According to legend, when Michelangelo wanted to see what was missing from his masterpiece, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he laid on his back and looked up. From there, it’s said, his vantage point was such that he could view the entire piece of artwork and identify its strengths and weaknesses.
At the Apple Montessori Schools, which are located around northern New Jersey and now in Hoboken, students take a similar approach.
“In art class, the teacher will ask them to lie on their backs under a low-lying table and draw something,” said Vanessa Krippner, one of four sisters who own and operate the schools, which were founded by their parents, Rex and Jane Bailey, in Wayne 40 years ago. “It’s all part of the hands on approach of Montessori education.”
Hoboken’s Apple Montessori, which is busy preparing to open its summer camp, and then its school year program in the fall, is located in the new Maxwell House development on Tenth Street and the Hudson River. The school will be for students aged as young as 6 weeks through 6 years, broken into infant, toddler, and preschool classes. Programs range from half-day, to three days a week, to a full five days a week.
“Children at this age are like sponges. They soak up everything.” – Vanessa Krippner
“There is research and literature that shows how important early childhood education is,” said Krippner. “It’s reemerging in the national conversation about education but we’ve been focused on it for 40 years.”
Based on the philosophy that early childhood education should be more rigorous that the activities that typically take place at daycares and non-Montessori early childhood education centers, such as non-educational forms of playtime, Apple Montessori stresses that all their activities are rooted in some type of learning.
“All of our activities are meant to be stimulating to the child,” said Krippner, noting that even the youngest children at Apple are taught sign language along with some introduction to Spanish, which is meant to lay the foundation for the ability to learn in another language.
“Children at this age are like sponges,” she said. “They soak up everything.”
In addition to its art enrichment programs, the school also does a fair amount of teaching through technology. One of its special programs, Fast Tracks, focuses on using smart boards and computers to teach students the importance of technology.
“Fast Tracks is a unique program that we’ve implemented to form a balance between the technology and the hands-on approach,” said Krippner. “We can use the smart board in math and at the same time have the students doing hands-on mathematical work as well.”
The school also teaches its own reading curriculum, which is based on phonics but can be customized depending on the speed at which a child is learning.
“We want to instill inner motivation in these kids, not based on the speed at which everyone else is learning, but at which they’re learning,” said Krippner. “This way no one is held back, but also no one feels as if they’re getting pushed forward unnecessarily.”
A family affair
The Baileys, including Krippner and her sisters, Joanne Mooney, Pamela Howarth, and Lynn Piccolo, have 14 grandchildren. Ten of them have graduated from Apple Montessori schools, just like their mothers, and the remaining four are currently enrolled. Asked what effect the family aspect has had one the schools day-to-day activities, Krippner said that the caring trickles down.
“Working in a family environment is very nice, and extends to lots of different parts of the school,” she said. “Our teachers, our parents, we like to involve everyone like we were involved when we were parents.”
Krippner said that the family was very excited to move into Hoboken, which she called “the pulse of Hudson County.”
“It’s a multicultural environment with an exciting nature about it,” she said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org