When my wife Kelly and I started looking at preschools for our 4-year-old son Jack, we honestly didn’t know where to start. There was an overwhelming sense of concern and anxiety. We wanted the best for our child. Our children truly are our future—and they are deeply impacted by our parenting styles, their learning style, and their environment. We wanted to find an environment that nourished our child’s development and encouraged his beautiful, awe-inspiring, absorbent mind to flourish.
Jack is a passionate, loving, compassionate, and empathetic young man. His creative stories at night are the highlight of our day. To listen to his amazing scuba diving adventures deep in the depths of the ocean while he passes whale sharks, mako sharks, and “giant jelly fish” is pure joy. Let alone when we blast off on a rocket that he designed to go past the moon on an adventure into deep space. We had one requirement for his school—We didn’t want to see Jack’s imaginative mind or loving, inquisitive personality jeopardized.
Truthfully, we were underwhelmed by many of Grand Rapids’ preschool choices. Too many were one-size-fits-all. And many seemed more concerned with adult-imposed order and metrics than the children’s natural desire to learn. Why would I want my beautiful, inquisitive child to suddenly be thrust into mimicking an adult’s working world filled with time commitments, constant structure, and expectations that have to be met under time constraints? Life is too short.
The reality in which we live as adults today doesn’t leave much time for our own wonder and exploration. When is the last time you remember truly being enamored by something you discovered for the first time? For most of us, that feeling now appears when we watch our children discover new things for the first time. I simply couldn’t see Jack thriving in a school that focused on adult-driven timelines and expectations. We wanted to find a school that encouraged and developed the things that make Jack unique.
When my wife and I toured Stepping Stones for the first time, we couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear as we watched awesome young minds being supported in their individual development in a comfortable, independent, healthy way. We saw children learning social skills as well as respect for teachers and each other. We observed children with responsible attitudes (cleaning dishes, picking up after activities) who had a “flexible” structure, allowing their young developing, creative, and inquisitive minds to flourish. Our choice became simple.
We have a responsibility as parents to give our children every opportunity in the world to better our environment, our culture, and our way of living. I want my son to definitively know that he creates his own destiny, his own course of action, his own decisions—that his uniqueness will be the change we need in the world. I believe that growing organically and finding your way to independence is simply the best choice. We had found our home at Stepping Stones Montessori.
Redbud (Jack’s classroom) has been a blessing for us and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome thus far. When we drop Jack off in the AM, he eagerly runs to his new home at Redbud with his friends.
And Jack greets us when we pick him up from school with a giant grin. He automatically begins to update us on all the “cool” things he did that day. For example, exploring geography and world flags has been an incredible experience for him. (Jack loved finding Peru’s flag after a recent trip I took for business.)
We had hoped that Jack’s inquisitive nature and constant storytelling would be furthered and encouraged by the staff at SSMS. Jack’s development blew us away just a few weeks into the school year. His verbal skills, his independence, his genuine excitement of life and learning—it’s contagious!
When something is brought up in the classroom, Jack is now inspired to push himself. When he comes home from school, he wants to go to the library and pick up books that further his exploration and understanding. His teachers are amazing. Their classrooms and teaching style are so refreshing—I feel like I am leaving Jack with a “second” parent. Stepping Stones’ educators are passionate about seeing my child thrive.
I’m excited. I’m excited about Jack’s future, I’m excited to be a part of an educational movement that is focused on the student’s learning rather than on perceived efficiency through a one-size-fits-all approach. (No thank you!) Instead, our children need an education that focuses on their amazing inquisitive and exploratory early minds!
Thank you, Stepping Stones, for creating such a wonderful place. We are happy to be a part of the family.
—Michael Smith (co-parent to one of the coolest Montessori kids on the planet)