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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Montessori Elementary:  Why We Stayed at Stepping Stones


Montessori Elementary: Why We Stayed at Stepping Stones

Leigh Ebrom

By Jason Lee, Parent

When we enrolled our son in Stepping Stones’ Toddler Room, we planned to transition him to a public school at first grade. However, at Stepping Stones we have established friendships with children and other parents, bonded with the community, and seen the wonders that the staff and teachers bring to life in our child. After our first years, we changed our minds and decided we would stay with SSMS.

We still wanted to do our due diligence:

·       We met with the teachers to discuss our child and his unique needs.

·       We talked to parents that have stayed at Stepping Stones for elementary and those that went on to the public system.

·       We visited all the classrooms and schools to get a first-hand look.

Our assumptions were of course wrong. It wasn’t an easy decision. We went for a visit to our local school and found a dedicated staff, committed volunteers, and impressive work that the kids had produced. Because of this, our decision to stay at Stepping Stones Montessori was more about philosophy and staffing.

For us, it came down to a few critical points in favor of Stepping Stones Montessori:

·       Individualized teaching

·       Independent learning

·       Continuity of curriculum and

·       Community.

Many students excel in the traditional model, which is used in public schools. The traditional model teaches to the center of the bell curve along a set curriculum that is largely driven by standardized testing. Children who fall outside the middle of the curve - those falling behind in certain areas or those who have the advanced capacity - get lost in the shuffle. At Stepping Stones, each child is allowed to find her own path to learning and has the opportunity to dive deep when a spark is lit. This is possible because Stepping Stones’ teachers have the capacity within the Montessori model and with the staffing ratio to give individualized attention and enable the child to create his own curriculum.

There is also something truly special about the way that the Montessori curriculum builds as the child moves through the levels – something I’m only beginning to understand myself. The foundations of math, reading, and practical life built in the Young Toddler and Toddler years, are reinforced in the Children’s House and are given a chance to come to full fruition in the elementary. In the elementary classroom, lessons use many of the same materials that are found in the Children's House, but they are put to a more complex use. What may have been a sorting activity in Children's House, now results in completed math pages in our Friday folders.  True understanding develops and lifelong habits are being established.

At the same time, this process is happening within a community of children on a similar journey, but at different age levels. A Montessori elementary classroom contains first, second and third grade students. Those children who were leaders in Children’s House are eased into more challenging and difficult work through the mentorship of the second and  third year elementary students. In the end, we believe this environment, which nurtures a true Love of Learning, is the best place for our child and we hope for yours as well.  if you are interested in Montessori education, contact Stepping Stones for more information and a tour of our school.