Frequently Asked Questions
Maria Montessori was an educator in the early 1900s. She studied how children learned and advanced many new ways to utilize child-directed learning. She developed many of her own materials that allow children to explore and make sense of concepts in an active learning environment. Over a hundred years later, many of her findings have been confirmed and are supported by the latest research by cognitive learning specialists around the world. Children learn in mixed-age classrooms, generally in 3 year groups (3 – 6 year olds; 1st – 3rd grade, etc.). Through this arrangement, children learn from their older peers and learn to take ownership and develop leadership within their creative environment.
Not at all. Many people know most about Montessori schools for young children, as that is a common age for Montessori schools. However, hands on and active learning continues to be a critical element for children far beyond their 5th year. In fact, Montessori approaches are credited with inspiring the creativity of many current CEOs. Look at the comments of employers today; what is desired today are creative, independently motivated thinkers. Colleges now therefore often list flexible programs with independent learning project. Stonecreek Montessori offers this experience to students while still in high school.
What makes us different? Creativity, nurtured independent learning, a sense of family, and fun! Stonecreek not only fosters all of the elements discussed above by virtue of its Montessori approach, but we also have high performing students and top trained educators to create a rich learning environment for your child to join. Our toddler – elementary teachers have an average of over 15 years of Montessori teaching experience each. Our middle and high school faculty have either their Masters or doctoral degrees, or over 20 years of teaching experience.
Stonecreek has unique extracurricular opportunities and is always open to offering more with parent interest. We have one of the top robotics programs in the state, with students winning awards at all levels from age 6 through high school. We participate in the FIRST robotics program. Our students have won awards for teamwork, research skills, real world solutions to problems, computer programming, engineering design, connections to the community, CAD design, and game performance/strategy. Our students learn everything from how to create a 3D model of a project to CAD drawing, Java programming, engineering principles, and game theory. All of this has been as an extracurricular activity, but we are incorporating robotics into our curriculum starting this year.
If your child isn’t interested in robotics, though, perhaps they will thrive with math or writing. While only entering our fourth year, we have had students earn acknowledgment or awards in these areas as well. Students in Math League challenges have been noted as scoring among the top in the three state consortium that forms our region. In our Writers Program, students have won national recognition for fiction writing in the Scholastic Art & Writing competition as well as for poetry. Finally, our debate team won multiple regional and state awards last season.
In short, Stonecreek provides a small school environment with a strong learning community that is dedicated to helping each and every child learn as much as she or he can.
First and foremost, this is not a problem at all for your child’s advancement to college. We have directly spoken to admissions officers at colleges ranging from large publics like the University of Alabama and Auburn to small private colleges like Rhodes to large privates like Harvard, and all said the same thing – they have no problem with it whatsoever. They know as we do that a new school cannot be accredited for the first three years of existence anyway. We are now through that probationary window and working on accreditation this upcoming year.
We also know this to be true because Stonecreek has already had two graduating classes. While our classes are small, we have 100% placement in colleges with students accepted at schools like Auburn, UAH, and Birmingham Southern.
Furthermore, while Stonecreek was founded in part so that students could have a toddler – high school family without the need to leave for other schools, we realize that some parents have other educational options in mind for their children. We know students coming from Stonecreek have gone on to other top public and private schools in the city of Birmingham, such as Indian Springs, the IB school at Shades Valley, and Altamont and are performing at high levels at all of these schools (we really are a second family and take pride in our students no matter when they decide to pursue other options).
Students at Stonecreek Montessori are high achievers. While we do not focus on testing or “teaching to the test” Stonecreek students fare well on them. In our three years, students at Stonecreek have performed on average 2.7 points above grade level on standardized tests. Almost 65% of students in grades 6 – 10 produce test scores that are post-high school levels. For the whole school, 63% of students are performing at least 2 grades above grade level.
These strong test results aren’t just because Stonecreek attracts top students or because we do a lot of test preparation; Stonecreek also does a good job helping educate students to learn and grow in all areas. In the last year, students who were continuing at Stonecreek and who retook standardized tests jumped an average of 7 percentile ranks and 1.7 grade levels. This was after similar jumps (5.1 percentile rank and 1.4 grade level) occurred in 2014 to 2015. Ceiling effect can be a real issue of demonstrating student growth, in which students who score at high levels cannot increase their score. Such students do not add to Stonecreek’s growth scores, having already reached the maximum measure the test scales allow. Students continue to grow at rates well above simple grade level growth; they outpace that growth by a great deal thanks to their education at Stonecreek.
None of this comes without excellent teaching, but also without excellent students; Stonecreek students are intrinsically motivated to learn. While some who came to Stonecreek originally may have had difficulty in this area, check out our parent and student testimonials to learn more firsthand about how Stonecreek can impact your child.
Actually, creativity is critical in the modern workplace and the list of former Montessori students is long. One of the clearest examples of the importance of Montessori education is seen in Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google. They each specifically credit the Montessori approach in their own creativity and success (see their videos here or here). Other tech gurus such as the founder of Amazon (Jeff Bezos) and the founder of Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales) were also Montessori trained. Video game developer Will Wright too was a Montessori student. The videogame innovator says Montessori “taught me the joy of discovery” that prepared him for creating The Sims, Sim City, Spore, and Super Mario Brothers. “SimCity comes right out of Montessori… if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design.” If that isn’t enough, watch this video from Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) stating that Montessori schools do a better job than many other schools in teaching independent thinking.
If writing and the arts are more your child’s style, well, Montessori prepares students well for that too. Anne Frank’s famous diary was a natural extension of her school experience as she learned observation skills and to record her thoughts in a journal early on. Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez said his Montessori education gave him “the desire to kiss literature” and states, “I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.” The multi-talented hip hop artist Sean “P Diddy” Combs says he feels fortunate to have attended Mount Vernon Montessori School during his childhood, recalling that, “I feel like I was nurtured into wanting to be somebody special.” Katharine Graham, Pulitzer prize-winning author and former owner/editor of the Washington Post is also a former student. Crisis forced Katherine Graham to assume control of the Washington Post. Her confidence faltered but—remembering that what matters is how people learn, not what they know—Graham said, “The Montessori method, learning by doing, once again became my stock in trade.” Her reign at the highly-regarded paper lasted more than two decades. Chef Julia Child was also a Montessori student.
While every attempt is made to keep out tuition as low as possible, Stonecreek is dedicated to keeping our classes small to ensure very close learning relationships between teachers and students. We have been able to provide a small number of scholarships; they are extremely competitive and only on an as available basis. However, we have had several parents either donate their time or arrange to share their talents with Stonecreek and reduce their tuition at the same time. Parents or specialists have helped offer courses on computer programming, debate, gardening, sewing, art, etc. So if you have a skill you would be willing to share, speak to our Business Manager, Connie Edwards, and she will work with you to see if there is a way to help with tuition.