People ask me how I got into Montessori education. I wish I could give some epic answer like I knew Maria myself and she invited me into the clan, being Italian and all. But I first learned about Montessori education when I was in college.
My journey in Montessori education all started with a philosophy course that Dr. Rick Momeyer taught at Miami University. The course was titled "Philosophies of Education" or something of that sort. I loved taking philosophy courses, writing arguments that would need to convince another person (my professor) that what I was thinking made sense and was supported logically. Being a psychology major and keenly interested in the area of child development, I thought this study of various educational philosophies would enhance my understanding of children. Little did I know, the readings in this course would put me on the course of my life's work.
I can still remember sitting on my bed in my new apartment as an upper classman and reading about Montessori's idea that children at the age of three had a keen sense of order. Now, I had had a junk drawer at that tender age and all my stuff was thrown into that large drawer in the old wooden buffet in our dining room. Order? What order? I could only think about my childhood experience and negated this idea of my not so dear friend, Maria. I thought she was the crazy one to write such a statement. And if this idea was so off base, then the other tenets she held were not too credulous to this nineteen year old college student.
Well, I decided to visit one of these mysterious Montessori schools in Cincinnati that was about a 45 minute drive from my college campus in Oxford, Ohio. The New School, a Montessori school located in an old mansion in the center of the city, was a sight to behold. All the large rooms downstairs were starkly clad with little chairs and tables; shelving with miniature stuff every place; and glass, lots of glass, in an area that I later would find out was called the practical life area. The high ceilings seemed to make the furnishings seem even more dwarf as I reflect on the visions in my mind.
I was probably one of the toughest, most questioning observers the director ever had visiting her school. I went every other Friday on my day off from my job with the parks and recreation. I was storing up information in my brain that would lead me to my work ahead--starting schools--many times.
Welcome to my Montessori blog. I intend to share with you the story of my Montessori Journey that began in 1973 in Oxford, Ohio. I was a Master's student at Miami University at the time. I was working for the city's parks and recreation department for extra income as a graduate student. As the Arts and Crafts director of this city organization, I offered a Saturday arts program, and 30 children younger than 5 years of age showed up. I was clueless as to what to do, but it was apparent that parents of young children wanted activities for their young preschool-age children.
It was decided that we would start a program just for preschoolers. First it was an art program.. It slowly morphed into a preschool program which began with 36 children the first year and increased to 81 children with a waiting list the second year. Parents would stand in line for hours to sign their children up for the one and one half hour program. We offered three sessions a day with children being able to come two days a week, Monday-Thursday. I had Friday off from the work with little ones. I was also the Senior Citizens Supervisor for Parks and Rec Department so I met with the older generation every other Friday. I was also attending graduate classes during this time and working with school age children after school teaching various craft classes. My days were full!
The preschool sessions were based on the Montessori method. I was not trained in Montessori education at this time, but had studied the method extensively during a course on philosophies of education (See next blog.) . Montessori was not regarded well at the time by most of my university professors. Even my text books put the Montessori Method down. But the parents who registered their preschool children into the city Montessori program loved what we were doing, so our program thrived and I studied the Montessori method like mad!
Teri Canaday is the executive director of the Montessori Center. She has taught in the Early Childhood classroom for 17 years and was the elementary teacher for the past 6 years. She has been in Montessori education for 40 years. She shares her stories from her past experiences in this blog.