FREEPORT, Maine — From public school to private school and everything in between, there are many options for educating children.
Marnee Harke wants to give Freeport one more option, especially for preschool-aged children.
Freeport Montessori School, which opens Sept. 14, was created by Harke along with her friend and fellow Montessori teacher Marcia Clark. The school, at 183 Main St., sits in front of Freeport Community Library.
“We feel with the location and the community Freeport is, [the town] can support many types of education,” Harke said.
Montessori schools teach children real-life skills through individualized, hands-on experiences. Freeport hasn’t had a Montessori school for two years, which is when Meadowbrook Montessori School left its West Street location and merged with North Yarmouth Academy.
Harke, who has been a Montessori teacher since 1998, said she has always wanted to open her own school. She and Clark, who were both trained through the American Montessori Society, met while working at a Montessori school founded by Clark in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Freeport Montessori School will be a three-year program for children ages 2½ to 5 years old. All the children will work and learn together in the same classroom.
“As preschoolers, they learn an awful lot from each other,” Clark said.
“The older students are the role models for the younger children, and it really gives the younger children something to aspire to,” she said.
There will be about 18 to 20 students, and Harke said the ages will be split into thirds so there are equal numbers of each age group. She said she does hope to get a good amount of younger children, though, so they can grow with the program.
“Ideally you want to get the younger students in and teach them the routines and have them develop into that role model role they’ll have as a 5-year-old,” she said.
The students will learn general academic subjects, such as English, math, and science, but will also learn Spanish, cooking, and gardening. Harke is also planning to partner with Stephanie O’Neil of Farm to Table Kids to have students create a garden.
“They’re very concrete, real learning experiences,” she said.
Students will also be given the freedom to explore subjects of interest to them.
“Everything is individualized so children can follow their passion,” Harke said. “We’re looking to educate and develop the whole child.”
Clark said it’s important to “respect the spirit of the child,” although academics are an important part of the program.
“We are a little bit more academic than other programs,” Clark said. “It’s busy and purposeful.”
Harke said she hopes to draw students from Freeport and surrounding towns. She said she knows there are many options available, but that the Montessori method is different in that it really focuses on what children need at a young age.
“It fits the need for preschool school,” she said. “There are many preschool programs within larger schools and that early childhood element can get lost in the rest of the school.”
Harke said the school will promote community involvement and hands-on learning, which she believes Freeport values. She said she thinks this will make the school a success.
“I like working in a small environment and being part of a community,” Harke said, “which is what I can do in Freeport.”
There will be open houses at the school at 9:30 a.m. July 18 and 22, Aug. 11 and 26, and at 5 p.m. July 28 and Aug. 19. More information can be found on the school’s website, freeportmontessori.org.