For Shannon Bennett and Maggie Wertz, the opportunity to continue the Montessori tradition has been a driving factor in their careers and the lives of their children. As parents of Montessori students, Bennett and Wertz graduated from the American Montessori Society to teach alongside their children before embarking on a new journey last year.
In January 2012, Bennett and Wertz took ownership of LifeSong Montessori, 324 W. Cherokee Ave., formerly Montessori Children’s World. Since starting their own Montessori school in Cartersville, the duo already has expanded through fourth grade and beginning next year will offer classes through fifth with plans to advance with the addition of a new grade each year.
“It was completely a God thing,” Bennett said. “All the teachers that are here currently all taught together at a school in Smyrna and we had a lot of change there we weren’t happy with. So we got together one day and said, ‘We can do this.’ We started that night trying to find opportunities and this school was for sale. The owners were ready to retire and were looking to move on.
“We all have children, so we would like to keep them in it as long as we can, but we also just want to serve the community and we will keep growing to do so if we can. ... We want to add a grade every year up through eighth, but we have had parents asking about high school.”
Under the direction of Larry and Carol Milam, the Cartersville Montessori school taught students through kindergarten for nearly 30 years, but Wertz and Bennett have children of their own coming up through the ranks and both have a passion for the Montessori mission.
Developed by Maria Montessori after the success of her first school, the Montessori method of teaching is, according to the AMS website, www.amshq.org, “a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world.”
Instructional techniques are based on whole-child development, including physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills. Montessori schools share the characteristics set forth by Maria Montessori with multi-age groupings to foster peer learning, increased independence and freedom with an emphasis on individual choice, and specifically created teaching materials designed by Maria Montessori, including puzzles, models and maps.
“The children do a lot of peer teaching, they work with each other. The older children kind of teach the younger ones,” Wertz said. “It’s very child-oriented. Instead of the teacher being the center of attention and the focus being on the teacher and all the students doing the same thing at the same time, it’s very individualized. We do present lessons to the children, but we kind of follow their lead, see what they’re interested in and see what level they’re on.
“We’re teaching academics at age 3 and 4 — letter sounds, numbers, reading and writing — but in addition to academics, we’re also teaching grace and courtesy. Children have responsibilities in the classroom, they have jobs. We teach them how to dress themselves and make their own snack, things Maria Montessori called practical life. They learn to sweep, clean up after themselves, pour water — anything you do in day-to-day life. ... You can walk into any Montessori school anywhere in the world and it won’t be exactly the same, but you’ll see a lot of the same materials and the teachers have gone through the same training no matter if they’re in the United States or India or Italy.”
For Wertz, the decision to raise her daughter in a Montessori school came from observing other students. She sees a shared love of learning in her daughter’s classmates, a trait she looks forward to sharing with the students at LifeSong.
“The thing that impressed me is that the Montessori classroom instills such a love of learning in the children. The children are passionate and I’ve seen other schools that are wonderful, but I think it’s unique to Montessori in how individualized it is,” Wertz said. “For the most part, you see very happy children who enjoy learning. My daughter is very much into art and nature. She loves botany and zoology and here, we have classroom pets, the children are responsible for taking care of them. We have gardening, the children learn how to grow plants and take care of them.”
LifeSong Montessori is open to children 2 1/2 or potty trained and includes instruction areas of Spanish and art, in addition to academics. Enrollment is open now for the fall as well as June summer camps. Parents interested in finishing out the current school year also may contact LifeSong. Open house opportunities are available throughout the spring or contact the school for private tours.
For more information, visit www.lifesongmontessori.com or call 770-382-0109. LifeSong also can be found on Facebook by searching for LifeSong Montessori School.