Yocheved is very excited about what this will do for the yeshiva worldShe described Lamplighters as “a Jewish school which employs Montessori methodology to reach every child.” Even though the Yeshiva is a Chabad school, its mission is to revolutionize Jewish education for the benefit of the whole Jewish community.
Yocheved and the Schacks are working together to bring their message to the world; that you can help each child reach their potential through learning in their own way.
Rivkah travels between New York and Chicago in order to run both schools. They also ran a five week training seminar for the Lamplighters’ teachers called CAPD—Chinuch Al Pi Darko (Capdtraining.org) this past summer. Rivkah explained that the training should imbue the teacher with a sense that every child needs their own education plan, even for those children who don’t have an IEP. They also do parent education, because not everyone is willing to try something new.
Yocheved’s current goal is to turn Lamplighters into a model for other Jewish schools. As Rivkah said, they keep modifying for success; after all, American Montessori International is really about being flexible. The methodology has been specifically modified to accommodate the fact that the students are learning in multiple languages; in Lamplighters’, Hebrew is the first language taught. The next goals include expanding Lamplighters through 8th grade, establishing it as a demonstration school and finding new teaching technologies that can help improve education overall.
The Special Needs Connection
Several aspects of this type of learning mesh well with children with Special Needs. For example, if a child’s main difficulty is sitting still and concentrating at a teacher-given task, in a Montessori classroom the child is free to move about and to concentrate on his or her particular interests. Also, the child is not required to pass a formal test, or to cover a specified amount of material within a time limit.
As Mrs. Schack points out, including children with Special Needs encourages the other children to respect those with challenges in their lives—promoting the concept of ahavas yisroel. For example, the Torah Montessori School has a few students with severe food allergies, so to accommodate them, the school does not allow any outside food, and sanitizes all the children every day.
For children who need Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy, the freer learning environment and individual learning pace allows them to get what they need and not miss any work. In addition, the children stay with the same teacher and don’t switch classrooms during the school day. This provides a more stable environment which is important for children who have emotional needs.
The downside here is that children with focus issues may find it more difficult to learn and complete their individual work with so much going on around them. Also, the students are expected to work independently. One who needs more attention from an adult teacher instead of just a peer may not receive it. Also, the teacher may be fully trained in the Montessori method, but not have the background they need to work with students with Special Needs. A regular Montessori classroom may also need to be modified to address accessibility issues.
Parents must choose what will work for their child. Some schools are specifically geared towards particular needs, such as the Lane Montessori School for Autism in Toronto. Its teachers are trained in ABA therapy and know how to work with autistic children. They also scaffold, providing a support system while bringing the students toward more independent work, little by little.
Lori Bourne, in her blog, “Montessori is for Everyone,” also mentions the option of homeschooling, so the student who needs one-on-one attention combined with an atmosphere of learning can achieve this by working with a dedicated parent who has the appropriate materials needed for the child.
While it may take some work to find the right place, it is possible to find a Montessori learning environment that will work to help your child.