I have been teaching at the college level since 1998. I have worked with every level of student, from freshmen to seniors ready for graduation. I am intimately involved in their degree programs and pursuits. I can ALWAYS pick out a Montessori kid. Montessori kids get their work done. They are creative and integrative thinkers. They are self-directed and focus on research. They do not ask “Is this the right answer? Is this enough?”, they find several options and CHOOSE the best answers. They may even come up with BETTER QUESTIONS to be asked! They are kind and generally CLEAN UP AFTER THEMSELVES! My experience with broadly educated students leads me to believe that the Montessori system of education (one I have personally imitated in my college teaching) should be the educational system embraced by the entire country. It works. Period.
While you may say that this is anecdotal information, I can get VERY specific and close to home: our daughter Annie.
Annie is a junior at BGHS, and is enrolled in college courses at BGSU this year. I have watched her progress since leaving MSBG as a 6th grader. She never lagged behind her public school classmates (as some parents fear), in fact her experience at MSBG taught her to be a focused, self-starter with the requisite skill set to succeed in the very different public school environment! Unfortunately, the educational rigor Annie experienced at MSBG is not always applied by teachers in other school systems. Regardless, her standards are ingrained thanks to her early education.
I was reminded of her early experiences when Annie asked me to proofread a paper she had written about Martin Luther King. The paper involved facts, but it also required reasoned opinions. Annie knows that I am a stickler for flow, grammar and punctuation, so I assume that she may have felt trepidation when I sat down to read. She needn’t have. I saw again, absolute proof in her essay, of what her Montessori training had accomplished. The paper was not flawless, but close. The paper was just one more in a long line of papers and assignments that she has completed with ease because she learned the basics of how to think, how to reason and research, and how to follow through on a project.
Both Annie and her older sister Grace (a current Ph.D. student at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in NYC) are the beneficiaries of a superb early learning experience. On every level, Jeff and I would choose to send our children to the MSBG again, no question.
Thank you to all of the teachers, and staff who dedicate their careers to the Montessori system. In short, it works.
My son, Thomas, attended MSBG through eighth grade; I would like to share with you some of the reasons we have appreciated Thomas’s middle school experience.
First – a bit of background. Thomas is the youngest of three. I started homeschooling our children in 2003 when our oldest was in first grade. The decision to homeschool was an unexpected shift from our long-held plan to send our children to Conneaut. I can sum up the protracted story of how we decided to homeschool by saying that during our oldest son’s Kindergarten experience, I began to question many assumptions seemingly held by contemporary education.
I homeschooled for ten years. Our oldest attended St. John’s Jesuit High School and Academy starting in seventh grade. Our daughter attended BG Christian for middle school and is now a junior at St. Ursula Academy. And, Thomas started at MSBG in sixth grade.
Montessori was a great fit for Thomas and for our family. Here are some of my favorite attributes.
Small Classroom – I am so glad Thomas had a calm, peaceful, intimate middle school experience. To paraphrase a quote I once
read, “Children learn who they are in the mirror of those who surround them.” Smaller class size in middle school reduces the number of “mirrors” the student is surrounded by, giving the children a few more years to solidify their identities before attending high school. Also, as far as I can tell, there seems to be a complete absence of drama, no pairing off of the boys and girls, and a blessed oblivion to social status. I believe these benefits are only possible in a small classroom.
Individualized Academics – I relish the collaborative Montessori environment. Our family is competitive by nature, which we encourage in many life situations. But, education is ideally relationship-based, and relationships (including intellectual growth) can be stifled by competition. In middle school, it should remain irrelevant who is learning what in math or English. The curriculum is intensely personalized and students work at their own pace in several subjects. The school-day time is so well spent the students have very little homework. I appreciate the efficiency of this approach (one of my favorite attributes of homeschooling!), and the fact that my middle schooler can explore multiple extracurricular activities (or friend-time or down-time) without the distraction of potentially unnecessary busy work. And, my favorite thing – no after-school group projects!!!
