Why a Jewish Montessori

Netivot is devoted to using Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy to enhance Torah education.Montessori methodology has been in existence for over a hundred years. In that time span, Montessori schools have proven repeatedly that they produce well-rounded, happy, academically successful children who find joy in learning. Why? Because Montessori holds the answer to the question Jewish educators struggle valiantly to address: how can we challenge the class as a whole while still meeting the individual needs of each student?

Jewish day schools are constantly challenged by the necessity of dealing with the needs of children whose talents and abilities mandate different approaches to learning. Many Jewish schools are struggling with the concept of “individualizing” education and send their teachers and curriculum coordinators to conferences that discuss how to bring “individualization” into a traditional classroom. Maria Montessori successfully answered this perplexing educational conundrum over a century ago, when she discovered that a classroom which is set up to meet the individual needs of students allows children a much higher degree of academic success and personal satisfaction.

As Jewish educators and parents, we have strong requirements for our children’s education. We want them to know at least as much as their “secular” peers, if not more. We expect them to be academically successful in their secular subjects and to have a comprehensive and extensive knowledge of Jewish tradition. What Maria Montessori discovered, and every Montessori school has since reinforced, is that children will succeed and thrive when their individual learning needs are met in the classroom. We believe that the time has come to offer this opportunity to children from traditional Jewish homes.

There is a growing awareness among Jewish educators that Montessori philosophy can and should be used with Jewish children. Unfortunately, since this awareness has developed only in the last decade or so, there is an absence of existing curricula for Jewish Montessori Day Schools. Each Jewish school choosing to identify as Montessori has full access to secular Montessori materials but must develop its own Judaic materials. Netivot is among the first Jewish Montessori schools to envision a program that would serve children through eighth grade. It is the first to develop a Jewish Studies curriculum to meet the needs of the modern Orthodox community.

Ultimately, Netivot’s goal is to develop a complete and rigorous Judaic studies curriculum that authentically follows the Montessori method and to integrate this curriculum with the rich offerings of Montessori General Studies. In this way, we can give our children a clear sense that yahadut (Judaism) is an integral part of life rather than a distinct and isolated part of their day. We hope that our groundbreaking curriculum will then serve as a model and resource for other fledgling Jewish Montessori schools in this country and throughout the world.