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Parents Work to Bring Montessori Education to Humboldt Park

By Victoria Johnson | November 7, 2013 8:34am
 Teacher Lorena Billups works with 2-year old Scarlett Williams in a Toddler Community class organized by the Humboldt Park Montessori School board last school year.
Teacher Lorena Billups works with 2-year old Scarlett Williams in a Toddler Community class organized by the Humboldt Park Montessori School board last school year.
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Darcy Demmel

HUMBOLDT PARK — It all started when Kristen Ediger had her first child about three years ago.

Naturally, she started thinking about the not-so-distant future when her son would start school.

She quickly discovered Montessori education, which emphasizes independent exploration for young children under the guidance of trained teachers.

"The basic idea in Montessori that's a bit different, is that it's very hands-on and it's very child-driven," Ediger said. "Instead of having a set lesson plan, the classroom is set up in a unique way so the children can select hands-on materials, then teachers observe."

Teachers then take steps to challenge individual students based on their demonstrated interests.

Ediger liked the idea of the model for her children, but the waiting list for Chicago Public Schools Montessori programs is long, and private Montessori schools are expensive. Near North Montessori, for instance, charges more than $14,000 a school year for its five-day-a-week toddler program.

So, Ediger and a group of parents across the neighborhood began working toward creating an affordable Montessori option for the neighborhood called the Humboldt Park Montessori School.

Already they've offered some toddler and parent-child classes in temporary locations, but a permanent spot they hoped to have for this school year fell through.

"At this point we're trying to secure a location," she said. "That has been our biggest struggle."'

They discovered the location they'd found to house classes in September would be too expensive to bring up to code for a school, and so they are on the hunt again.

They are also holding a fundraiser Monday night at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square to help with the search and make any repairs that might be needed to bring another spot up to code.

They are also seeking nonprofit status so they can seek grants.

Ediger said tuition will be on a sliding scale so the school is affordable to parents across income levels.

Meanwhile, interest has continued to grow.

"I know every time I meet a mom and find out they live in Humboldt Park I tell them about it and they want to know where, when," said Morgan Halstead, another Humboldt Park mom who also sits on the board created for the school.

Halstead found her daughter loved the classes that were offered last year and believed the model would do well for other families in the neighborhood, perhaps more so for low-income parents. But she also thinks a Montessori school would be something the whole neighborhood could be proud off.

"This is a really great neighborhood in so many ways, and I don't think it's always presented like that," she said. "I think a school like this would really prove how amazing the residents here really are."

More information about the school can be found on its website.

Monday's fundraiser will be from 7-9 p.m. at Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave. To attend register here.