Free to learn: New Montessori school comes to Folsom

By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
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Montessori pre-schools now number three in Folsom. American River Montessori in June joined the ranks of pre-schools offering the methods of renowned Italian educator Maria Montessori to pupils aged 2 1/2 to 6. Owner and lead instructor Deborah Doss said she first became awestruck with a child’s innate learning ability when she observed the progress at Folsom Montessori School made by her daughter, Jouelle. “She said, ‘Mommy, dinosaurs are extinct -- does that mean we’ll become extinct?’” Doss said. “She was getting ready to turn 4.” Doss credits other like-minded local educators with giving her the confidence to found a school. “I worked at Folsom Montessori and at Sundance Montessori for my practicum,” Doss said. “Right now, I have five students. At Sundance and Folsom, there are waiting lists. Kindergarten is now like the equivalent of first grade. Sometimes kids are behind when they enter kindergarten, and it can wind up not being fun.” Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome’s La Sapienza Medical School, observed that educational practices sprang up with no reference to theories of child development. “She was the first to think about children’s furniture,” Doss said. “She was the first to think about a very young child’s learning process. What I like about Montessori is children can choose the jobs they’re drawn to. I can scaffold them along without telling them what to do.” As a physician and ethical philosopher, Montessori was troubled by any social institution, such as slavery, that forced injury on the human body. Forced student immobility on benches caused spinal curvature, Montessori noted. “And here, in the case of education, shall man place the yoke upon man?” the educator wrote in “The Montessori Method.” “The prize and the punishment are incentives toward unnatural or forced effort, and, therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them.” Montessori spoke out against the “enslavement” of women in her day. Doss said she believes current U.S. society offers some degree of gender equality in the workplace but doesn’t offer a young mother enough opportunity to have a very young child accompany her at work, a situation she said she’ll dedicate effort to changing. Doss sseeks a master’s degree in early childhood education and was accompanied by her daughter at an earlier job, where she said she saw the child engaged in self-directed learning. “At zero to 3, they are soaking in everything -- modeling everything they see,” Doss said. “I also support the mom who wants to stay home longer (on maternity leave).” Doss said she has the foundation with which to be innovative while still offering the “long list of what your child needs to know before entering kindergarten.” “I got a $2,000 grant, and partitioned my property,” Doss said. “Now, in the garden portion, parents along with their children are learning about gardening.” One can bet that that means a pupil fascinated by tomato vines will not be ordered to spend time weeding the squash patch. “The (basic rule) must be, indeed, the liberty of the pupil - such liberty as shall permit a development of individual, spontaneous manifestations of the child’s nature,” Montessori wrote. “All forms of slavery tend little by little to weaken and disappear.” The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at rogerp@goldcountry, or post a comment at