COLUMBIA — Two Montessori schools are scheduled to open in Columbia this fall.
The Children’s House Montessori of Columbia, which has served toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners since 1972, will open Windsor Street Montessori Elementary on Sept. 1.
Mary Windmiller, executive director of the new school, said Montessori Elementary will be located at 1616 Windsor St. The school has 21 children currently enrolled for the fall. Those are the children from the Children’s House Montessori, who decided to stay for the elementary school, she said.
"We will enroll up to 50 children in the next three years," Windmiller said.
Enrollment will be finalized when the building for the elementary school is closer to completion, she said. After renovation, a bungalow-style house being used for the school will look “old and cozy,” Windmiller said.
“We would like it to look not institutional and more like a comfortable home setting,” she added.
Windmiller calls a Montessori school a “laboratory for children’s development.”
A friendly learning environment with the emphasis on care and individual attention allows children to move through the material at their own pace and interest level, Windmiller said.
“The classroom setting is not competitive, but rather collaborative," she said. "Children gradually work through all the materials and develop skills as they go."
Joe Dawson, 21, a sophomore at the Oberlin College in Ohio, went to the Children’s House Montessori for four years until he turned 6. He said his three siblings went to the same school too.
Dawson said he developed his interest in reading while he was at Children's House Montessori.
“I like to read a lot, and I started that here,” Dawson said. “When I went to the first grade, not many kids were doing that."
“I remember reading books very fast, and that was faster than other people did,” he added.
The key aspect of the Montessori teaching philosophy is to generate love and passion for learning among children by allowing them to exercise their freedom of choice and independent decision making, Windmiller said.
The learning is self-directed, and the teacher acts as a guide and supports the children in their learning pursuit, Windmiller said.
“It’s a method that allows unlimited learning,” Windmiller said.
Rebecca Walker, 26, an early childhood Montessori teacher who graduated from MU in 2005, said she loves the way the Montessori school interacts with kids.
Walker said she knew nothing about the Montessori method when she came to the Children's House Montessori of Columbia five years ago.
“I kind of fell into it, and I’m glad I did,” Walker said.
Bryony MacGregor is also planning to open a new school. MacGregor is director of the new Montessori Center for the Young Child and said she wanted to open a Montessori school for many years.
The school will open right after Labor Day at 3407 Berrywood Drive and enroll up to 34 children, MacGregor said.