On the brink of celebrating my one-year anniversary at TMS, I can’t say enough great things about our school. I truly enjoy working with our community – the children, parents, and staff are incredible. This school year, I also became a TMS parent myself, with my son starting 4th grade in our elementary program. While I always have so many wonderful things to say about TMS as a slightly biased Head of School, I’d love to share my experience as a parent with you.

My oldest child spent preschool through second grade at a Montessori charter school and then spent a year at a traditional Kalamazoo Public School. While I have excellent things to say about both programs, I cannot believe how different and special TMS is from any other option.

My top priority when I picked a Montessori school for my then preschooler, was I wanted him to love school. Montessori seemed like the obvious approach – he was never bored or frustrated by what he was learning, everything was individualized to his abilities, and school was more about experiences, not just memorization. Each school he attended, spoke to these qualities in their own way, but nothing compares to The Montessori School.

For instance, he’s always had an interest in space. With the elementary “Going Out” program, he was able to take an individual field trip to WMU to talk with a real astronomer. He came prepared with questions and was in charge of figuring out the logistics of the field trip himself. He no longer had to experience his passion through just books or the internet – he went out and did it!

While we don’t have traditional “specials,” our students are exposed to so much both in and out of the classroom. My son loves having the opportunity to do art on a daily basis. This year he’s learned to sew and loves it. He’s offered to sew all the buttons on the family’s clothing, and I might just take him up on the offer!

He also really enjoys doing projects and often spends his time at home researching his next one. He’s learned to give presentations in multiple formats and has worked on his public speaking skills. While there is a set curriculum, he is able to venture outside of those limits and study what fascinates him.

All of the “extras” is what truly puts TMS above any other school. Weekly winter tennis at the YMCA, two days of overnight camp, a week at the Nature Center, yoga, STEM, KSO concerts, an amazing music program, and more. Health and Wellness is offered every week, and he has gained so much from it. He’s been packing his own lunches for a few years now, and I rarely interfere. When he started asking me to buy more vegetables because he needed to make sure his lunch was balanced, I couldn’t have been more pleased! He has also talked to our family about our use of Ziploc bags and why it is important for your body to eat slowly. The life skills!

He also really enjoys the after school program. Leah and Jessica make this program so enjoyable that many children choose to extend their school day by a few hours! Every week they are up on The Hill exploring our wooded area, finding insects, and learning about the natural world. When inside, they’re cooking and doing art projects. He made the most thoughtful Christmas presents for every member of our family!

On top of all of this, the other children and adults are so wonderful. Kids are taught how to respect themselves and others. Classrooms have high expectations for behavior and truly live up to these expectations. Every single adult he works with is amazing. They each bring so many great experiences and knowledge to the community that are vital to an engaging classroom. Jocelyn has high expectations for each child and makes sure that each child takes responsibility for their work. I was observing a few weeks ago and it felt more like a Google team meeting than an upper elementary classroom meeting.

Montessori is no doubt a commitment and a decision you don’t make lightly. My son will transition to the public schools after he completes his years at TMS. I feel good knowing that I’ve put him in a safe, nurturing environment for his earliest and most important years. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about our elementary program. I’d love to talk with you more about the benefits our program offers and why our elementary program may be the right fit for your family.

Ann Pilzner is the Head of School at The Montessori School. She taught at a traditional school in Detroit for two years before falling in love with the Montessori concept while searching for a preschool for her first child. Pilzner went on to become a teacher at a Montessori school and later an administrator before joining The Montessori School in 2016.