When Lori Smart was looking for preschools for one of her two sons, she was having a hard time finding a place that compared to the Montessori experience she was used to teaching.

When Lori Smart was looking for preschools for one of her two sons, she was having a hard time finding a place that compared to the Montessori experience she was used to teaching.

A native of Independence, she moved back to the area to raise her children in the hometown of which she had such fond memories. But the one thing the community lacked was a Montessori school.

“There are several Montessori schools in Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit, some in Kansas City and the Northland and a ton in Johnson County,” she said. “I felt like the children of Independence deserved to have that same kind of Montessori education.”

The result is Sunshine Montessori Academy of Independence, 16716 E. U.S. 40. The school is owned by Smart, a Montessori-certified teacher with 16 years of experience working in early education, and her father, Stephen Ward, a former teacher at Procter Elementary School in Independence.

Sunrise Montessori serves children 2 1/2 to 6 years old, and opens Sept. 6.

Montessori education differs from a traditional pre-school in many ways. The individual one-on-one education is tailored to meet each student’s needs. An emphasis is placed on respect, which allows for a more peaceful resolution to conflicts that arise in the classroom. Activities help children experience and relate to themselves, society and the world as a whole. Lessons are given in mathematics, language, cultural arts, music, art and “Lessons in Living,” which help children learn about values as well as character development.

Another difference is the play area. Instead of an area where children can play “pretend,” they have the opportunity to spend time in a Practical Life Area. Here, they can pour real water, host a tea party with real tea, wash dishes and scrub tables and chairs. Teachers also have the freedom to observe their students and choose lessons that interest each of them. Smart said children are more receptive to learning if they are interested in the subject.

“This will be a genuine Montessori environment for our children,” Smart said. “I really believe a Montessori school creates a solid foundation for children in reading, writing and mathematics. It lays the groundwork for a successful education later in life.”

Sunrise Montessori offers both full day and half day options with extended care in the mornings and afternoon. It sits on an area with trees and other vegetation, and there is a garden for children to learn about nature and growing their own produce.

Smart said it is her intention to keep the school small, only serving 40 children at full capacity. Currently, only six children are enrolled, but she said once the word gets out, she believes enrollment will increase quickly.

“We have a small enrollment now, but we expect that to grow,” she said. “We will always be a small school because that way we can focus on the quality of the program.”

LEARN MORE: For more information or to enroll at the Sunrise Montessori Academy of Independence, call 816-478-1234 or visit the academy’s website, www.thesunrisemontessori.com.