The Robbinsville Montessori School at Foxmoor, located in the former Harmony School building, opened last November for children 18 months to 6 years old.
“The first six years are the most critical, sensitive periods, from hearing to seeing to developing critical thinking skills,” said Wendy Chao, founder and owner of the school. She describes the Montessori program as a “whole child” approach.
Head teacher Monica Shah, a Montessori teacher for nearly 20 years, as well as a trainer of new Montessori-trained teachers, said the “whole-child approach” is key to the school’s philosophy. The goal is to develop students socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively.
“Each child develops at his or her own pace,” Shah said. “We offer all one-on-one learning. Lesson plans are created individually for each child using hands-on, didactic materials. We observe them working on new skills. We determine when they have grasped a new skill and are ready to move to the next level. We ensure their success. We will not challenge them so that they fail. We know what they can and cannot do and challenge as much as they can do.”
Currently the school offers two classes: one for children ages 18 months to three years old, the other for students from ages three to six. As more students join the program, they plan to increase their staff and add an extra class.
The standard school day is from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Before and after school options are available from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Schedules are flexible to meet the needs of the families. Students can come for the whole day, or partial days, and between three and five days a week. Classes are offered year-round.
Teachers work with children teaching practical life skills, such as hand-eye coordination, how to complete the work cycle, and how to transition to the next area. Each morning they have “free choice” time where they are encouraged to “think for themselves,” Shah said. They learn sensorial skills through play.
Lessons are integrated between the subjects, including language, science, geography, art, music and physical education. They are considering adding Spanish courses a few times a week, as well.
At Robbinsville Montessori, while learning about insects, for example, students’ reading materials would focus on insects, as would their art projects, songs and all aspects of their education, such as geography.
“Art is their own creation,” Shah said. “We want them to create their own projects. We want it to be their work. They use critical thinking, and problem solving skills to think for themselves.”
To Shah, an important part of the Montessori program is that it facilitates conflict resolution within the community.
“We ask them to think through what happened, the incident that took place,” she said. “We have a peace corner in each classroom. The person who holds the peace rose talks. Then they hand it to the other child. The founder (Maria Montessori) is big on peace. We want them to grow into responsible citizens.”
Chao became a Montessori instructor upon completion of a two-year training program at Mercer County Community College.
“The program starts in the fall, and ends in the spring,” said Shah, an educator in the program. That is followed by a year-long “practicum or internship program with a trained, certified teacher. They learn how to implement what they learn so they can take on a classroom of themselves. This is how Wendy met me and asked if I would join her.”
For nearly 17 years before joining the staff at Robbinsville Montessori, Shah was a teacher at Plainsboro Montessori.
“I love this,” she said. “This is my passion,”
Robbinsville Montessori School at Foxmoor is located at 2022 Washington Blvd. in Robbinsville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (609) 961-1125.