By Bill VanLoh
Our Catholic schools provide an important resource for Catholic families and families of other faiths as well.
Many will agree that a faith-based education is especially important in today’s world.
While Catholic schools provide a strong foundation in the “regular” subjects of math, reading, science, history, social studies, music, world languages and physical education, we provide the added component of Catholic Christian values throughout the school day, as well as in religion class. We learn not only about God’s world but also how we are to serve him and each other.
Most of us probably know that the Catholic schools in our diocese serve students in kindergarten through grades five or six, and in several of our schools through the eighth grade. However, you might not know that many of our schools provide a variety of preschool experiences, in order to prepare youngsters for the added expectations in the elementary grades today, as well as to serve the needs of families in which both parents are working outside the home.
At St. Michael’s School, located in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood, we provide three distinct preschool programs, in a caring Catholic Christian environment, for children from ages three to five. All of our preschool students participate, as do students in the K-5 grades, in our specialist classes of music, physical education and Spanish.
Our half-day preschool provides a three-hour daily experience based upon a combination of Montessori and traditional methods during the academic year. Our two all-day preschool programs provide experiences on a year-round calendar, including summers. The Montessori all-day preschool option at St. Michael’s Lakeside School offers an authentic Montessori program. Our traditional all-day preschool option utilizes the Creative Curriculum.
Many might ask, “What is Montessori?” The philosophy in a Montessori preschool is one that provides a carefully prepared learning environment, where children are free to choose work that engages them in meaningful ways, nurturing independence, concentration, a love of learning and respect for one another. Maria Montessori called the first classroom that she developed “Casa dei Bambini,” or “the Children’s House.”
In our Montessori classroom, you may find children working on literacy and math concepts, and you may also see someone learning to tie laces or sew a button. You may see children making patterns with blocks alongside others learning the names of the continents on the globe.
In the areas of practical life, sensorial materials, language and math, children are actively engaged in learning in ways that make sense to them. Our Montessori-trained lead teacher observes and guides each child, as needed, all with the goal of helping children develop toward their fullest potential.
In our traditional preschool, we also utilize exploration and discovery as a way of learning, offering daily opportunities for individualized instruction, addressing all the important areas of learning, from social-emotional, to literacy and math, to technology and the arts. We work to ensure students are learning kindergarten readiness skills while incorporating the joy of learning throughout every part of every day.
Our quality preschool programs enable children to develop confidence, creativity and lifelong critical thinking skills as they prepare for their years in K-12 education and for throughout their lives.
As we travel through Advent and approach the glory of Christmas, we invite all families to visit their nearby Catholic school and see how the arrival of God’s son among us is being celebrated.
All of our Catholic schools provide students with an education framed by the principles of faith. At St. Michael’s Lakeside School, we offer children a Catholic vision of the world that is guided by reason, shaped by justice, enriched by beauty and devoted to inquiry. We provide students with educational and faith opportunities that will permeate their lives — with God, family, school, parish and the world.
Bill Van Loh is principal of St. Michael’s Lakeside School in Duluth.