The Children's House is now the second preschool in Spokane to follow the AMI (Association of Montessori Internationale) philosophy, following the long-established Woodland Montessori School. AMI, founded in 1929 by Dr. Maria Montessori, is one of two major organizations offering Montessori training in the United States, along with the American Montessori Society (AMS). Both groups require a bachelor's degree for admission, and training covers child development, use of Montessori materials and the philosophy developed by Dr. Montessori in Italy nearly a century ago.
Maria Montessori, born in 1870, became the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. From her early work with children at the University of Rome psychiatric center and later at her own Casa Dei Bambini (Children's House) in the city's slums, she developed her philosophy of education. Montessori believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed; this belief contrasts sharply with the prevailing theory of that time, which held the child is simply a "blank slate" to be written upon by teachers and parents.
Dr. Montessori first came to the United States in 1915 at the invitation of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and others, and she spent four months demonstrating her methods at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Later, during World War II, she left Italy due to her anti-fascist views and spent the war years in exile in India. Her basic message, to "follow the child," spread across the globe and continues to influence educational theories nearly a century after her work began.
Several Montessori schools are available in the Spokane and Coeur d'Alene area for all ages, from infants and toddlers through the elementary grades. The Spokane Public School system established Montessori classrooms at two elementary schools, Jefferson and Balboa, following the AMI philosophy. Because demand for these programs exceeds available space, enrollment is determined by lottery.
Area Montessori schools and programs are now enrolling students for the academic year beginning in September. Parents should be aware that the term "Montessori" is not trademarked, so it's important to ask questions about philosophies, affiliations and certifications at any Montessori school under consideration. The international Montessori Web site (www.montessori.edu), supported by Montessorians of all schools of thought, recommends that parents take the following steps:
* Ask if the school is affiliated with any Montessori organization.
* Ask what kind of training the teachers have.
* Visit the school, observe the classroom in action and later ask the teacher or principal to explain the theory behind the activities you saw.
* Talk to your child's prospective teacher about his or her philosophy of child development and education to see if it is compatible with your own.