Little House on the Big Hill

Yesterday afternoon I experienced something I never thought I would.  It’s one of those things that you read about or see in movies and pretty much accept as someone’s romanticized interpretation of a far off and unlikely ideal.  And being perfectly honest, if you had asked me to pinpoint where it might happen if it ever could, I would not have said Charleston, West Virginia.

Word building in cursive at Charleston Montessori

My family was invited to attend an open house for a new school, Charleston Montessori.  I have some good friends who developed a vision of a diverse community school where they could actively participate with other adults in not only delivering but modeling an approach to life committed to natural self-direction, peace, and managing the environment for learning, not managing individuals themselves.  The Montessori Method is open to various interpretations and consequently lends itself to new schools and new communities of adults who want to do the very best by their children.

I am no expert in Montessori education, but I am an expert in honoring children.  I can identify in the beat of a butterfly’s wing if a person loves and honors children.  The adults who are coming together to build this new Creative Communities school on the West Side of Charleston do that, but there is something more.  This crowd is very interested in the school being part of an organic whole that is the community.  I pick it up in everything from the written communication, the transparent process of building the school, the willingness to let anyone engage, and sheer joy exuded while seeing this dream come to life.

There is an energy here that is magic.  My daughter walked right into the 3-6 year old classroom and went straight to “work” with the organized materials.  There was such lack of anxiety and stress from the teacher, just a patient fascination with my child and an eagerness to provide her the opportunity to learn in a natural way.  The confidence in her ability to direct herself was wonderful.

I’ve grown beyond weary with the complaints about education in West Virginia.  I know I am not alone when I say it may be wasted energy to try to “fix” our public schools.  Maybe someone can.  But the clock is ticking for my child, and like these parents who are building a new school I am not in a position to wait for the quarreling unions and politicians and school boards to put children first.  I’m with the philosophy of the new crowd that is saying enoughWe will do it ourselves, and we will do it for our children.

You’re welcome aboard, but don’t even think about trying to stop us.

6 thoughts on “Little House on the Big Hill

  1. Jen, you have really done something special. Like others before you committed to this kind of opportunity, you are helping write the future. Thank you…..

  2. We were likewise impressed with CMS and will happily be sending our two children there. The warm and engaging atmosphere, the positivity and vibe of the place, and all the touchy feely stuff is definately there. It just felt right. As Edgewood residents we are delighted to see this in our neighborhood from a community development standpoint as well as a practical 2 blocks away drop off and pick up. Other pedestrian factors made the CMS decision a no brainer such as the availability of safe and affordable after school care, the excellent student-teacher ratio, and the clear and open lines of communication between parents and faculty/administration. Also CMS tuition is nearly 2,000 per child less than other Montessori options in the area. With two children attending that was a big factor for us.

    • Bringing costs within reach of a wider range of families is always key to healthy diversity. Also, I received an email about aftercare availability until 6 p.m., which is truly crucial for working parents. CMS appears to be filling some significant gaps. Thank you for your comment! I know others will be encouraged by it.

  3. While I know this may not be the CMS plan, I think a public Montessori option/charter school/innovation zone thing would be wonderful. As a former public school teacher in Louisiana through the Teach for America program I struggle with the politics of private school. The exclusivity troubles me and the lack of diversity troubles me. I would love to see more innovation in the public schools. We visited Piedmont and Robins before deciding on CMS and applaud Piedmont’s innovations (we were out of district and could not get into Piedmont) and loved the faculty and staff and administration at Robins (Mr. Nearman was particularly impressive) but the facility was run down and disappointing. We are happy to be at CMS and look forward to being part of something new, but would love for their to be a public Montessori option. We are fortunate to be able to afford CMS and recognize that many cannot and will work to rectify that disparity in the coming months.

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