Helping Children Learn Through the Montessori Method
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
Dr. Maria Montessori was a pioneer in the fields of psychology and education around the turn of the 20th century, a time when women were still limited by traditional expectations. Yet in 1907, she was asked to open a day care for inner-city children aged 3 to 7 in Rome. Instead of simply providing a place for kids off of the streets, she developed a high-quality environment and curriculum using five key areas of learning – practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics and culture.
Within twenty years, Montessori’s methods had grown and spread across the western world, and in 1929 she established the Association Montessori Internationale to protect the integrity and high standards of her method. Since the 1950s, more than 5,000 Montessori schools have sprung up across the nation, including Max’s Playhouse in Culver, owned and founded by Brandy Pohl.
As a Montessori-certified teacher, Pohl has seen fantastic results from her program.
“Where your preschool focuses on 1-2-3s and ABCs, a Montessori curriculum focuses on the whole child, knowing that the child needs to know where they’re from and the world around them,” Pohl explains. “It builds the confidence in a child so they can learn things on their own.”
Pohl was introduced to the Montessori school system when she needed child care for her young daughter, and traditional methods simply weren’t cutting it.
“Something didn’t sit right with me the whole year that she was going to this program,” Pohl says. “Finally I told my husband, ‘I think we need to find a new program. I don’t think she’s engaged.’”
In contrast with traditional day care, the Pohls were very pleased with how their daughter interacted with the Montessori day care they found.
“My daughter was instantly attracted to everything on the shelf and just wanted to explore,” Pohl says. “The curiosity was there.”
Over the next couple of years, Pohl’s daughter experienced rapid mental development thanks to the highly individualized Montessori system.
“The Montessori curriculum is a very systematic approach,” Pohl says. “There’s an order in which you teach everything. It’s really based on where the child is at in the curriculum. Every child goes at a different pace, and they move on when they’ve mastered certain parts of the curriculum.”
By the time the Pohl and her husband moved to Culver in 2011, she was sold on the Montessori method. Soon after moving they realized that the area was in desperate need of quality child-care providers.
“There was only one day care in Culver itself, and it was based off of the academy schedule, so even though it was a day care, it was more like a preschool,” Pohl says. “It was only open nine months a year.”
In time, Pohl decided to open a year-round day care.
“We came up with Max’s Playhouse just off of Lake Max,” she says.
Max’s Playhouse originally offered a three-year program for preschool children, based off of the traditional Montessori method. However, in the eight years that it has been open, Max’s has expanded to include an after-school program and summer child care for school children up to 12 years old.
Since Max’s Playhouse is well established in Culver, Pohl’s next step is to open a Montessori-inspired facility this summer at the elementary school in North Judson, for kids in preschool and elementary school.
“We wanted to go into Starke County and help because it’s considered a child-care desert, and there’s only one child-care spot for every three children who need care right now,” Pohl says.
The program will be called SEEDS (Schools Engaging Early Development) Early Learning. The community is excited to have a high-quality, state-approved program, and representatives from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation have shown their support.
“I want to thank Ron Gifford and Larry Wickert for listening and caring about early learning and child care in their county,” Pohl says.
Max’s Playhouse is located at 450 School Street in Culver. Discover more about their programs at maxsplayhouse.net, or call them at 574-540-7312.