Labor Day may be in our rearview, but it’s not too late to find a quality program for preschool or kindergarten for your young child. Chances are you’ve come across Montessori schools and wondered just what makes these schools different from others.
The Montessori education style has been in practice since the early 1900s, when it was introduced by its developer, Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori.
With younger children, the Montessori Method emphasizes learning through sensory-motor activities that utilize taste, touch, sound, smell and sight to develop cognitive powers through direct experience. Activities are designed to build practical skills while incorporating the foundations of reading, writing, math, science, music, art and movement.
Independent studies have shown that children who attend Montessori schools early tend to do better than their peers at an earlier age. For example, in the September 2006 issue of the journal Science, researchers reported that 5-year-olds who attended three years of a Montessori preschool program scored higher in behavioral and academic tests than those in the control group.
Other studies confirm these results. The study “Preschool Children’s Development in Classic Montessori, Supplemented Montessori, and Conventional Programs,” published in the Journal of School Psychology (June 2012), showed that children in full Montessori programs scored higher in math, reading, vocabulary, social problem-solving and executive function than those in supplemented Montessori or conventional classrooms.
The YMCA of the Greater Brandywine runs two Montessori schools, one each at its Kennett and West Chester branches. At each location, classroom activities are supplemented by Y-based yoga and swimming instruction, adding additional educational value, movement time and value to the classes. Children also learn Spanish as part of the curriculum.
“We’re able to offer the swimming and yoga because we’re located at the Y,” says Kavita Ghai, director of education at the West Chester Area Y. “At any other school you don’t have that luxury, because all these things aren’t available anywhere else. It’s a big advantage.”
The combination has proved a successful one for both YMCA Montessori students and their parents.
Jennifer Manning, whose daughter Shawna, 4, started with the 2-year-old program at the Kennett Y, says she originally came to Y after being unsatisfied with her children’s first daycare.
“I wasn’t familiar with Montessori before, but it ended up being perfect for Shawna,” she says. “She’s very methodical, and I think the implements they use, it self-corrects them. So if they get to the end of their work and she has an extra bead or dowel, she’s like, ‘Oh, there’s something wrong.’ And then she can fix it.”
Hayley Leocha, whose daughter Cora, 3, attends the Montessori school at the West Chester Area Y, says they chose the program both for its academics and logistics – they have two other children who were enrolled in the Y daycare and it was easier to drop them all off in the same place.
But beyond convenience, the program has yielded significant benefits for Cora and her personality, her mom says.
“She definitely has a mind of her own, and I think the Montessori principles speak more to her personality – very independent, curious, but not the kind of kid who likes to sit and listen for a long time,” Leocha says.
Manning, who works in the fitness industry, also appreciates the fact that having daily yoga and weekly swim lessons included in the curriculum eliminated the need for her to schedule those separately, leaving more family time outside of school.
“When we first started, I felt like it was too good to be true, that it was such a great program that I didn’t want to tell people about it because it was my hidden gem,” she says. “But now I’m a huge advocate for the program and totally talk about it all the time.”
There are limited seats remaining for the 2016-17 school year. For details about Y Montessori, contact April Anthony at 610-431-9622, ext. 2220.
While many Montessori schools vary in their approach, The Montessori method of early childhood education adheres to a consistent set of principles. Those include:
· A trained Montessori teacher
· Mixed-age classrooms – often from 2 ½ or 3 years old up to 6 years old
· Allowing children free movement through the classroom
· Giving students the ability to choose from a set range of activities
· Blocs of “work time” uninterrupted by the teacher
· The opportunity to learn concepts from self-guided discovery by classroom work with specialized Montessori materials
Disclaimer: We are proud to be partners with YMCA of the Greater Brandywine. Their sponsorship means a great deal to us and we stand behind this post.