“Education is not something which the teacher does but is a natural process that develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but by virtue of experiences that a child acts on his environment. We must offer the child the help he needs and be at his service so that he does not have to walk alone.”
— Dr. Maria Montessori (1872-1952)
Words by Connie Lewis Leonard Photography by White Orchid Photography
Many people have misconceptions about Montessori education, thinking it is unstructured, which conjures images of chaos. My observation of the Montessori program in action cleared up that fallacy. Rather than a dispenser of knowledge, or content, the teacher facilitates individualized learning that helps children develop self-control and self-confidence within a well-ordered environment.
Lake Granbury Montessori Academy, 2400 Fall Creek Highway, follows the GISD calendar and offers flexible two-, three- and five-day schedules to meet the desires of families who want a gradual transition into full-time school. They employ methods developed by Dr. Montessori to educate young children in a way that sets free their personalities, to liberate their inner life of potentialities, within the context of coherent and unified educational philosophy and curriculum.
Sandy Beasley looked for an early childhood program for her own children. In 2002, Granbury didn’t offer many options. She visited many types of preschools. Seeing how the Montessori theory came alive in the prepared environment with self-discovery and purposeful, yet natural learning, Sandy knew this was the experience she wanted for children. However, the closest program was in Fort Worth. With urging from a friend, she opened her own center. Fortunately, an experienced Montessori teacher had just relocated to Granbury. With her experience helping start other schools, she was the perfect mentor.
Sandy said, “The first class was in 2003, and my son was part of it. He is now a sophomore in university. We serve approximately thirty families and graduate about ten children a year that head off to both private and public kindergarten. Fifteen years means we have served 450 families. It’s been amazing to see the LGMA alumni children’s names frequent the honor roll, the science fair winners, spelling B, the student council, etc. The children that started here will later thank their parents for choosing the Montessori classroom for their early childhood education as their greatest gift that never stops giving back. We have met and been part of so many amazing families that want nothing more than to have their child love to learn and gain the self-confidence to have the social relationships we need to be successful at every age. I believe we have and will continue to provide the environment to foster the children that make our future better every day.”
The children develop into a “normalized community” within a safe environment where they trust their care-givers. Sandy has served as director for sixteen years. Jan Tennery has nine years’ experience as a Toddler teacher. Primary teacher, Beth Martin, has worked at LGMA for nine years. Jessica Mallory has been a teacher assistant/sub for five years. The first six weeks, the children learn the routine and expectations. People thrive with a sense of order. To everything, there is a purpose and a cause/effect relationship.
Children learn at an early age that everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. Through concentration and consistency, they experience the internal gratifica-tion of pride and confidence that comes from completing a task. Once they complete one task, they put away their materials before getting out something else.
The learning environment is set up to allow each child to flourish. It is their classroom, and they learn to care for it in an orderly, organized manner. They learn to respect and care for things while exercising individual respon-sibility. Even the toddlers, 18 months to three years, put away their own placemats, trays, glass plates, and glasses. They get out their own snacks and cleanup their spills.
A successful Montessori classroom achieves balance between content, purposeful movement, time on task, concentration and social interaction. Perhaps the great-est benefit is the social interaction with students learning to manage themselves while working with their peers.
The multi-age Montessori classrooms allow children the flexibility of a three-year cycle to develop specific skills. The true beauty of this is that children explore what interests them whenever it captures their attention, without them being labeled as slow or behind. The youngest children receive stimulation from the older ones. The older children benefit by helping the younger ones.
First Discoveries Montessori Academy, at 5200 E. HWY 377, combines the traditional Montessori class-room with full-time child care. Julie Fazio has been an owner and director of private and non-profit preschools in Texas, from Houston to Ft. Worth, for the past ten years. Two of these schools were a blended model of the Montessori style and traditional private school. “I just recently purchased First Discoveries in October of 2018. My husband and I were looking for a smaller community to raise our daughter in and move away from the down-town Houston life. We observed First Discoveries and the city of Granbury for about two months and decided it was the right fit for us.”
Julie’s primary goal is for the children to be passionate about learning and proud of their accomplishments. They enjoy com-ing to school, having the freedom to choose what they want to learn, and using activities that interest them. Julie encourages the children to work together. Students who have mastered certain lessons have the opportunity to “teach” other students, which helps build self-confidence and team work.
At First Discoveries, kids learn they are truly a family who loves one another, who supports one another and who feels they are loved in return. They leave know-ing addition and subtraction, and can write simple stories. Most children in a preschool setting that is based on education will receive what they need to learn, so they can be somewhat successful in Kindergarten. “What makes us different is that our kids want to come to school, enjoy school while they’re here, want to learn and feel truly challenged with the lessons we have. They learn just as much from each other as they do from the teachers. I could be an owner who sits in the office part of the day and come and go as I please, but I can’t do that. I need to know what is going on with each child, good or bad, where their struggles are and come up with ways to help them overcome. I am in the class-rooms from open to close 7:30 am – 5:30 pm every day! I will always be that way. I want my students to know I am there as part of their lives on a daily basis. I want to see them learn and grow. At the end of the day if they feel loved and cared for, then we have done our job. They will learn each day, but that trust and relationship of student and teacher is the most important responsibility we have to grow.”