The Wonder Years Montessori is a colorful and creative contrast to how some preschools approach the day.
Trisha Van Weelden, owner and teacher at the Union school, opened the doors earlier this year to give an option to parents seeking an alternative to preschools, or daycares.
“We do everything a normal would preschools do, but more in depth,” she said.
Montessori schools are based on the philosophies of an Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori and operations vary from traditional daycares.
There are two Montessori schools operating in Washington, one within a home, and no other Montessoris in Union, according to Van Weelden.
People may call the school at 636-744-1447.
The Montessori curriculum utilizes sensory learning tools, including colorful interactive maps, and counting beads to teach children in a variety of subject areas.
Van Weelden explained that children choose what type of structured activities they participate in, while she observes.
“We are getting them to use their senses and think outside the box,” she said. “We are engaging their mind without me telling them what to do.”
The independent learning environment encourages psychological growth among the children, and tests indicate that many Montessori students read at higher levels than other students their ages, Van Weelden noted.
Children at the Wonder Years Montessori learn lessons that they can apply at home, including how to butter bread and cut fruit and numerous other activities.
She said the children use real, but safe tools.
“This is to get the kids to be self sufficient,” said Van Weelden.
She also utilizes natural materials, opting for wooden items instead of plastic.
While observing the children, Van Weelden assesses the needs of each child.
“Those who are struggling get more one on one attention,” she added.
There are times that she shows the children the same activity that they all can participate in.
“If we do something different, we can bring them all in,” she said. “In a Montessori, all of the kids are together — the older kids can help the younger ones.”
There also are school field trips, including trips to a pumpkin patch in the fall and summertime pool visits.
The school is geared for children ages 18 months to 6 years old.
Van Weelden is licensed to teach kindergarten at the Montessori. She taught second- and third-grade for a total of nine years at Gerald Elementary.
“I have brought in lessons that I taught third-graders for these kids,” she said.
She has a degree in elementary education from Southeast Missouri State University.
Van Weelden said she was working with someone who had considered introducing a Montessori, but those plans fell through.
‘I wanted to be at home with my kids and fell in love with this concept and teaching style,” she said.
Van Weelden, who now lives in Washington, operates the school out of a home located at 505 West Main Street
There will be an open house Sunday, July 22, from 1-5 p.m. at the school, which will be an opportunity to tour the facility, get more information and enroll students.
The school is in session Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. People also can visit the website for some basic information at wonderyearsmontessori.com.