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Montessori myths busted | Guest Column

by Teresa Chocano

Orcas Montessori School

Did you know that the Orcas Montessori School has been on Orcas for the past 33 years? The current lead staff has been at the school for over 20 years. Although OMS has been serving hundreds of families in our community for so many years, there are many misconceptions and myths spread about it that we’d like to bust.

MYTH #1 Montessori is elitist

TRUTH: Orcas Montessori serves all families on Orcas regardless of their income and is the only Montessori school in the state serving ECEAP families, a state-funded, tuition-free program. The school’s mission is to be accessible to any family with income not an obstacle for school attendance. OMS serves families enrolled in ECEAP, DSHS and has a robust scholarship program aided by the Early Childhood Education Initiative.

MYTH #2: Montessori is a passing trend

TRUTH: Maria Montessori, opened the “Casa de Bambini” in a Rome tenement building a hundred years ago. Scientists are now “discovering” what she observed in children’s development. After years, observing children’s developmental stages, she created an educational pedagogy, materials and environment shaped by that careful observation.

MYTH #3: Montessori schools are not preparing children for life

TRUTH: Montessori schools offer a wide variety of materials and hands-on activities for children to choose and explore in an environment that fits their size and interests, developing independence, focus, confidence, creativity, fine, gross motor, academic and social skills.

A school community that values each child’s unique abilities and gifts in a mixed-age classroom gives the children the opportunity to develop at their own pace and share their skills with others. The carefully prepared environment offers children the freedom to pursue their interests creatively and take responsibility for their needs and learning.

Many artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and academics attended Montessori schools and attribute their success to their early experiences there.

“Education for life” by helping the children learn how to learn, serving them their entire lives.

MYTH #4: Montessori is rigid and OMS excludes children from their program

TRUTH: Montessori schools and OMS are not strict and rigid programs.

In its 33 years, OMS has never excluded a child or asked a family to leave the program. The staff meets with each family before the child begins and develops a program and works as a team for each child’s success based on their needs and abilities.

MYTH #5: Montessori has religious affiliations.

TRUTH: Although there are some private Montessori schools that have a religious affiliation, the Orcas Montessori School is a non-religious non-profit organization that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, language, country of origin or disability. The Montessori pedagogy respects and nurtures the inner and spiritual development of the child.

Orcas Island has an authentic Montessori program for children 2 ½ -6 to develop within a supportive community of peers. There are openings for fall. Please contact Teresa at 360-376-5350 or email at info@orcasmontessori.org for more information. Attend our Open House on Saturday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to noon.