What is a charter school?
The term ‘charter’ refers to a free public school that is formed through a businesslike contract between the charter governance board (made up of community leaders, parents, and educators) and the local school board. Wisconsin Charter Law provides for charter schools to be autonomous and innovative in return for academic accountability. The ability to waive state statute as well as board policies in return for this innovation is a hallmark of charter schools.
What is a Montessori school?
All teaching is done with three things in mind: the students, the teacher, and the classroom. Montessori also uses these three parts, with the difference being how they look and how they are presented to the child.
- Lightweight furniture
- Bookshelves containing hands-on activities on individual trays
- Activities that progress from easiest to hardest, simple to abstract
- Rugs used as well as tables for workspace
- Designated areas to freely choose work from, including, but not limited to: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Culture, Art, Botany, and Zoology
- Learn at their own speed and progress
- Decide what they want to work on within the parameters of the space and materials
- Work individually or in pairs
- Enjoy freedom of movement within the rules of the classroom
- Gain self-motivation, which produces joy in learning
- Teach each other in a multi-age setting that typically consists of pre-K/Kindergarten, 1st-3rd grade, and 4th-6th grade classrooms
- Are the primary focus, not the teacher
- Display cooperation and empathy rather than competition
- Prepares the room to look inviting to the child
- Models the behaviors and attitudes she/he is trying to instill
- Small group lessons are given to present each material
- Sets and maintains firm limits while empathizing with the child
- Is warm, kind, calm and polite, and respectful to each child
- Observes children’s learning and behavior to determine their needs
- Keeps careful records of what materials each child has mastered or is ready for
What is the history of the Viroqua Area Montessori School?
The desire to have a Montessori charter elementary school in the Viroqua region began in 2009 with a small group of committed parents spearheading the initiative. With full support of the Viroqua School Board, a Planning Grant was submitted to the state in the spring of 2010 but was unsuccessful. Rather than giving up, this group built upon the interest and immediate need and with one trained Montessori teacher in their midst, a private Montessori Children’s House serving ages 1-6 was developed. As the number of families seeing the benefits of Montessori increased, in the late summer of 2012 it become clear that the desire for a charter elementary was still strong and the following spring another Planning Grant was submitted and this time was successful. After a solid year of planning, observing area schools, recruiting and training teachers, and completely outfitting two classrooms, we opened our doors in the fall of 2014. We were also awarded a subsequent Implementation Grant to continue the development of our school.
How can children learn if they’re free to do whatever they want?
Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose his focus of learning on any given day, but his decision is limited by the materials and activities—in each area of the curriculum—that his teacher has prepared and presented to him. This means freedom within the parameters of the classroom.
As they move from kindergarten into the elementary grades, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans in the areas of math, language, and other core subjects each week or month under their teacher’s guidance.
If children work at their own pace, don’t they fall behind?
Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not going it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance his learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps him master the challenge at hand—and protects him from moving on before he’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”
What type of work is done in a Montessori classroom?
Below are some links to videos and resources showing the type of work that is done in the classroom using the Montessori method of teaching.
- Montessori for Elementary Aged Children (produced by the American Montessori Society)
- A peek inside a Montessori classroom (preview to the documentary Building the Pink Tower)
- Sample Montessori Math Lesson: Ten Board
- A list of Parent Resources developed by Wikisori.org, a website dedicated to the collaboration among Montessori teachers
Where is the school located?
The Viroqua Area Montessori School shares a campus with the Viroqua Elementary School.
What grades does the school serve?
In 2014 Viroqua Area Montessori School began with two multi-age classrooms. One classroom serving 4-Kindergarten and Kindergarten. The other classroom serving 1st through 3rd grade. In the fall of 2017 we will expand to serve students 4-K through 6th grade.