Soaring Wings International Montessori School teaches independence to infants
When Jessica Backman was told that her months-old infant would thrive in a classroom with no cribs, high chairs or bottles, she was skeptical.
That is the typical response of parents with children starting in the infant program at Soaring Wings International Montessori School, said Duna Strachan, founder of the school. But everything changes after parents see how capable their children are.
The school started offering the infant program in January of 2017, and the program has rapidly expanded as parents seek a unique, alternative education for their children.
In the classroom, everything is set up for the infant. Mattresses are on the ground and chairs are easily accessible. Toys are always within grasp.
“The idea is that the child chooses what they want to do,” Strachan said. “When they are hungry, they eat. When they are tired, they sleep. Our slogan is to follow the child.”
The teacher, Carmen Olivera, oversees the students and teaches them short lessons. Strachan believes it is never too early to start a child’s education.
It was a new approach for Backman, whose 6-month-old son was one of the first infants in the program. Although she appreciated the school’s emphasis on teaching independence — her daughter was in the toddler program at the time — she doubted her son would be able to eat with a fork or spoon himself, for example.
“It was really eye-opening to see how they could teach young children,” she said. “If you give them the independence to do things, they are completely capable of doing things that you wouldn’t think that they would.”
Now, Backman said her child’s room is designed like a Montessori room, with everything easily accessible to her now-toddler son.
Strachan said she is happy to see parents responding positively to the program, because it had been in the works for several years. Lina Singleton, the former director of the school and daughter of Strachan, first started a parent-infant class on Fridays at the school in 2011. It was not long before parents began asking to have the class all day, every day.
After finding a teacher and planning the curriculum, the school started the infant program.
Now, the classes are almost always full, and the school has had to add toddler classes to keep up with the demand as infants graduate from the program. The infant program is available to kids between 3 and 18 months of age.
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A district spokesperson said six students were removed from an area in the school as police conducted a search.