Welcome to Locally Grown! Locally Grown introduces you to the people and stories behind local Lake County businesses. Have you met this month’s featured business owner, Vickie Promenzio yet? Vickie is the owner and director of Nature Walk Montessori School in Round Lake.
The common goal of every parent is to want the best for their child. Ultimately we all want our children to grow up to be independent, responsible members of society. The focus of the curriculum and philosophy at the Nature Walk Montessori School in Round Lake is to begin cultivating these characteristics at a very young age. As a parent of a 13 month old, I was curious about the idea that she could begin to develop self-sufficiency. When we tried out Nature Walk’s Parent – Infant Community, I was surprised to see how my rather shy and clingy third child could flourish with independence in the right environment.
The morning began with 45 minutes of ‘work time’ when the children (ages birth-36months) explored the room, interacting with activities that piqued their interest. While the children are exploring, their parents have ‘work’ to do too: literally taking notes on their child and what they were choosing to engage in. Some children chose to roll balls, play with doll houses, draw, and read books. Several little girls enjoyed a baby washing station, which they filled with water (yes, real water) themselves and scrubbed away. My little one gravitated towards the climbing stairs and the music center. It was insightful for me to observe her thoughtfully testing out each instrument and then carefully returning it to its correct location- something I hadn’t taken the time to notice her doing in our chaotic household.
Snack, while at some schools is a means to avoid grumpy kids, at Montessori is an integral part of their curriculum. Each child brings fruits, vegetables, or a healthy snack to class to be shared with the rest of the students. They join together to help wash and cut the food to serve their classmates. Others help out by setting the table with placemats, ceramic dishes, cloth napkins, small cups and little pitchers of water. The best part is that they are having fun, and most of them participated without being asked! What adults may view as a chore is being engrained into these children as a normal, enjoyable part of their day. Then the class shares the prepared snacks together, taking turns passing the food and using appropriate tools to serve themselves. For my little one, it was empowering for her to be able to sit in a ‘real’ chair, with her little napkin on her lap, and eat food alongside of older children. She definitely began to mimic some of their mannerisms-even wiping her hands on her napkin just like them.
After each child cleared their plate, they joined each other for a group activity and music. Every little tot and parent chose an instrument and joined in song, experiencing the rhythms and melodies together. Once we put our maracas away, we put our shoes on to explore the nature from where the school’s name is derived. Their 10 acres boasts woods, orchards, herb gardens, sledding hills, a tree trunk play area, and will soon include a rain garden, vegetable garden, and butterfly garden. At Nature Walk Montessori education takes place as much outside as it does inside. In the fall the children picked apples in their own school yard, then classified them, cut them up and made applesauce with them. This spring they will get a chance to play in the mud when they help dig and plant the new gardens.
Director Vicki Promenzio says,
“We don’t just talk about the parts of the flower; we take a hike, identify native plants and pick flowers for dissecting. We don’t just read about the different kinds of birds; we listen to them singing and watch them eat in our feeders. We bring the outdoors into the classroom and take the class outdoors, every day.“
In the Children’s House Preschool 3 year old-6 year old program, the philosophy is much the same, although at a higher level. At one time, I observed different children chopping vegetables for their own snack, painting, examining a pail of live worms with a magnifying glass, watching birds out the window with binoculars, and grating soap into a jar. It was evident that the children were passionate and invested in what they were doing, because it was their choice to pursue their own activity. While they are definitely learning reading and math, it is at their own pace at a time in their day when they are interested and ready to do so.
After my visit to Nature Walk Montessori, as a parent I also felt more empowered. As another mom shared with me, NWM is not just a school where you drop off your child, it’s a community. The parents join together to share parenting ideas and collaborate on the great ideas to strengthen this next generation. They are a committed group who share equally with the teachers in their children’s education.
I left with a new view of my children and their abilities. Once home I found myself encouraging my kids to pursue tasks and activities independently that I would typically do for them. I was inspired to help my kids work together in a community instead of telling them to get along; and for us to explore our day together instead of me telling them to go play. And I valued them being involved in our family’s daily chores instead of valuing a perfect job well done. My visit helped me to look for the potential in my children, rather than settling for what I was comfortable with them doing.
At Nature Walk Montessori it’s more than an education. It’s a community that encourages and inspires the whole family to achieve their fullest potential… together.
For a free trial class in the Parent-Infant Community, register and choose “Free Trial Class” from the menu. The Parent-Infant class dates are listed in the same page. Nature Walk is also offering a summer camp early bird special right now: 10% off tuition if you register by March 31st and an additional 10% off if you register for all four sessions. Nature Immersion Summer Camp information is available here.
Disclosure: Nature Walk Montessori School is our featured Locally Grown Business of the Month. This series of features is part of a paid partnership with Little Lake County. Contact littlelakecounty[at]gmail[dot]com if you are interested in featuring your own locally-owned business in our monthly series.