New Montessori school focuses on feeling of home

Published 12:23 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2012

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

NORTH SHELBY — When Melissa Crowley-Jamison was in graduate school at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., she saw the many Montessori schools close to campus and a dream began.

Now, after five years of being a Montessori teacher, her dream is coming true as she starts her own school, Ithaka Montessori Children’s House on Valleydale Road.

The school opened in late December 2011.

“My husband and I just got together and decided to do it,” said Crowley-Jamison, who has five children. “I love children and I just want to help children. I felt like Montessori education should be for every child.”

The school is located in a converted house and has a homey feel ¬— something important for children, Crowley-Jamison said.

“I wanted the students to feel like we were family,” she said. “It’s so important at this age to be nurtured and feel like you’re in a home environment.”

Montessori schools focus on sensory learning and fostering independence through learning life skills. They also focus on peace education through teaching tolerance and acceptance.

“Children these days receive sensory overload at a young age,” Crowley-Jamison said. “Montessori education slows it down and it’s peaceful. We don’t have TVs or loud electronics.”

Crowley-Jamison said the school also features a garden, where children water plants, plant flowers and vegetables and make bird feeders, among other activities.

“They care for the world. If they have a part in it, they’re not as likely to throw things out the window,” she said. “Montessori teaches them to care for the environment, for one another and for yourself.”

Ithaka Montessori currently serves children ages 2-6. Most Montessori schools follow public school calendars, but Ithaka Montessori is a year-round school with summer and spring break day camps offered, Crowley-Jamison said.

Pricing is based on families’ needs — some students attend the school every day, while others only come half days or only on certain days. However, Crowley-Jamison said she works to keep prices affordable.

“I just want it to be available to real people and not be too expensive,” she said. “No child should be turned away because they can’t afford it.”

The school is located at 2540 Valleydale Road in North Shelby. To find out more, call Crowley-Jamison at 577-1219 or email