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June/July 2005

The Duluth Montessori School
Hands-on, Hearts In
by Renee Warner

At The Duluth Montessori School, excitement about school is the rule, rather than the exception. Located on two campuses within two miles of each other, near the historic area of downtown Duluth, the school offers a comfortable environment for its students-beautiful, spacious houses with hardwood floors, large windows and sweeping vistas of rolling green hills and woodlands. How can students miss home when their school makes them feel like they never left it?

Following the Montessori philosophy that children develop 80 percent of their intelligence by age six, the Duluth school utilizes these formative years by teaching students active decision-making skills, self-discipline and lasting learning techniques that will assist them in the future. The Montessori system also emphasizes a hands-on approach, which teaches movement, sensory and muscle development, and emotional growth.

Edith Overholser, an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)-trained teacher, kept these philosophies in mind when she founded the Duluth Montessori School in 1984. Overholser wanted to offer the community an environment worthy of children-and she succeeded.

"We looked at many other schools and none compared to Duluth Montessori," says Mona Sohani, a parent of a child enrolled in the school. "The other schools seemed chaotic, unorganized and looked like a daycare, and we were impressed with the soothing, bright environment we found in the Duluth Montessori classrooms-the children appeared happy, calm and engaged."

The school initially groups students by age, which helps them develop functioning social structures. Yet, the children are encouraged to work with classmates o f various ages as well, with the belief that this allows them to go through three natural stages of social responsibility: introduction, familiarity and leadership. Phillip Willingham, Overholser's son, serves as the school's administrator. "Since we don't separate by grades, six-year-olds may be in the same room as 12-year-olds, and can watch and be exposed to advanced lessons if they choose," Willingham says. "The older children help stimulate the minds of the younger children."

Duluth Montessori's curriculum includes language, mathematics, geography, science, music and art classes, along with Practical Life and Sensorial Development, which are thought to be especially important for younger students. Everyday jobs like opening and shutting windows exercise a student's ability to perform common tasks and develop his or her concentration, coordination, independence and satisfaction. "Our methods are child-driven," Willingham says. "We take advantage of their absorbent minds; the children are capable of so much more than we think they are."

Student-planted butterfly, vegetable and flower gardens help cultivate knowledge of botany, entomology and agriculture. Also, soccer fields, a nature trail and play equipment allow the children to have fun and develop physically.

The school's outstanding performing arts program presented a full stage production of the children's opera Pearl this past winter, and preparations are underway for the next opera to be performed in February 2006 at the Gwinnett Center.

An AMI-recognized school, Duluth Montessori's teachers are AMI-trained and certified. The school is currently enrolling students for fall 2005, and children are admitted upon interview on a first come, first served basis.

The Specifics

Ages: 3 to 12

Affiliation: None

Students Enrolled: 145

Total Teachers: 8

Annual Tuition: $6,160 Primary (Ages 3-6), half day; $7,354 Primary, full day; $7,783 Elementary (Ages 6-12)

Open House: Call school to schedule a visit.

Main St. Campus
2997 Main St.
Duluth, GA 30096

Sugarloaf Campus
1768 Old Peachtree Rd.
Duluth, GA 30097

Web site:

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