Editor’s note: Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.com.
It’s 8:25 a.m. at the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana. Children enter the building in a steady stream. Staff greets the children by name, as they excitedly rush into one of the six Montessori classrooms. Parents wander into the Puppy Dog room to check the incubating chicken eggs. A 4-year-old stands outside the Horse room door enthusiastically calling out greetings to the children trotting down the long hallway.
It’s 8:40 now and the classroom doors close and hallway lights dim to allow parents and visiting educators to watch Montessori in action through the one-way glass windows.
The children have hung their coats and backpacks in the closet and with purpose, choose an activity they are curious about. A 3-year-old instantly rushes to the snack table and carefully, but confidently, pours a glass of juice from an ornate glass child-sized pitcher. He intently counts out the four crackers suggested on the carefully written sign. He is developing independence and the ability to read his own body signals for hunger.
A 4-year-old uses wooden cut-out letters (the movable alphabet) to write words on a small floor rug that defines his work space in the classroom. She is learning and expanding on the phonetic building blocks that constitute a strong and lifelong reader.
A 5-year-old carefully puts out a long chain of golden beads and begins the process of counting each bead, placing small arrows each time he reaches a ten: 10, 20, 30 … he will reach 1,000 in upcoming days. He is learning the decimal system and multiplication facts while exercising the executive function skills needed to plan and execute a long-term plan.
A father enters the Duck room, seating himself at a small table where he volunteers his time helping children practice their letter sounds and listens to children as they painstakingly read c-a-t or speed through a second grade reader.
The focus and quiet contentment in the classroom are striking to the visitors watching through the observation windows.
This is Montessori! The method was developed over 100 years ago and is enjoying resurgence today as hands-on, individualized learning in mixed-age classrooms becomes increasingly popular. The Wall Street Journal and Forbes have been hailing the Montessori approach for influencing the creative geniuses who created Google, Amazon, Wikipedia and the Sims video games. In Montessori, students direct their own learning and are not subject to rigid timelines. The learning materials are self-correcting, which helps children find their own mistakes without developing a fear of error. Children are free to move throughout the classroom so a rambunctious 3-year-old has multiple opportunities to move. An accelerated 4-year-old is never told she will have to wait to learn a new skill until she is in a 5-year-old room. If she is ready to read or write in cursive, Montessori will provide the opportunity.
Over five decades, the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana has served generations of preschool children. We are very excited and happy to now be able to offer a fantastic Montessori experience at the Lower and Upper Elementary level (Grades 1-6). We are slowly building the elementary program. We are currently educating our group of first through third graders in a newly renovated building on our campus, and adding to our program each year.
We invite you to contact our school directly for further information. Our website is www.montessorischoolofcu.org and the phone number is (217) 356-1818.