“To consider the school as a place where instruction is given is one point of view. But to consider the school as preparation for life is another.” Maria Montessori
This statement could not be truer with my experience at Creative Minds Montessori in Old Tappan. My son was 3 ½ years old when he started preschool at Creative Minds. At the time, Cole was incredibly sensitive to loud noises, to the point where he would close up if he heard a little boy cry or scream (which is often when you are 3!) We toured many classrooms in our area, and at each one, Cole showed little to no interest.
I knew Creative Minds was special from the start. We observed the classroom while school was in session during our first visit. It was delightful to see children busy working either independently or in groups, and all three teachers were engaged with the children. I loved that all the children were in the same classroom so younger children could learn from the older ones, and the older children could act as role models for the younger ones. I also loved the classroom diversity – children as well as teachers were of different backgrounds and nationalities. It reminded me of our own multicultural family.
Our second visit was perfectly comforting and inviting for a curious 3 year old. We came after school so we had the classroom to ourselves. The classroom is designed so that all of the learning materials (or “toys” as my son called them) are all within his reach. The Director Ms. Sally talked to Cole in her calm, soft-spoken tone to explain how the “toys” worked. My son was hooked and wanted more.
It took some time for me to understand “the Montessori way” of teaching. I didn’t know what to make of the work my son brought home: colored scribbles, cutouts of different shapes, and the same colored sheets of the world. Where were the cute art projects made with pom poms, popsicle sticks, and the letter of the day?
It finally clicked when Cole came home one day with a beautiful map of the world he had made. He was so excited to name the continents, which he had punched out with colored construction paper and glued on the map like a jigsaw puzzle. He was only 4.
After 2 years at Creative Minds, he could not have been more prepared to enter Kindergarten socially, emotionally, and academically. At 5 years old, he was dressing himself every morning, and was determined to learn to tie his own shoes. He had an extensive vocabulary, he knew his numbers, and he was already starting to read. He made friends quickly, turning into one of the loud kids he was so afraid of. But most importantly, he was eager to learn. He continues to amaze us with how quickly he is able to pick up new concepts, and I am so proud of what a conscientious person he has become.
Having seen firsthand how my son had dramatically grown into a self-confident, self-directed learner, I have become a true believer of the Montessori method. What students actually “produce” from a Creative Minds education is not just knowledge of the alphabet or the numbers 0-10, or even reading, writing and math (although they do learn all these things at their own pace). It is the desire to learn about their world, and the awareness that they are part of a larger society.
If you are interested in learning more about Creative Minds Montessori, call 201-263-9393 to schedule an appointment to visit the school.
Disclosure: Creative Minds Montessori is a sponsor of Macaroni Kid Northeast Bergen. All opinions are solely that of the author.