Kinderhouse Montessori School dedicated to cultivating ‘the whole child’
By Karen Billing
Yogi Patel’s Kinderhouse Montessori School in Sorrento Valley specializes in “home-cooked wholesomeness.” At her school, children 18 months old through sixth grade are given a well-rounded education that promotes “intellectual, social and emotional growth.”
Patel said she aims to empower each child by instilling confidence and a joy for learning.
“For me I believe it’s more like educating your child at home, they’re able to learn in a peaceful home environment,” Patel said. “Montessori works with each child at their own pace.”
Kinderhouse has five primary classrooms in its large, two-story building where the playful chirps of the school bird Boyd echo joyfully throughout the space.
Outside of the building there is a play area and the school’s organic garden where children plant fruit trees and help with the harvest of vegetables.
“We want to show the children exactly how things work,” Patel said. “They’re so responsible (in the garden) — they dig, sow seeds and bring in the harvest.”
Last year the children harvested more than 50 zucchinis and baked a batch of zucchini bread with their haul. They also learned how to make yummy kale chips with the kale they grew—just one example of how unique an environment Kinderhouse is.
Patel, who is originally from India, became involved with Montessori schools about 13 years ago before she moved to San Diego from Atlanta.
“I fell into it accidentally, I wasn’t familiar with Montessori but I wanted that way of life,” said Patel, who was drawn to the school’s work with nature and how they taught children to be so independent.
After getting her two children started in Montessori education, she started her own Montessori school 11 years ago out of her Scripps Ranch home.
Her school has been in Sorrento Valley since 2006 and by 2009 enrollment at the location was full, prompting the opening of their second location in Rancho Bernardo.
Currently there are 135 students in Sorrento Valley and 58 at Rancho Bernardo.
“It’s definitely so rewarding and for me this is such a wonderful gift to be with these children,” Patel said. “I feel so blessed and grateful to be able to have an opportunity to provide such a good foundation for the children.”
Montessori’s method of one-on-one instruction has had “amazing academic results,” Patel said, noting that students become very self-motivated. Classrooms are mixed so that there might be a 3-year-old in a classroom with kindergartners.
“A 3-year-old can be motivated by the older children and the older students are able to be the leaders, gaining confidence and practicing their knowledge,” Patel said.
A 4-year-old child might be able to understand the concept of multiplication or fractions. “(Children) are like sponges,” Patel says, so why not give them a glimpse of everything they’re going to come in contact with educationally by the age of 6?
They’re also receiving an education for life, she says, as everything in the classroom has a purpose. They learn grace and courtesy and table manners, prepare their own lunches and clean up after themselves, compost their waste, wash laundry the old-fashioned way, care for pets and plants in the classroom and even learn how to sew a button.
Students even make their own arrangements for field trips and can request a meeting with Patel—they know how to set their own agendas.
“Every situation is a learning opportunity,” Patel said.
There are 28 staff members at Kinderhouse, all trained in child psychology as well as the Montessori theory on developmental stages. The school is bilingual—the assistant teachers only speak in Spanish and through immersion learning, most students can speak the language and follow simple directions in Spanish. There is no testing and no homework. “Children learn at school and play at home,” Patel said.
“A lot of parents think Montessori students can just do whatever they want, but it’s not like that,” Patel said.
There are guidelines for working in the classroom. Students who are not working one-on-one with teachers are given purposeful activities or work in small groups. If they are disruptive or act up, their freedom ends.
Community service is an important aspect of the Montessori education. The school has fundraised to build a school in Sierra Leone, participated in food drives and given book donations for schools in Mexico. Locally, they have also put on free concerts for the community.
The school also offers enrichment classes in music and gymnastics, providing children with a balance of activities without their parents having to shuttle them around from place to place every day.
As a help to parents, after-school childcare is offered until 6 p.m. and the school also runs a free class for parents in positive discipline.
The school is located at 6540 Flanders Drive, San Diego, 92121. For more information, call (858) 550-0097 or visit kinderhousemontessori.com.