I recently visited the Montessori School of Englewood with our wonderful assistant, Lorena. They are doing something ground-breaking in Chicago – running the first Montessori charter school in the city in an extremely low-income neighborhood. If you’ve heard anything about Englewood, it probably had to do with gang, drugs, violence, or poverty. Rita Nolan, the principal of MSE, is hoping to bring change to the families of her 91 students.
We, at the Humboldt Park Montessori School, are partnering closely with MSE because they are going before us. They are serving kids who would not otherwise receive a Montessori education. It is a huge part of our vision that we would also serve children in our community, regardless of family income. Montessori education should not just be for the very rich.
Instead, Montessori education provides the tools that studies are only recently showing may be the key to breaking free from poverty. At HPMS, we are starting early with parent-child classes for 18-month old children because Montessori education and recent students that early childhood education and parent education are essential to having a healthy, successful childhood. I (and our board of directors) believe that supporting parents from the beginning through the difficult process of raising a child is the best thing we could do with our time and resources. Not everyone grows up in a healthy family, and thus, not every parent is equipped to handle the intense needs of a toddler or preschooler. It is our job as the HPMS community to assist those parents to better understand their child’s development and help prepare those children for school.
There are families in our neighborhood that struggle with everything from homelessness to unemployment to mental health. We are already partnering with community organizations to meet those needs. The Montessori School of Englewood has developed what they call the Village Action Committee as a way to involve families in the school. All families are required to have one member volunteer at the school 3 hours a month and attend committee meetings. These meetings educate parents on Montessori education, update them on what is going on in the classroom, and inform them on resources (like counseling, computer classes, and healthcare) available to them in the community. I hope to see something similar set up at our school.
Just like the MSE, we chose our name – the Humboldt Park Montessori School – because our emphasis is and always will be on our community. There are so many strengths and services available to our families living near the park (just check out humboldtparkportal.org). It is our goal to tie our school into that network and work alongside our amazing families and community activists for the common goal of serving all children.