You may have heard about Montessori, read about it, and even thought about enrolling your children in it, but it’s also quite possible you aren’t sure exactly what it is. Essentially, a Montessori education centers on each child, with the teacher presenting lessons to the individual, rather than a group. This individual attention helps the teacher become more familiar with the child and thus understand the child more fully, and be better equipped to provide for each child’s unique educational needs.
The first clue that things are different at the Montessori School of Ojai is the quiet. There are no screaming children, no bells, no loudspeakers, or slamming lockers inside the school. Instead, students work on math assignments while sitting at low tables, or read quietly, nestled among pillows in an elevated reading nook or on comfortable chairs placed around the classroom. Montessori has structure. Classrooms are based on creating natural connections to reading, writing and math. Children learn at their own pace, one not tied to a strict schedule or tests. Without standardized tests, Montessori instruction nurtures a sense of internal discipline and the ability to meet deadlines. And even without the standardized tests, students leave MSO and succeed in both traditional public school settings as well as private schools. Montessori School of Ojai graduates have attended Yale, M.I.T., and Oxford, just to name a few.
The Montessori movement is recognized to have begun in 1907 when Maria Montessori opened the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome where she developed a set of activities to encourage children’s natural development and ability to educate themselves. However it started, over the next several decades, Maria Montessori built an impressive network of schools, teachers, and materials based on Children’s House.
As the parent of young children, Dr. Victoria Matthews developed an interest in the Montessori Method and moved with her family to England in the early ‘70s to study at the St. Nicholas Training Centre in London under Miss Child and Miss Homfray, both of whom had studied and worked extensively with Dr. Montessori. Upon Vickie’s return to the U.S., she joined several families in establishing Ojai Valley Children’s House, which later changed its name to the Montessori School of Ojai. Vickie continues as a consultant, and assists with teacher training in the Montessori Method for all staff at MSO, allowing the school to maintain a strong connection to the original teachings of Dr. Montessori.
The school is not only a place for individual learning, it is a community of children, where the child learns to interact socially.