WHEELING - Non-traditional forms of education, such as Kindermusik or Montessori School, are a key to helping children succeed throughout their educational careers.
That's the opinion of local certified Kindermusik instructor Judy Bischof, and Paula Sikora, owner of Sikora Montessori School in Elm Grove.
Bischof, owner of Kindermusik by Judy, who offers 12 week sessions of Kindermusik on Wednesdays throughout the year at the Children's Museum of the Ohio Valley in downtown Wheeling, said that it is proven that children who are involved with musical activities at a very young age definitely have an advantage over other children in their learning process and future education.
Programs such as Kindermusik and Montessori provide students with alternate pathways to learning.
"It's like a switch that you flip on and it increases their ability to learn - so we now found out that they do better in math and they have wonderful language skills," said Bischof, after teaching a recent Kindermusik class for infants. She said there is a strong link between music and intelligence.
"A lot of us probably know people who were really smart in school, but then you also find out they play an instrument," she added.
"We do a swaying movement. ... Swaying with your baby stimulates their brain development, which is amazing, but we now know through studies that music stimulates every area of a child's brain - so when we're swaying and moving to the music it is stimulating their brain ... it also helps their balance and coordination," said Bischof.
She said they do a lot of walking and dancing in the infant class to help stimulate the babies as well. "We use scarfs, bells, different instruments with them so they can experience different sounds," Bischof added.
According to the Kindermusik website, the program is designed to empower parents and teachers to instill a lifelong love of music and learning in their children. The program's philosophy is: "No child is too young to start Kindermusik. The Village classes are designed for newborn babies up to 18-month-olds and they offer age-appropriate classes for children ages newborn to seven years.
Sikora said the Montessori methods of teaching is a large component of critical thinking skills important during the years of adolescence and provides students the necessary skills to be confident and successful in their later years of education.
"What we aim to address in the Montessori education is: order, concentration, coordination and independence," said Sikora who is also opening a Kindermusik component to her school.
"We have different components of our education that go along with our methods and our philosophy and the materials we use for teaching in the Montessori style. ... Currently our children have French classes on Tuesday and they have strings and piano classes on Wednesday."
"Montessori children tend to be leaders - not followers - so they feel more free not to follow peer pressures. In a social way, they are more confident, they're more comfortable going on their own path, even if that's against the grain of what the group might be doing," Sikora added.
Students who attend Montessori also tend to do better than their peers in mathematics, as was evidenced from Ohio County's recent math field day. Six of the 35 winners who will move on to regionals attended Montessori at the Montessori Children's Center in Bethlehem - a program that typically has less than 20 students per year.