It is difficult to send your little buddy off for childcare. You have grown accustomed to them and all the funny things they do – and, naturally, keeping an eye on them at all times. But mommy and daddy have their own funny thing to do called “work,” so off your tot must go to get their first taste of life outside of home.
“Bittersweet” does not do this feeling justice. Fortunately your child’s first experience outside of your care can be immensely rewarding, as they can spend it at Eden Prairie Montessori.
The local childcare center is named after Dr. Maria Montessori, who in the 19th century developed a unique theory of education. The doctor was far ahead of her time for viewing children as naturally equipped to absorb the world around them, and eager to learn as much as they’re able when given only minimal guidance. The Montessori Method blends children of different age groups so the younger ones can learn from their seniors, and places far greater value on actively working with materials than passively listening to instruction.
Shonali Harrison, the director of Eden Prairie Montessori, began practicing this sensitive yet effective approach to early education before she had ever heard of it. As a child she delighted in helping her little brothers learn, showing them the great secrets of life such as how to butter bread and tie their own shoes. As soon as Shonali learned about the old Italian doctor’s theories, she had discovered her passion.
“It always amazes me just how much small children are capable of learning when they’re given some independence and a rich environment to thrive in,” said Shonali. “The other teachers and I supervise our students at all times, of course, but it’s really what they do on their own that helps them become smarter and more social.
“We have a one-year-old girl here who only learned how to turn the pages of a book a week ago. Some of her friends are a bit younger than her and haven’t mastered this technique yet, so she goes to each of them with a book to turn its pages and show them all the pictures inside. It’s only one small thing, but every day at Montessori is full of wonderful moments like these. Children are so eager to become little helpers!
“Children have much more empathy than we give them credit for. They don’t just want to share life skills like how to put on a jacket before going outside. They also sense when other kids might be in a little bit of distress – maybe they’re new, or just miss mom and dad – and jump at the chance to make their peers feel more comfortable.
“We recently welcomed a new student to our childcare center. She was a bit standoffish on her first day, choosing to look on as the other kids played a game together. Without any sort of prompting from her teachers, the child who initiated the game walked up to the new girl and invited her to come and play. We see such acceptance and inclusion every time someone new comes to Montessori.
“We have one little boy who doesn’t like to talk very much. He’s still figuring things out for himself, and that’s okay! But whenever he sees one of his classmates crying, he picks up a box of Kleenex and brings it over to them. He’s already taken his first steps toward becoming a fine young man one day.
“Whenever we see a conflict between two students, a teacher takes them aside to show them how to express themselves constructively: ‘Could you tell him what he did that made you sad?’ One of our children who started a minor fracas took that lesson in diplomacy very much to heart. Now whenever he sees two of his friends quarreling, he rushes over to play peacemaker and help them resolve the conflict.
“Just listening to the children gives us so many opportunities to help them learn what they need to know. The other day one of our little girls said to me ‘Look at those tree puppies!’ I have never seen a puppy in a tree – let alone multiple puppies – so I asked her to please show me. She pointed at squirrels.
“We both got something great out of that exchange. She got a fun lesson in animal names; and I will now call squirrels ‘tree puppies’ for the rest of my life.
“We especially love to share the beauty of nature here at Montessori. We go on nature walks whenever the weather is cooperative, and the kids just love seeing all the robins, blue jays and cardinals that come to visit our school. They all take turns filling up the bird feeders outside every window, and then painting whoever shows up for a ‘seed lunch.’
“We also love to grow things here. Every student plants a flower to give to their mom on Mother’s day. The whole classroom pitches in to take care of our big tomato plant, taking turns at watering it, trimming its old leaves away, keeping it nice and straight and clean. They watched it grow all winter long and finally got to share cherry tomatoes at snack time.
“A little while ago I watched as the children tenderly cared for this tomato plant, all proud that it was growing up to be big and strong and beautiful … and I realized I was feeling the same sense of pride as the kids.”
Eden Prairie Montessori offers two convenient locations at 7455 Market Place Drive and 8098 Glen Lane. You may learn more about them at edenprairiemontessori.com.