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Montessori House Helping Children to Love to Learn

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[February 29, 2008]  Like "American Idol" contestants, the preschoolers were excited to oblige an audience with a few songs. Unlike "American Idol," the songs they sang were in French, and it was obvious the children understood what the words meant.

Seated: Mitch Rolewicz. Left to right: Lillian Escobedo, Ella May Burton, James Rolewicz, Diane Tomczak. [click on picture for larger image]

The Montessori Children's House located at 406 Keokuk St., across from the Lincoln College campus, is far from a traditional preschool educational facility. Here, students ages 3 through 6 are given opportunities for learning that have made the Montessori method of education renown throughout the United States, and the world.

The school day for the students starts out with the Pledge of Allegiance, which is then followed by a patriotic song. The class then discusses what they want to accomplish that day, and they move on to their projects.

Bethany Vickers is a 30-year Montessori teacher and the founder of the Lincoln location. As she explained the philosophy of the program, the students quietly went about their separate tasks. There is learning as a group, but then there is always ample time left for the children to work on their own projects by themselves, she said.

The classroom, as it were, is far from conventional. Carpeted, with large picture windows showcasing the college campus outside, the work area is more like an expansive living room than a classic preschool room. The children work at various locations while subtle music plays in the background. A gas-lit fireplace warming the room also told an observer this isn't what one would consider a conventional learning environment.

Students seemed engrossed in their work, rarely looking up to see who was here today talking to their teacher. They were too busy to be distracted, only breaking their concentration when they had their project's answers written down for their teacher to check and to receive encouragement for their efforts. Often, after the solution had been checked by Ms. Vickers, a student would then say they wished to now work on their geography project or math or something else that intrigued them. And always, Ms. Vickers would tell them that would be fine.

"It's important to let a child use their own curiosity to learn," she said. "I don't hover over them. I am here to help and give them encouragement. What a child really is saying is, ‘Help me do this by myself.' That is what I am here for -- to help them gain their self-esteem by learning how to learn for themselves. The Montessori method is based on allowing a child to use their natural enthusiasm and inquisitiveness to create an interesting and enjoyable learning environment."

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This philosophy was initiated by the Montessori founder, Maria Montessori. A noted Italian physician and educator, Montessori developed this method of teaching a full century ago and explained her understanding of education when she said, "I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them." It is this same basic principle that is an active element of every Montessori location. Of course there is always plenty of support from their teacher, but she is there more as a mentor and a guide than as a lecturer.

The curriculum is also not something most early age children would be introduced to. Cursive writing, foreign languages, the ability to read and write, geography, basic math, as well as an appreciation for the arts and music are all part of a student's day at the Montessori location. Hands-on learning materials give a child a more visual understanding of lessons.

There are also lessons given on "practical life," such as how to peel an apple and sew.

Vickers, a former Miami, Fla., resident, operated a large Montessori House in that area until her recent retirement, turning the school over to her twin daughters. When asked why she came to Lincoln to establish a new Montessori Children's House, her answer was quite simple. "As I child I would come to Lincoln to spend summers with my grandparents on my mother's side. I recall never wanting to go home." It is this passion for her vocation as well as a distinct fondness for our area that caused Vickers to open the Lincoln Montessori Children's House last year.

Although there are currently seven children enrolled in the program for 3- to 6-year-olds, Vickers plans to expand the school to include first through third grade in the near future.


Readers can find more of Mike Fak's writing at and


The Montessori Children's House at 406 Keokuk St. in Lincoln, established by 30-year Montessori educator Bethany Vickers, will celebrate its first anniversary on Monday. An internationally renowned Montessori educator, Dr. Feland Meadows, will be on hand for an open house at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend and learn more about the Montessori method of learning.

Parents wishing more information about this event as well as those having other questions about the Montessori education method can contact Bethany Vickers at 217-737-1463.

Additional information can also be found at

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