillas Con Queso.

The Tortillas were such a hit that we wanted to share the recipe here with you:

Tortillas con queso 

  • 3 cups of Cornmeal
  • 4 cups of grated Mozzarella
  • warm water
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix the Cornmeal, salt and water in a large bowl then add the cheese and mix thoroughly.  Roll dough into small balls and put in a plastic bag/wrap. Pat the dough ball down into a flat tortilla. Finally, heat up pan with some oil and cook the tortilla on each side until golden.


Here are some photos and videos from this week! This week we will be studying Argentina and  next week, we will be studying Peru! There is still space available.

You can download our registration form HERE. 

For questions and for more information, email us at

Spanish Immersion Program

The Cottage School Alumni Interview – Emily Vasconez

We are so proud that the children who attend The Cottage School go on to become socially confident and strong students.  We’re also thrilled when we hear that they look back fondly on their time here at The Cottage School. 

Emily Vasconez, who attended The Cottage School from preschool through 6th grade,  comes back to visit The Cottage School often. During her last visit,  we asked her to tell us a bit about 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. 

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!

You can listen to the whole interview below.

The Cottage School Open House – Wednesday, May 10th 9am -11am

Once a month, we host an Open House at The Cottage School. Our last Open House of the year is scheduled for Wednesday, May 10th from 9am-11am.

This is a wonderful opportunity for current parents, family members and those of you who are interested in seeing what The Cottage School is all about, to come see the school in action.

You’re invited to our opening morning circle where we sing rounds, tell stories and begin our daily lessons. You’ll also have an opportunity to meet the teachers and ask questions about The Cottage School.

This is a great opportunity to see first hand  how activities at The Cottage School  are presented free of pressure and sustained by the spirit of play.

RSVP by emailing

To learn more about The Cottage School visit

The End of the Year School Play – The Cottage School Version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Play Based School New Jersey In learning how to read, children are often taught that “reading” is a skill that one develops to decode words, but it is not always offered related to context. One of the fundamentals of The Cottage School is to educate the children to become “life-long readers,” with an appreciation for the literature that they are being read or reading by themselves. In play acting, children not only develop literary skills and a love for literature, but they also develop confidence in expressing themselves through the creative process.

With this in mind, The children have been hard at work preparing for our annual school play.  Based on our curriculum for this school year (Animals and Plants), the elementary students wrote The Cottage School version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that we will perform on June 2 at 9:45 am. 

Our elementary school students initiate their research at the beginning of the school year.  Then, they start the creative writing process.  They learn the editing process and how to revise.  The group works together during many classes to create a cohesive story that includes all members of the school through dialogue, singing, and dancing.   All students take part in the production; they are involved in the entire process – from painting scenery and helping with costumes to acting without the script.

The end of the school year play nurtures creativity linked to what they are studying. In addition, the experience of being part of a story, teaches children to appreciate literature by creating an environment in which the literature makes sense to them. By play acting the story, they “re-create it”; they comprehend it, and thereby, unite the learning experience.

Check out some photos below of the children creating the scenery for this year’s play. 

To learn more about The Cottage School visit

Photography by Anne Katherine Photography 

Poetry Workshop – Thursday, April 13th 7pm – 8:30pm

As part of our ongoing series of workshops for The Cottage School parents and community members,  our adult-ed poetry instructor, Phil Rosenbach, will lead a poetry class beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 13. No experience  is necessary and all are welcome!

Poetry enthusiasts and newbies alike will look at short, understandable, well-written poems. We will also look at some poorly written poems to try to determine what makes a poem good or bad.

Participants will discuss  their own view as to what makes a poem good or bad, interesting or boring, fun or tedious,  or that there there may be no way to determine the difference.

If you have a favorite poem, bring it to the class for reading and discussion. Poems written in English are preferred, but we will do the best we can with poems written in other languages.

This workshop is open to the public so feel free to bring a friend!

RSVP: or (908) 719-9610

The Cottage School 2017 Folk Dancing Performance

This week,  we hosted our 13th annual Folk Dancing Performance.   Our long-standing folk dancing program positively influences student development and the desire to learn, and nurture their love for the school and sense of community. Students dance weekly, building stamina and learning new dances as the year progresses. Every April, the students in our Young Kindergarten and Elementary Programs are ready to perform for thirty minutes non-stop; parents and grand-parents join to dance afterwards. The performance makes them feel capable, confident, accomplished and most importantly, very happy. This is an experience that they will always remember.

We believe that physical arts are an essential aspect of education for the development of the whole child and for a healthy society. By incorporating folk dances in our programs, the students not only exercise, improve rhythm, coordination and balance, but they are also learning about traditional music and dances from around the world.

This year, students in our Young K, Kindergarten and Elementary Programs performed the following International Folk Dances.

  • Kadril – Russia
  • Deer – France
  • Camels – Israel
  • 7 Jumps – United States of America
  • Hey Yanana – North American Indians
  • Horses – Russia
  • Koryak – North Russia
  • Bamboo – International

They danced the following with parents and grandparents:

  • Irish Jig Medley
  • Nafarroa – Spain/Basque
  • Sri ram Jai ram – India

You can watch the performance below.

