If you could, would you send your children to the same school you attended as a child? I did not want to. Some of my earliest school memories are of feeling out of sync with what my teacher and the other kids wanted me to do during the school day. I didn’t like to sit still in my desk – I wanted to get up and move around. I learned things more quickly than some of my classmates, so I felt bored when the teacher repeatedly reviewed the same material for those kids that didn’t get it the first time.
I wanted my children to have a different experience than mine – one that instilled in them the love of learning that I finally acquired as an adult. I inherently knew this kind of experience probably started before kindergarten, so I started searching for just the right place when I needed daycare for my toddler.
I remember sitting at my computer, reading through the websites of the local toddler programs, and literally stopping short when I came to this paragraph on WBMS’s website:
“There is more to an education than just academic rigor. If all you are looking for is high test scores, you would be better off at another school. That being said, if you are interested in an environment where children succeed beyond academics – where children learn independence, responsibility and a love of learning – then you might be in the right place.”
Could I trust that, I wondered? With all the focus and media coverage of test scores and academic standings, it’s hard not to be swayed into thinking that the best thing you can do for your children is to enroll them in the most highly ranked schools.
Does this really matter for a toddler? How early do children start to learn and develop a love for the way they are learning?
But I kept thinking back to my own experience. I really wanted something different for my children. Something more. I found that something more at White Bear Montessori School.
Maria Montessori believes that learning starts at birth. She recognizes the importance of adapting the learning environment to the needs and development level of each child. This is a paradigm shift in education.
Rather than force students to fit the often-ineffective parameters of a traditional preschool setting (let's all learn our colors, and memorize the ABC's, using baby talk, etc.), Montessori strives to grow a small part of the child with each activity in the classroom. These activities are offered in many different learning styles to fit the needs of each individual student.
Montessori also emphasizes learning through all five senses. For many kids, including me and my children, traditional listening, watching and reading fail to provide the engaging and creative environment children need to truly foster a love of learning.
Maria Montessori realized that kids get there in different ways and at different paces. She believed it was up to the adults in each classroom to find out what works best and then allow it to happen.
Now that my children are older (4 and 7) I love what a Montessori education has done to foster my children’s love of learning. My kids can’t wait to get to school every morning. They are excited and enthusiastic to see their Guides and their friends and get back to the work they started the previous day. My daughter loves to share what she learned at the dinner table - in full detail!
Because they feel supported to do the work that interests and challenges them, I have seen them go beyond memorization and repetition to true understanding and application of knowledge, skill and concepts that are waaaaaay beyond their years.
They are able to progress at their own pace, either moving ahead without having to wait for the rest of the group, or taking the time they need to internalize the material. This process has given them confidence and makes them feel successful as learners, which makes them want to keep learning.
Best of all is that they are getting all of these in addition to a rigorous academic foundation. Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools. Most of the subject areas are familiar – math, science, history, geography and language – but they are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together.
While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. The study of the pyramids, of course, is a natural bridge to geometry.
When my son was in Kindergarten last year, he was obsessed for several weeks with playing the Stamp Game at school. He literally thought of it as a game, because he had so much fun playing with his friends. But you know what he was learning? To work with all four mathematical operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In kindergarten. And he loved it. Now he is in the Elementary program and is doing 4th grade math as a first grader.
What more could I possibly want in a school for my child?
If you live in the northeast corner of Minneapolis / St. Paul, and would like to learn what a Montessori education can do for your child, schedule a visit to come see for yourself how amazing it truly is to be in a Montessori environment.