Private Academic Preschools are licensed by the Department of Education to conduct educational classes for young children. Among other requirements, the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires schools to meet standards in teacher certification, safety, curriculum, equipment, and child-teacher ratios. The Department of Public Welfare licenses Childcare Programs. While many Childcare Centers operate preschools, their primary responsibility under licensure is to provide supervised childcare, not educational programs.
Nearly a century ago, Dr. Montessori wrote that the most important period of human development occurs between birth and 6 years of age. Current research supports this observation. The critical years, (sometimes referred to as “windows of opportunity” or “sensitive periods”,) for language, motor skills, emotional, musical, and social development all occur during the preschool years. “The brain’s greatest growth spurt, neuroscientists have now confirmed, draws to a close around the age of 10…never again will the brain be able to master new skills so readily or rebound from setbacks so easily.” 
While there are many differences amongst all preschool programs, what sets Richland Academy apart from the rest is our long history of dedication to the Montessori Method of early childhood education. Established in 1982, Richland Academy offers completely equipped classrooms, warm, dedicated teachers and state-of-the-art instructional strategies.
The Montessori Method is a philosophy of education based on the writings and scientific observations of Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori. The fundamental principle of the Montessori Method is that education must nurture the developmental needs of the whole child. Also key to Dr. Montessori’s Method is the idea that children learn best within social environments dedicated to providing them with a variety of opportunities to construct their own meanings and teach themselves.
Dr. Montessori recognized the primary importance of preparing the learning environment to meet the diverse needs of young children. A carefully designed, child-sized world awaits the Montessori child. This “Prepared Environment” invites independent exploration, beckoning the child to make meaningful discoveries about their world. Curricular areas offer a rich and extensive array of hands-on materials that enable the child to learn naturally and effortlessly.
The Montessori Teacher assists the auto-education of the child, acting as the vital link between the child and the Prepared Environment. As a skilled observer, she insures that the social, physical, emotional, and cognitive needs of each child are continually being met. Through her selection of materials and activities, the Montessori Teacher is trained to provide just enough challenge, at precisely the right time, for growth in all areas of development to occur.
A minimum of a full year following the baccalaureate degree is required for a full Montessori credential, including a year’s student teaching under supervision. Montessori teachers receive extensive training to specialize in the age group with which the teacher will work: infant/toddler, preprimary (3-6 yrs.), elementary, or secondary education.
It is the child who teaches himself within the Prepared Environment under the guidance and protection of the Montessori Teacher. Freedom of movement is an integral feature of the environment. Children move about independently, selecting materials to investigate on their own or joining friends for collaborative work. There is a spirit of love, respect, and cooperation among the children that is often not found in other classroom settings.
While traditional preschools rely on large group-teaching, our Montessori classroom provides individualized instruction. The non-competitive, self-paced nature of our educational programs allows each child to progress according to his own developmental readiness (not the readiness of the rest of the class). The Montessori Teachers move among the children who are working independently in the Prepared Environment. When needed, she guides and supports their self-chosen pursuits. Lessons with the Montessori materials are conducted in small groups or on a one-to-one basis. The interests, accomplishments, and competencies of each child are carefully observed and noted so that new materials and activities can be introduced to challenge or deepen their knowledge base. “The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.” 
Richland Academy views cognitive and social opportunities as equally important to the healthy development of the whole child. The Montessori classroom provides a harmonious balance between independent learning and valuable social experiences. While supporting an individualized education, our programs encourage social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching, language development and emotional growth.
“Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Montessorians recognize that each child, from toddler to teenager, learns and expresses himself in a very individual way.”  Art, music, storytelling, movement, and drama are all an integral part of the curriculum at Richland Academy.
Children in our programs generally adapt quite easily to the expectations of public school settings. Montessori children are encouraged to be independent problem-solvers and decision-makers from an early age. Having matured in an atmosphere that encouraged cooperation, self-motivation, and self-discipline, children moving on to the elementary grades take with them the self-confidence necessary to ease their way into any new setting.
The Montessori philosophy does not advocate accelerated learning at an early age. Though many children excel in our Montessori environment, designed to take full advantage of sensitive periods and developmental readiness, academic achievement is not the goal. Fostering a joy of learning, building critical thinking skills, nurturing self-esteem, and meeting the unique developmental needs of each child are the true goals of Richland Academy’s Montessori Programs.
Children who have attended a Montessori preschool have a concrete foundation for future academic pursuits. They also develop attitudes and dispositions that will serve them throughout their lives: self-confidence, an abiding curiosity to learn, independent thinking, initiative, persistence, and an appreciation and respect for the world and its inhabitants.
“Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop good self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.” 
Yes. Richland Academy believes that education of our students is a partnership with our families. Each family with a student enrolled at Richland Academy is required to complete 10 service hours per school year. Service hours are an opportunity for each family to help us accomplish our common goals in providing a solid Montessori education, and a healthy, safe, and attractive atmosphere in which to learn. Families will find many opportunities to fulfill service hours in all areas of school life.
From time to time, Richland Academy offers their students special classes such as Spanish, French, Music, Dance, and Soccer. Information regarding special classes as well as fees will be distributed during the school year.
We recommend that families interested in our school make an appointment to meet with our knowledgeable staff and arrange to observe one of our classes before applying. Please call the school to schedule an appointment.
To learn more about the Montessori Method, visit the American Montessori Society’s website. To learn more about early childhood education, visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s website.
. Time, “Fertile Minds”, February 1997.
. Montessori Education, an American Montessori Society Publication, 1992.