Multiage Classrooms at The Cottage School

Multiage Classrooms at The Cottage SchoolA wonderful and unique reality at The Cottage School is the opportunity for students to interact with children of a variety of ages. Though the children are separated into groups and explore different subjects independently, the beginning of the day always starts with everyone together in Morning Circle, lunch is eaten together and multiple opportunities for the children to interact with older and younger children are presented throughout the day.

We asked Toni Welsh, a Neuropsychologist at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, to compile some research on Multiage Classrooms.  Toni has experience working therapeutically with children in various clinical settings and schools. She is also the mother of two children who attend The Cottage School.

The Benefits of Multiage Classrooms – Toni Welsh

At The Cottage School , rather than being confined to a classroom with peers whose ages are only a few months apart, children are able to gain something from other children who may be a few months or a few years different in age. For example, it is not uncommon for a Kindergartener to be assisting a preschooler with putting on his shoes or for a child in elementary school to be organizing a game on the playground for the preschoolers and Kindergarteners.

Some people may fear that if an older child must assist a younger child, this will hold back the progress of the older child. The opposite, however, is true. Teaching helps a child more deeply understand a concept. She has to analyze and rearrange her own store of knowledge before she can pass it along to another person. Of course this process also builds empathy and nurturance, as well as confidence and feelings of competence, which are other wonderful effects of such an interaction.

The teachers are not excluded from this mixed age socialization either! They always sit amongst the children at their lunch tables and during circle time.  Through this interaction, students of varying ages and teachers exchange shared experiences that allow them to form stronger bonds together, which leads to secure attachment in their relationships. Howes and Ritchie (1999) found that teacher-student relationships predicted children’s social competence and children with secure teacher-student relationships played in more complex ways with their peers

Segregation of age in schools is a relatively recent phenomenon that runs counter to the pattern of schooling and raising children that existed prior to that time. Children and all young primates have historically used the context of mixed-age play to move from dependence on their mother to independence in adulthood. Through this play, the young learn social roles and nurturing skills leading to more harmony among members compared to same-age groups. Rhoades (1966) found that children in a nongraded elementary school chose friends from two years older to two years younger than themselves. Other research on multiage classrooms demonstrated that these students outperformed their peers, made more progress in self-concept, and were more altruistic and sociable than those in age-segregated classrooms (Bizman, 1978; Goldman, 1981; Hammack, 1974; Milburn, 1981). Socially, prosocial behavior has been connected with mixed-age classrooms. Fewer children typically experience social isolation and aggressive and negative behaviors are significantly reduced (McClellan and Kinsey, 1997).

Pepperdine professor and psychotherapist, Lou Cozolino, believes that incorporating an understanding of attachment theory and social neuroscience into our educational system is key. He proposed that relationships are imperative in improving academic performance and he discussed his idea of a “tribal classroom”. He stated that “a tribal classroom simulates an environment of collaboration, mutual support, and secure attachment.” In this type of environment, children at one end of the skill spectrum are able to learn from those at the other end. This is able to occur when ages are mixed. Everyone is able to feel as if they contribute and belong. Just like traditional tribes, both students and teachers sit in circles and each individual brings something to the table. Education is a part of life and occurs through the context of daily activity. A natural family-like environment is created, which is what the children, families, and teachers experience daily at The Cottage School. Ultimately, the brain is able to be stimulated in ways that enhance learning (Howes, 2014).

The more a classroom parallels the dynamics of natural social systems, the more that attachment relationships and the social structure of the group will optimize learning via neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new connections. The more the emotional climate of the classroom matches the characteristics of tribal life, the better students and teachers perform (Cozolino 2014).

To learn more about The Cottage School,  visit


Bizman, A., Yinon, Y., Mivitzari, E., & Shavit, R. (1978). Effects of the age structure of the kindergarten on altruistic behavior. Journal of School Psychology, 16, 154-160.

Cozolino, L. (2014). Attachment-based teaching: Creating a tribal classroom. New York: W. W.

Norton & Company.

Goldman, A. (1981). Social participation of preschool children in same versus mixed-age groups. Child Development, 52, 644-650.

Hammack, B.G. (1975). Self-concept: Evaluation of preschool children in single and multi-age  classroom settings. Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 6572-6573.

Howes, R. (September 2014). The tribal classroom: Applying attachment theory in schools. An interview with Lou Cozolino, Psychology Networker. Retrieved on March 25, 2017 from

Howes, C., & Ritchie, S. (1999). Attachment organizations in children with difficult life circumstances. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 251–268. doi:10.1017/S0954579499002047.

McClellan, D. E. & Kinsey, S. (April 1997). Children’s social behavior in relationship to participation in mixed-age or same-age classrooms. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Washington, DC.

Milburn, D. (1981). A study of multi-age or family-grouped classrooms. Phi Delta Kappan, 62,513-514.

Rhoades, W.M. (1966). Erasing grade lines. The Elementary School Journal, 67, 140-145.