As many parents might be questioning their faith in today’s mainstream education, a few alternatives are starting to gain ground in the Ohio Valley. The Kindermusik and Montessori brands of teaching first flourished in Europe, but for the most part remain largely untapped among American parents. That leads to the question, “How do non-traditional forms of education, such as Kindermusik or Montessori, help children succeed in their educational careers?” Kindermusik, which has its roots in 1960s Germany, can be used in infancy and involves exposure to various kinds of classical music. Educator Judy Bischof last year introduced the teaching style as part of the activities at the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley in downtown Wheeling. Montessori education, developed by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the early 20th century, starts at age 2 and focuses on individualism and “freedom within limits.” Sikora Montessori in the Elm Grove area of Wheeling and Montessori Children’s Center in Bethlehem are two of several locations in the Ohio Valley that offer the opportunity. “Advances in studying the human brain has found being exposed to music stimulates all areas of a child’s development,” Bischof said. She said children focusing on music learn to move and think while in the presence of music. Specifically, Kindermusik stimulates five areas: Cognition, or the ability to perceive and acquire knowledge; large motor skills, or movements involving the larger extremities; small or fine motor skills, or movements with smaller parts such as the hands and feet; social skills; and communication skills. The “fun and movement” philosophy, Bischof said, is a great way to get a child started with vocal and literacy skills as well as learning to share and cooperate with classmates. She added the Kindermusik class at the Children’s Museum involves the parent in the activities and inspires activities between parent and child in and out of the classroom. Bischof said this forms a “unique bond of parent and child” that leads to better family values. Director Paula Sikora of Sikora Montessori said her teaching staff focuses on “educating the whole child.” That is done by stressing on the child’s individual needs and allowing a degree of freedom. There are four core areas: Practical life, where care for the self and environment are key; sensorial stimulation, which is using a tangible material to help understand concepts; cultural enrichment through language and geography activities; and science and the arts taught via “cool experiments” and hands-on experience with music and visual art. Sikora said her students learn quick, noting her kindergartners learned four French songs in about two weeks and can already play basic songs on the piano and violin. She added children become “environmental leaders” and build the confidence to lead in future endeavors. “Our number one aim is lifelong learners,” Sikora said.
Sikora Montessori classmates Mackenzie Kret and Nino Jerome discuss a craft to help them visualize Groundhog Day traditions.