Montessori: Rethinking Childhood Education
In the greater Lansing area, parents have a variety of excellent education options for their children. But how do parents decide which option is best for their child.
Montessori is one option that asks parents to rethink how children are educated. Simply put, Montessori focuses on how kids learn, not what they learn. The Montessori classroom promotes independent learning and exploration by the child. In the Lansing area, there are three private Montessori schools for children ages 18 months to 12 and three public school choices that range in ages from 33 months up to age 14.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is based on the philosophies of Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, who developed a unique education program over a century ago based on her observations that children absorb knowledge from their surroundings. The goal of Montessori is to educate the whole child, in hopes that the child will reach his/her full potential in all areas of life, including physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. According to Maureen Newton, Head of School at Montessori Children’s House of Lansing, Montessori is marked by these identifiers: multi-age classrooms, a self-correcting environment, individualized learning and freedom with responsibility.
“Children move through their development (learning) at their own pace. It’s not teacher-led, but student driven,” explained Colleen Carlson, Head of School at Stepping Stones Montessori School in East Lansing. “In other types of education, the teacher is the driver and disseminator of the curriculum. In Montessori, the child is at the center of the curriculum. The teacher is the passive observer who gives the child new lessons and challenges when he or she is ready.”
Children are divided into multi-age classrooms: preschool (ages 3-6), lower and upper elementary (ages 6 to 9 and 9 to 12) and middle school (ages 12-14). The child moves up to the next level when he or she is developmentally ready.
“Children are with the same teacher for three years,” said Newton. “The older students become leaders in that classroom.” They begin to act as role models for the younger ones. Since there are no grades, or gold stars given in Montessori classrooms, the true test of learning says Carlson “is that they can teach it to other children and to the teacher.”
The Public Option
In the public school environment, children in Montessori classrooms are also exposed to traditional styles of teaching. Montessori programs are offered in the Lansing, Okemos and Eaton Rapids public school districts.
“In a traditional public school setting, students have access to a richer curriculum. In Eaton Rapids, the students have their primary learning center, Montessori, plus they get recess and elective classes like gym, music, art and technology,” said Bill DeFrance, Superintendent at Eaton Rapids Public Schools.
Currently Eaton Rapids offers one classroom for each age group: Ages 3 to 5, Kindergarten to first grade, second to third grade and fourth to fifth grade. Ages 3 through third grade classrooms are located at Lockwood Elementary School and fourth and fifth grade classrooms are at Greyhound Intermediate School. According to DeFrance, last year was the first year that Eaton Rapids offered the fourth grade option, and for this upcoming school year, they will open it up to fifth grade.
“We present Montessori as one option for parents,” said DeFrance. “About 20 percent of parents like Montessori. We match our resources with what the needs and desires are of the parents and kids. We may not have total immersion as other Montessori schools do, because we serve all kids. This option is part of the program, not the whole program.”
Is Montessori right for my child?
The decision for parents to put their child in a Montessori classroom is about learning how their child learns best. Montessori works well with children having a wide range of learning styles and ability levels. The best way to discover whether Montessori is right for your child is to visit the school.
“One of parents’ biggest concerns is academic. They want their children to succeed and be able to compete as they get older,” said Newton. “In Montessori, you don’t have to set up competition to do well. You set up an environment that will cause children to want to learn, one that is inviting and welcoming. Kids will learn to love learning, to become life-long learners.”
Stepping Stones Montessori School (Ages 3 to 12)
Eaton Rapids Public Schools Montessori Programs (Ages 3 to 10)
Montessori Children’s House of Lansing (Ages 3 to 12)
Wexford Montessori Magnet School (Ages 4 to 14)
Montessori Radmoor (Ages 18 months to 12)
Okemos Public Montessori at Central (Ages 3 to 10)
Tags: Montessori, Parenting, school