“So, why are you interested in Montessori?”
“Well, I’m not sure- but from what I’ve seen and read about it, I think it might really be my thing. I don’t know enough about it to say why, though.”
“My thing” tends to be anything that doesn’t expect every student to be a cookie-cutter learner. It’s anything that doesn’t expect young children to spend countless hours a day being still and quiet. It’s a place that doesn’t breed competition and self-pity by placing scores circled in red pen on every assignment. It’s a place where children are seen as individuals, and their uniqueness and confidence are fostered and celebrated, not stifled.
After attending the Open House at the Ocean State Montessori School, I know for sure, Montessori is definitely my thing.
I began my tour feeling awkward and slightly as I felt during my first year at a new high school. I had brief moments of wondering if I would say something stupid or ask a dumb question, but quickly realized that the teachers and guides at the school wanted my dumb questions. They wanted to give me answers and make my understanding of Montessori and its teaching/learning styles grow.
We began in the Wee Threes Classroom. Wee Threes are young children who turned 3 between September and December and would otherwise have to wait an extra school year to enroll when it comes time for them to enter kindergarten. The Ocean State Montessori School is one of the only Montessori schools in RI that has a unique space for those children with late-in-the-calendar-year birthdays. This classroom focuses on social-emotional learning, with opportunities for typical Montessori academics as children show readiness. One of the highlights of this room was hearing about the daily life skills that they work on. Montessorians call these skills and the associated classroom activities “Practical Life”. Using a dustpan and brush. Learning to pour. Beyond being thrilled that my child could start sweeping up the dirt pile on the floor, I was thrilled with their reasoning behind these tasks. Sweeping up a dirt pile well typically causes frustration (that little line of dirt never quite disappears!)- learning this task from a young age teaches children to feel the frustration and to work through it. Pouring from one receptacle into another requires concentration, patience, and good muscle control, not something typical 3-year-olds have, but definitely something they need to practice from a young age.
I left the Wee Threes Classroom with a list of books to read recommended by Ms. Jill, the lead teacher, who had recognized my excitement through my questions. I thought back to my school years, wondering if a teacher had ever “seen” me as well as Ms. Jill.
As I toured the Primary and Elementary Classrooms, Extended Day programs, and Specials Rooms, I was met with the same open and welcoming atmosphere that I found in Wee Threes. Teachers who are truly passionate about Montessori methods of learning, and proud of their students. The classrooms are multi-aged (grouped into ages 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12 -or- grades Preschool to K, 1 to 3, and 4 to 6), teaching kids to work with and learn from a variety of children. The younger kids look up to the older kids in the class, and the older kids learn to help and connect with children on different levels socially and emotionally. Older children begin to plan out their work and progress, keeping track of the lessons they have done each week and ensuring they are meeting their academic goals. Because children work so independently within the classroom, teachers are able to work with children who may be struggling or not mastering concepts quickly as needed.
Walking through the halls, we came upon multiple copies of a poster with the Ocean State Montessori School Community Agreement on it. In speaking with Amy Andrews, Head of School, I learned that the Community Agreement was created about five years ago in response to the frequent statement from parents: “My kids are so well behaved at school, why can’t I get that at home?”.
“Just like we go above and beyond to give kids access and answers to their questions, we wanted to do the same for parents”, said Andrews. The Community Agreement was the answer to this question from parents. The agreement allows parents to use the same language and expectations at home that are used in the school. It encourages adults from multiple settings in a child’s life to show consistency between and respect for each setting. Additionally, Ms. Andrews set up monthly Coffee Chats for parents to attend. These Coffee Chats are safe spaces where parents can talk openly about their parenting struggles, hear and give advice, and enjoy community with each other.
As I walked out of the building, wishing I could go back in time and attend OSMS myself, I realized that this was a school that cared about the whole child- the focus wasn’t on reading before kindergarten, sitting still during circle time, “behaving” in a particular way- the focus was on life skills and readiness and being a good human. True care and respect for the whole child and the ability to teach and work with each child as an individual- to harness their interests and use it to create a love of learning.
To learn more about Montessori Education, visit the Ocean State Montessori Website, where you will find their mission as well as a number of resources about Montessori. Be sure to check out the next Admissions Open House, Thursday, 1/30 from 9:00-11:00 am. To register email: [email protected]
The Ocean State Montessori School offers classes for students of all ages, extended day programs, and in summer and vacation camps.
Student Learning Times
Wee Threes: 8:15 – 11:45 (Young 3 year olds)
Primary 1 & 2: 8:15-11:45 (3 and 4 year olds)
Primary 3: 8:15 – 3:30 (Kindergarten)
Lower Elementary: 8:15 – 3:30 (Grade 1-3)
Upper Elementary: 8:15 – 3:30 (Grade 4-6)
All Students Attend 5 days per week.
- Foreign Language
- Physical Education
Extended Day Program
Early Drop off: 7:30 am
Wee Threes, Primary 1 and 2: 12:00 – 5:30
Primary 3 and Elementary: 3:30 – 5:30
Vacation and Summer Camp Programsacation camps are offered during
Vacation camps are offered during February and April vacations and are each one week long. Summer Camp is offered in eight one-week sessions with a new theme introduced every two weeks. Campers may enroll in a single session, all eight sessions or anything in-between. OSMS is currently accepting registrations for our 2020 February Vacation camp and children do not have to be current students to enroll. Register here!