Writing – For me, the benefit of small class size and individualized academics is most dramatically demonstrated in the MSBG middle school writing curriculum. To quote Madeline L’Engle, “I have advice for people who want to write… Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.” And, indeed the MSBG students are writing. According to MSBG teacher Meg Vostal, the students wrote between nine and seventeen pages. I have a friend whose son was asked to provide four to six pages of sample writing to St. John’s Jesuit High School as a part of the admissions process. Unfortunately, in his eighth grade honors English class at BGMS, he had not written even four pages to submit to SJJ. Writing is profoundly difficult to teach, and almost impossible with a large group of middle schoolers. So, I share this story, not as a critique of large classrooms, but to provide a specific, measurable benefit of small class size.
Testing – I really, quite passionately, despise standardized testing of young children. Avoiding testing was one of our top ten reasons for homeschooling. The MSBG middle school students do no testing, except to help prepare the kids for the eventual ACT/SAT. In other words, testing is used to help develop skills. Students are assessed by the teachers on a daily basis, just as they always are in Montessori, and are constantly challenged to further their thinking and develop new skills. Some parents worry that a reduced focus on testing in middle school can be a detriment to performance on high-stakes testing in high school. This has not been our experience. I am happy to share our specific outcomes, should you have questions.
Culture – The middle school curriculum focuses on valor, courage, social justice, and how to make the world a better place to live. These themes pervade their daily studies. Then, the themes spring into action as the students engage in and lead service activities around the school and in the community. The students are highly involved in how the school works. They manage the pizza orders, work in the garden, perform Stuff Busters (purging the school of unnecessary “stuff”), and write the weekly middle school update (http://www.montessorischoolbg.org/index.php/news/middle-school). They are encouraged to be future-thinking, both about the future of society and their individual future. They have been on several college trips, including to Ohio Northern, BGSU, and OSU. They also go on a variety of field trips – Imagination Station, water treatment plant, BGSU Student Rec Center, Eppler, the wind turbines and more.
Finally, MSBG middle school embraces the concept of “less is more.” Less homework, busy work, and worksheets equal more relationship time. Much of what the students accomplish and experience is hard to measure and is intangible – just like the most important things in life:)
Teachers – Montessori teachers are very differently-trained than general education teachers. Maria Montessori states, “We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” Thomas’s experiences with his MSBG teachers have been nothing short of amazing. Extraordinary. Spectacular. Incomparable. (I’m trying to save space here, because I really could go on and on.) In so many middle school classrooms, teachers are struggling to get students to listen to THEM; in MSBG’s classroom, the teachers are listening to the students. And, not only are they listening to the students, they are writing down what the kids say. Here is the bookmark created by the teachers, for the students, which immortalizes iconic moments from seventh grade. These are the kids’ words. Wow.
Recess!!! – I was going to include a link to research that supports the value of recess in middle school, but there are so many interesting studies, I decided to let you all Google it yourselves! I think even if the classroom had more students, less individualization, and all the other aforementioned benefits of MSBG middle school went away, I might be inclined to this school just based upon the amount of outdoor education the kids get.
Conclusion I recently had a delightful conversation with a dear teacher friend about Montessori middle school. She said what many parents and educators say, “Children need to be surrounded by large groups of diverse students in order to learn how to get along with everyone.” And, I replied with a question I started asking myself twelve years ago: What evidence is there to indicate that immersing children in a large, diverse student body leads to cooperation? We had a blast questioning assumptions about class size, differentiated education, and how to equip our children to be compassionate and productive members of society. This quote from educator Mark Naison sums it up nicely: When … schools are judged by how much art and music they have, by how many science experiments their students perform, by how much time they leave for recess and play, and by how much food they grow rather than how many tests they administer, then I will be confident that we are preparing our students for a future where they will be creative participants and makers of history… This describes my kid’s school! Art! Music! Science! Recess! Play! A Garden! Little testing! Relationships! Conversations! And, still, appropriately academically rigorous! I am profoundly grateful for the extraordinary preparation Thomas was provided through his MSBG middle school experience.
“There are some things money can’t buy.” In my opinion, this school is one of those things.
“Actions speak louder than words.” Please read more below.
