Many years ago, Washington College was referred to as the “best kept secret on the Eastern Shore.” Today, Friendship Montessori School may well be the best-kept pre-school secret. Despite twenty-one years in the same two-room schoolhouse on Worton-Lynch Road, graduating hundreds of almost first graders, and being the only Montessori program on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, many people still do not know the school exists. In order to help the community understand the Montessori philosophy and see how the didactic materials are used, FMS is welcoming visitors on Saturday, May 3rd from 10-11:30AM.
Friendship Montessori School is open to children ages two through six; it is a State licensed Montessori preschool and kindergarten. To enable their own sons to experience Montessori, Director Holli Mathison and her husband, Washington College professor Tim Maloney, started the school in 1992. There were nine Primary Class students the first day. In 1996, the school took over the other room in the building, which had been JCI Landscaping and Florist. The Pre-Primary Class for two and three year olds was established there. At the time, Mathison recalled, there was some disbelief that a two year old could or should attend school. Family daycares, grandparents’ houses, and homes with a sitter were the usual routes for working parents to use for childcare. The misconception was that a school had to be an institutional, tightly disciplined environment where children were told what to do and when to do it. No school has to follow that description, and Friendship Montessori never will.
“…the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility, and evil with activity, as often happens in old-time discipline…A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and voluntarily, without committing any rough or rude act, would seem to me a classroom very well disciplined indeed.” (Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, 1912.)
The school is a comfortable environment where all the furniture is child-sized, there are no teachers’ desks, and students move around selecting their own work. There is freedom within limits. Self-discipline, social graces, respect for oneself and for others is an important component of the curriculum. Blocks of time allow the students to build their focus and concentration since they are not hurried from one activity to another. Work time in Pre-Primary tends to be short in the fall, but doubles in length as the children become more proficient and confident in their choices and ability. The children and their three teachers energize the classroom; there are no televisions, war toys, or action figures at FMS. New for 2014-2015 Pre-Primary students have the choice of a 5-day or 3-day (Mon, Tues, Thurs) week from 8:30-3:30. Although some parents worry that the day may be too long, the children who are picked up at lunchtime usually protest loudly.
The Primary Class usually enrolls twenty students, ages three through six, and also has three teachers. The work time is longer here; children serve themselves snack when they are hungry, and relax in the Quiet Corner between works. You may not notice the teachers when you arrive; they try hard not to be the center of attention. The teacher’s job is to help the student connect with the work and observe what happens. Observation tells the teacher if the lesson should be repeated, if parallel work is called for, or if the child has mastered this step and is ready to move onto the next. The materials and lessons are sequenced and move from the concrete to the abstract as they child is better able to understand concepts. The child who stays in FMS’s Primary Class for the three-year cycle, will enjoy being prepared to tackle the most complex works, including fractions, four-digit subtraction, carrying, contractions, sight words, journal writing, and grammar. The Primary Class has three and five day options, and runs from 8:30-3:30.
In an effort to meet the needs of working parents, the school has launched its Stay and Play afterschool program for FMS students ages three and up. Children may be signed up to stay as late as 5:00 for an additional fee of $15.00.
The teachers of Friendship Montessori School invite you to come see what makes Montessori so different from other programs. Saturday, May 3rd from 10-11:30AM..