Ti Patel always wanted a Montessori education for her children. After she and husband, Dipen, moved into the Somerset Hills area in 2018, they began investigating schools, but were dismayed to discover the closest ones would require a 45-minute commute or the school closed too early in the day. Another challenge for Patel, who worked full-time, was finding care after the school closed.
“My friends had the same pain: Everyone was trying to find babysitters for those few hours while they were still working and that was an added cost,” she says. “So, Dipen and I thought: ‘We can do this! We can make a difference in the community.’”
The mother of two—Naya, 3, and infant Layla—set about finding the perfect location for a Montessori school to serve the Somerset Hills: A former school building in Chester. “We did a complete renovation inside and out,” she says. “That way we know it is up to par, the air is clean and the grounds are safe.”
Hearing parents’ concerns about aftercare, Patel extended the school’s hours to 5:30 p.m. at no additional cost. “This stays true to the whole reason why we opened the school: to provide an amazing authentic Montessori education to our students and provide assistance to our parents where they need it,” she says.
Montessori Kids Universe Chester, which opened in February, can serve up to 115 children from six weeks to six years old. The day is filled with working on Montessori materials and activities such as music, yoga and outdoor time. “The afternoon program is our propriety curriculum, DaVinci Kids, a Reggio-inspired art and science enrichment in S.T.E.A.M [science, technology, engineering, art and math],” Patel says.
A Montessori education is an individualized, independent approach to learning. Students learn at their own pace and follow their interests, rather than focus on group learning or depend on activities that are initiated by the teacher. “Montessori/Reggio education uses hands-on materials and firsthand experiences, so students understand their work, creating naturally goal-oriented students,” Patel says.
Instead of standardized tests, students use self-correcting teaching materials and evaluate their individual work with the teacher, which promotes self-confidence.
“This has become one of the most important projects of my life,” Patel says. “It’s exciting to know you’re making a difference in a child’s and parent’s life.
Learn more about Montessori Kids Universe Chester at montessorikidsuniverse.com/our-schools/mku-chester.