Perhaps the most convincing testimonial I can offer about the quality of our MSBG’s education is that I transferred my son back to MSBG in February 2013 in the middle of 4th grade after he went to another private school I assumed I would send him through 12th grade. Because I am legally obligated by a contract to pay for the entire year at the other school, I am now paying for both schools. I decided it was worth the financial cost to switch him back to MSBG.
He had happily attended MSBG from age 3 ½ to the end of 3rd grade, but I decided to try to make the transition at 4th grade to expose him to a larger social environment. Much to my shock, I realized by January of this year that he was making very little or no progress in math, reading, writing, or science at his new school. He was having a good time socially and well behaved, but he was clearly not challenged intellectually. In addition, his teachers appeared to have little understanding of who he is or what he is capable of doing academically.
By contrast, the MSBG teachers love him as an individual and facilitate his growth as a whole person. He is once again thriving at every level – socially, intellectually, morally, and emotionally. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the very low teacher to student ratio at MSBG, which allows for a very individualized approach to meet his needs. He is essentially being “home-schooled,” but he is surrounded by peers and adults who have the time and flexibility to build personal relationships with one another, and genuinely understand and care about each other. When I asked him today how he felt about being back at MSBG after three months he said “I feel like I have woken up mentally again.” I could not agree more.
I had my son do a shadow day at MSBG in early February to see if we were merely being sentimental or nostalgic about our prior MSBG experience. The first thing he said in an excited tone of voice when I picked him up was “Mommy, now the weekdays will feel like the weekends again!” referred to his assumption that I would have him return to MSBG. In his and my opinion, instilling “a love of learning” and fostering “the ability to think deeply” are not empty marketing slogans at MSBG.
As a child\family clinical psychologist and a single mother by choice who has been a solo parent since conception, I know all too well that “it takes a village” to raise a healthy and happy child. I am profoundly grateful to all of the people in the Bowling Green community who have helped to build and sustain this gem of a school in semi-rural Ohio over the past 33 years. The relationships between the people who make this school work – between the board, administration, teachers, students, parents, alumni, and donors – are priceless. Thank you all for being here.
Alexander had a great summer vacation upon completion of his last year at the Montessori School. The traditional family week in the log cabin at Moraine State Park in western Pennsylvania was followed by an honors chorus experience at Otterbein College, a week at his grandfather’s house, and a three-week family road trip to the American west. Alex really wanted the picture of Devil’s Hole to be included because he did a research report in Upper Elementary about it.
He had a relatively smooth transition to the Bowling Green Middle School, where he is the concertmaster of the 7th grade orchestra and plays first trumpet in the 7th grade band. He played in the OMEA Honors Orchestra and the BGSU Honors Band and was on the school Quiz Bowl team. Taking numerous written tests has been an adjustment, but he enjoys buying lunch in the school cafeteria and tracking his grades daily on the school’s website. His current classes include Science, Social Studies, English, Math, and Foreign Language Exploratory – French/Spanish.
“The hands on math at Montessori has really helped me with 7th grade math concepts.” -Alexander Munson
“I really appreciated the peaceful environment and individual attention that Alexander experienced at the Montessori School.” –Paula Munson
Jessie got a late start; she started at Montessori in the 5th grade. We were looking for a new school because going to 5th grade in a middle school environment was not an option and our local public school was putting the 5th graders in middle school. We made the appointment to visit Montessori and she loved it from the start. One of the biggest things she liked was she got to call the teachers by their first name (Miss Deb, Miss Ruth, and Miss Mary). She felt that a relationship formed there that allowed her to really begin to step out of her comfort zone and learn new things. She felt respected as a human and it showed. She got challenged in ways that sparked her desire to learn, and it showed.
When it came time to pick the next school we had great difficulty deciding on our options. We agreed with Jessie that the other schools just were not Montessori. However, since graduating she now goes to school online like her older brother. She also attends Bowling Green Christian Academy for extra classes. She also is excited to be participating in Teen Pact this year. She is doing very well combining the structured classroom environment and the flexible self-guided online environment.
She loves playing her violin in BGCA’s Jazz Band. She also informs me she loves the arts (all kinds), reading, and speech. She also loves caring for little children and would miss them if she did not get to come see them when we pick up her younger brother.
