Parent Review This review was sent to the writer's friend who was moving to the area and looking for a preschool. (Permission was given to share it, April, 2011)
I just got back from the Montessori visit and wanted to shoot this off with it fresh in my mind! The school itself is situated in the walk-out basement of Briargate Church. I spent just about 45 minutes and observed, spoke a long time with Sue Hoffman, the owner, and watched the kids in action. There are two open rooms and a third open space. Though Montessori classrooms are usually one room schoolhouse spaces, she has done a very good job at keeping the space true to the Montessori ideal. The kids flow easily from area to area and can be seen well where ever they are. Everything has its logical and proper place and I watched the kids use that space very effectively with an obvious understanding of what the expectations were for the space. Each kid takes out their "work" (the games that the Montessori method carefully developed to promote multi-modal exploration of math, verbal, reading, language, logical, physical and social skill building activity), and either situates themselves on a mat on the floor or a table top within the activities "pod" area. Whether it be getting a drink or snack or doing "work" they are completely responsible to setting themselves up, completing the task, and cleaning up. Everything is so organized, it is very clear to the kids how to fulfill the activities and complete their tasks. Most "games" are contained in a basket or set up on a tray of some kind. Eating, cleaning, more academic pursuits are all "games" that are to be set up, completed, and put away, one at a time.
There are two Montessori certified teachers and a teacher in training working with the kids. Today I saw them at work with about 20 kids but there are 32 total between the morning and afternoon times. An acid test for me, of a Montessori program is noise level -- there is a hum of activity and instruction but not NOISE. This school had a nice even hum of activity without being noisy in the least. Just little bees buzzing.
The kids were able to approach all the teachers freely and none showed any trepidation and they were all appropriately polite and quiet. There are a couple of military families and one little boy, who was brand new to the school and seemed to being buzzing along happily in his new school, talking quietly to a peer for game support and approaching the teachers with familiarity. That seemed like a really good sign.
I was impressed, particularly with the snack schedule when Sue showed me the clearly laid out calendar, explaining to me their accommodations to their students with Celiac disease and nut allergies. Included in Half Day and Full Day tuition comes Spanish, Music,Dance, Art, and PE. I was impressed with the extras that follow the regular "academic" day.
The teachers are very soft spoken, attentive, and focused. Not as touchy feel-ly as other pre-schools perhaps, the kids seem all very happy to be so attended to, and focused themselves. The girls were all smiles and earnest work and the more rambunctious boys were quietly, kindly (but firmly) redirected if they got a little too loud or fast -- I saw this happen ONCE in 45 minutes and she simply suggested kindly that he "take long slow strides". He was running to the bathroom on his tippy toes. It was the perfect redirection because he understood what she wanted him to do, and made a game of doing it, with a smile.
For any conflict, true to Montessori form, a "Peace Table" to calmly address concerns and resolution, with a teacher. Fox News could use one of these... the classroom looks like the organized space true to a REAL Montessori. No bells or whistles, but organization, opportunity for a lot of stimulation and discovery, and the buzzing hum of purposeful activity... I think that covers my first impression. I feel pretty good saying that you could certainly do worse than this program, and as a Montessori devotee, I was happy to see that they were dedicated to the actual practice and not just calling themselves Montessori because they had invested in the games, so often the case.
It was a warm, accepting atmosphere and if they were my kids, I would feel really happy to have them as one of my choices. Truth is, it made me a little weepy remembering how great our Montessori experience was, particularly in light of the educational concerns we had for him when he was a twerp...I am happy to visit any other pre-schools you would like to consider, of course, but a few I can just eliminate for you in light of this visit. Truth is, this has set the barre pretty high next to the other pre-schools in CO Springs I have visited with other friends' kids.