Preschool Spotlight: Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana

Editor’s Note: Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana is a sponsor.


“One of the things I truly value, which goes above and beyond the quality of the teachers and staff, is the wider Montessori community. The parents are knowledgeable and involved. They volunteer in many capacities and contribute to the learning environment. We have made countless friends that will last well beyond the years our children spend at the school.” Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana parent

Montessori pedagogy believes in providing children with real life experiences. (Photo provided)

Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana has been nurturing and enabling area children since 1962. The School has a long-standing reputation for providing premiere preschool and child care programming. Our staff is committed to the Montessori method, remaining at the School for many years, providing outstanding stability and experience.

The Montessori method is a brain-based, developmental approach to education. Montessori classrooms house unique mixed-age groups of children. Younger children emulate the language and problem solving skills of the older children. Older children develop leadership skills and empathy as they engage their younger classmates. Teachers guide the children through activities designed to foster cognitive, social, emotional, physical and personal development.

Children begin in the Practical Life area of the classroom by engaging in well planned activities related to daily living. Montessori pedagogy believes in providing children with real life experiences; children may be seen scrubbing chairs, slicing bananas, sewing buttons, or manipulating small objects with tweezers or chopsticks. Young children are naturally drawn to these activities; they develop motor skills, concentration, and attention to detail while they explore.

The Montessori approach to literacy is through phonics. Maria Montessori discovered that children are able to spell before they are able to read. Often a 4-year-old child, in the second year of the program, will use cut out wooden letters to spell simple three letter words such as “hat” or “pin”. Soon the child is able to decode the sounds and become a fledgling reader. Mathematics is taught through carefully researched hands-on learning materials. Our exploration of the solar system culminates in a field trip to Parkland’s Staerkel Planetarium. Our study of the continents is enriched by parent presentations from our rich multicultural community.

One of the unique features of a Montessori classroom is the independent work cycle. Children are free to choose among the activities on the classroom shelves. The chosen activity is then taken to a work rug or table and used for as long as the child is willing and able to focus. As the child becomes deeply engaged, he or she will experience pleasure and lasting satisfaction. Current research labels this as “flow”. Young children are able to experience this in Montessori classrooms!

Teachers guide the children through activities designed to foster cognitive, social, emotional, physical and personal development at the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana. (photo provided)

In addition to the extensive individualized work times, children participate in group times that foster music through songs and rhythm instruments, vocabulary through exposure to our more than 2000-book library, and physical development through yoga, dance, games and motor activities.

Lessons in pre-ballet and piano are available.

The School offers both three-hour and six-hour preschool programs as well as full-time child care for children ages 3 through 6. Younger children are invited to join our Parent-Toddler Community on Wednesday mornings. This six-week program provides a gentle introduction to the Montessori philosophy for children 15-35 months of age.

On March 13 there will be a group tour and information meeting at 9:00 a.m. The preschool and parent-toddler classrooms may be viewed through our one way observation windows. On April 16 there will be an evening information meeting at 7:00 p.m. There will be opportunities to walk through the classrooms and explore the Montessori learning materials at our 1403 Regency Drive East, Savoy location.

“Montessori education is the embodiment of all I learned while studying for a Ph.D. in Child Development.”- Fiona Anderson, Ph.D. (neuropsychologist)

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  1. We had a really bad experience here two years ago and we weren’t the only ones. This school has a good reputation around town, but in practice it didn’t match its reputation for us at all. When we met my son’s teacher I was hesitant about the large teacher-to-student ratio. Once school started it only got worse. The classroom was very strict and my son was treated as a troublemaker because he tried to engage with other students during “work” time. The teacher tried to make him stay on his own in one part of the classroom. When I attended his special birthday celebration I had to keep stopping my video recording while the teacher YELLED at the class to sit still and be quiet. These are 3 and 4 year olds. IMO, a preschool class should never be YELLED at unless someone is in immediate danger. During the first conference she had no idea about my son’s academic abilities. She guessed that he knew his letter sounds well; at home he was reading! She had too many students and her teacher helper did not engage with students at all. We moved him to another school that fall, which he told us was the best school ever because the teachers were nice and he could talk with his new friends.

  2. We love MSCU! We have two children there right now. Both kids started when they were three. My oldest will be “graduating” from Kindergarten this year. (They grow up too fast!) The teachers and staff are amazing! The Montessori environment & individual attention has helped my children grow academically and socially. It has been amazing to watch them grow in this wonderful environment. I highly recommend!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    My son is finishing his third year at MSCU. He loves it there, and I couldn’t be happier with the school! My son’s teachers are wonderful. I never thought that before he started kindergarten my son would be reading, doing arithmetic, speaking French and telling me about the solar system, but he is! And he’s doing it because his teacher and the Montessori environment have fostered a true love of learning in him. I love the openness at the school – I spend a lot of time watching the activities in the classrooms through the observation windows. I also like that all classrooms have mixed ages (3, 4 and 5 year olds in the same room). It was nice to see older children work with the teachers to help introduce my son to the classroom when he was a 3 year old, and it’s wonderful to see my son working with younger children now that he’s one of the “big” kids in the class. My son has learned so much at MSCU, while also becoming more independent, confident, and social. Sending our son there is the best decision my husband and I have made since we moved to Champaign!

  4. I have been with Montessori for 6 years and counting. My 4th child is currently attending his 2 year there and I couldn’t be happier. The teachers and staff are great! MSCU really helped my children prepare for elementary school, not only academically but it gave them a love of learning. So thankful for the MSCU!

  5. As my wife and I decided to send our 3 yr old daughter to the Montessori School of CU we were a little hesitant to put her full time but now regret that we didn’t, because of course we only wanted the best for our little one. What we discovered was truly wonderful. Not only do the teachers (after over three years and finishing kindergarten there we have met them all!) truly love the kids they teach, which was a key thing for us, but the Montessori system itself is phenomenal. At the beginning we thought we were just lucky with the first teacher, then year after year, teacher after teacher, we slowly became amazed. In each room they have both a home life type area (my words, I don’t remember what they call it) where the children can explore and develop their interests in tasks they’ve seen at home i.e.: cleaning, setting tables, getting dressed etc., but also they have “work stations” where they can learn and develop in all the different academic areas. In whatever task the children show interest in, they are gently guided thru this task so that it truly becomes a valuable learning experience. If there is any occasion that it gets too loud, the teachers have a handle on it (younger ones are excited easily) and as in any ordered environment children are encouraged to stay on task, and respect the right of others to learn. If your child needs excessive attention, or lacks ability to focus, then he or she won’t do well here unless you are ready to make a change. Actually as far as teaching children to love and respect others, responsibility for their things, and teaching concentration naturally rather than forced, there is no better place. I’ve personally witnessed the dedication of these teachers and couldn’t recommend the school more highly.

  6. Montessori is a wonderful nurturing place for children. The teachers are also very well versed in the Montessori method and there is very little turnover. It is also a diverse environment and meets the needs of many populations. Children not only learn from their teachers, but also learn from one another–where learning is truly a social activity! I would like to go there myself :)

  7. They certainly do have very little turnover. A teacher there my son had should have been let go years ago. She may have been trained in the Montessori method, but she no longer uses it the way other teachers at the school do. I stand by my experience of her yelling at the classroom and being far too outnumbered. It was the best decision for our family to remove our son from the school, and friends of ours made the conscious decision to not send their younger children after a bad experience with their oldest at the school. I adore Maria Montessori’s words and ideas for children. My experience here does not match them.