Jessie says, “Montessori taught me my CORE skills, you know- Community; Organization; and Research Essentials.”
Rona started at MSBG in Kindergarten and finished 6th grade last year. As parents, we were very impressed with a great variety of subjects being taught at such an early age. Rona loved her teachers and thrived at school, which prompted us to have her continue in Lower Elementary and later in Upper Elementary. She always enjoyed Music (and Choir), Band, and foreign language classes.
She is currently in 7th grade at Bowling Green Middle School. She is enrolled in Pre-Algebra and Honors English, and was awarded a “Student of the Month” accolade in English. She was also named a World Ambassador in her FLEX (Foreign Language Explorations) class. Rona has maintained a 4.0 GPA and has been on the honor roll at the middle school since the beginning of the year.
Rona is continuing her music education by playing clarinet in the band at the Middle school.
Rona’s extracurricular activities include participation in Snack and Yak book club at the Middle School and swimming for the Bowling Green Swim Club.
Rona is an avid reader, and we credit MSBG with nurturing her love of reading.
When asked about her experience at MSBG, Rona says:
“Montessori School helped me with my organizational skills. I learned to plan my work and it helps when I have a lot of homework to do. I enjoyed doing Investigations at Montessori, and it helps now when I have to do a project in Science and Social Studies.”
Jared began at MSBG at age 4 in the early childhood program. As an educator, I was looking for more than day care for our son and visited numerous places before settling on Montessori – it was an easy decision and has paid abundant dividends for both of our children. Over the years, Jared has had several loving and dedicated teachers who have invested their time and talents in his education. As he approached “graduation” last year, we worried, as every parent does about leaving. While he still misses the nurturing environment of MSBG, he has flourished at Bowling Green Middle School. He enrolled in Honors English and Pre-Algebra and has continued in band. He has been accepted into the jazz band and is enjoying this new experience. He has been on the honor roll since the beginning of the year and has been selected as student of the month for citizenship. When we asked him how he felt about this, his humble response was that he didn’t feel as though he did anything special. Jared continues to be an avid chess player as he has been since Kindergarten. He ran with the Cross Country Team this year, is currently playing Upward Basketball and plans to participate in Track & Field this spring.
MSBG changed our son’s life and provided him with an excellent foundation where he embraces learning, has compassion for others and gives of himself. These amazing skills will serve him well as he continues his education and most importantly his life journey. Jared says that MSBG was a great place to learn and he wishes he could have stayed forever; he enjoyed the close relationships he formed with friends and teachers and feels that this made learning enjoyable and enriching (I learned more mom!).
Our son Dawson has been a Montessori child since the age of 18 months; he came to MSBG at age 3 and continued through the school until 6th grade when he transitioned to Bowling Green Middle School. He will always be a child of Montessori as the principles, commitments and ideals laid such a solid foundation for him, it is an integral part of who he is as a person. Dawson is a person of great compassion and empathy, an independent thinker, self motivated and a natural leader; he flourished in the Montessori environment.
As he began thinking about transitioning to middle school, we had some trepidation….would he have difficulty socially moving from a small nurturing environment to such a large peer group? How would he do actually receiving a letter grade for work performed on deadlines? The list was was endless, but as it turned out, not a problem. Dawson began attending classes and bringing home homework and many times said “Mom, we covered this already in 4th grade!.” He has been on the honor roll for both quarters and was just awarded Student of the Month for December for exemplary work in and out of the classroom. He is taking an Honors course in English and has aspirations in the area of writing.
Dawson also participated in the Middle School Quiz Bowl and was often among the high scoring students. He also plays saxophone in the band and has auditioned for the middle school jazz band. He bowled on the MSBG bowling team last year and they won first place in the after school league. Dawson continues to bowl on a Saturday morning league and recently qualified for the Pepsi tournament in March.
If you asked Dawson what an education at MSBG has done for him, he would say ” MSBG instilled in me the love of learning, quiet self confidence, the ability to think outside the box, to understand the concept of choices and consequences and to be my own person.”
As parents we feel we gave our son the best start in life possible with MSBG, from the committed teachers and staff, the real sense of community among families and stellar educational principles. We made the best choice for our son and the results are clear.