A Parent Review, by Toria Burrell-Hrencecin

maria-and-daughter

While searching the web for a good pre-school to send my 3 ½ year old daughter I was lucky enough to discover the Language and Music School in Oak Park. Why I am writing this? No-one has asked or even suggested the idea. I’m simply writing out of love and enthusiasm for this school and a desire to share my discovery with others.

Unique: The Language and Music School is unlike any other pre-school I’ve found (It’s much more than just a pre-school: it offers Pre K and Kindergarten level curriculums and a unique Spanish immersion and music program.) The first thing that attracted me was the emphasis on music. (Being a musician myself, I wanted my daughter to have the opportunity to learn piano and have a strong musical introduction.) The second thing was the idea of Spanish immersion. They teach all the regular topics: colors, numbers, days of the week, weather, nature, animals, seasons, etc, but all in Spanish! It’s a wonderful combination of Spanish and music: singing songs for each stage of the day, e.g. a song for washing hands, a song for eating snack, a song for putting away musical instruments, etc, and all in Spanish. And not “bad” singing either; I’ve been to many a “mom + tot” music class and cringed while the teacher “sings” out-of-tune. Here, we are talking talented, degreed music-teachers, playing the guitar, piano and singing tunefully!

Early Learning Window: I’ve read plenty of books and articles on early learning (and experienced it myself as a child). I whole-heartedly agree with Maria Fermi’s philosophy: that there is a precious window of time between 0 and 5 years old, when children are open like sponges to absorbing languages, not only their native one, but foreign ones too, and music (as another “language”). Brain development during these years has been shown to increase dramatically when the child is immersed in or exposed to foreign languages and/or music. Everything learnt during this time stays for life! It builds the solid foundation for future learning. And the beauty of it is, children don’t even realize they are learning: it is not “studying” in the sense of hard work and grind: it is purely absorption. Through the process of playing and having fun, they are naturally picking up foreign languages and music, and at some point, the learning process “clicks” so that it becomes automatic, and so much easier for them to study later on when they are older. Maria Fermi and my daughter at the LMS, September 2007. So I was already sold on the concept of this school and decided to try it for my daughter last September, 2007. And now, 7 months later, I am more than just satisfied that I made this decision: I am thrilled and overjoyed! Everything about this school is wonderful, and in my opinion, much better than the average pre-school. (My daughter has also attended two other regular local pre-schools, so I have something to compare it with).

Easy scheduling: A busy mother’s dream: this school allows you to customize your child’s hours and days to suit you and your family. Their flexible schedule allows you to make changes as you go along. For example, in the beginning, I decided to try 2 days a week, for the 3-hour morning period. Then I increased my daughter’s time to 3 days a week, mornings only. Now, I have increased her time there again to 3 full days a week, for the morning and afternoon periods. You can choose anything from 1 to 5 days a week, mornings (9.30-12.30pm), afternoons (12-3pm), or full days (9.30-3pm). Also, if you have to miss days due to vacations, appointments, bank holidays, etc, you can schedule make-up days.

Easy registration: Another unique feature: you can (more or less) drop in at any time throughout the year (depending on space). For example, I did not register my daughter until August 2007, and was relieved that they had spaces for her to start in September, only a month later! This was so easy compared with the usual 6 month-to-1-year-in-advance registration required for most pre-schools.

Day Care: (8am-5.30pm Wed, Thurs, Fri. 8am-3pm Mon + Tues). In addition to the regular preschool hours, they also offer before and after school day care. This works out really well for me: on two days a week, my daughter stays just one extra hour after school until 4pm. She loves the days she stays until 4pm, when she gets to play more 1-on-1 with her favorite teacher.

Academic strength: I’m amazed at how well my daughter is doing at this school. She has taken to Spanish like a duck to water! In fact, because of her increasing use of Spanish at home, I myself became inspired to take adult lessons in Spanish too. (Adult lessons in 10 languages and dozens of instruments are also offered at this school!) It has enriched both of our lives so much to be able to communicate in another language. I can see many ways in which my daughter’s reasoning skills, creativity, ability to think and make sense of her world, problem solve and empathize have all been enhanced by her understanding and use of another language. I can feel my own brain being stretched and enlivened by the study of Spanish too. Learning anything new is always exciting, but the study of another language opens up many new, unexpected doors of thought, reasoning and understanding of life.

Reading and writing skills: Not officially “taught” in most pre-schools, this is not something they avoid at the LMS, I’m glad to say. If your child is ready for it, they will encourage it. Their program includes Pre K and Kindergarten curriculums, as well as pre-school. My daughter is already showing a natural desire and ability to read and write, not in any way pressurized by me, but simply from her curiosity and enthusiasm for what she is doing. What’s really impressive: this school tailors its curriculum to suit each individual child, no matter what their abilities. Earlier this year, I was concerned that my daughter ought to be going to “official Kindergarten” soon because of her academic readiness. I began looking around for private Kindergartens and Montessouri schools where she could be encouraged to learn at the Kindergarten level. But I need not have worried: Maria Fermi was already aware of her advanced skills, and was already stretching her and encouraging her to read, write and do extra little assignments while waiting for the other kids to catch up. Therefore, I’m relieved and happy that my daughter is in the right place and will be staying at this school for another year.

After school classes: (Wed, Thurs + Fri). Even when your child is past pre-school or kindergarten, they can continue coming to this school in the evenings or weekends, for private instrument and/or language lessons and recitals. I’m certainly envisaging my daughter continuing on here for her piano lessons and other music or language-related activities.

denise-trautman-at-lms

Music strength: The music program at this school is of the highest quality. They offer private instrument lessons, built in to the school day, so I started my daughter off with piano lessons in September 2007. She has a half hour, 1-on-1 piano lesson every Friday, in-between the morning and afternoon school sessions. There are a number of piano teachers to choose from. She has Denise Trautman, a kind, young, enthusiastic teacher who is great with the youngest kids. (Denise also teaches flute and French among other things). My daughter performed her first solo recital in December 2007, and will be participating in the IMS music competition this May. Music is an integral part of this school’s curriculum, whether or not you sign up for private instrument lessons. I’ve found there’s no need for extra-curricular music activities now, since so much is on offer here.

Special needs / Special Education: If my daughter had been anything like my son (who has autism) this school would still have been the perfect choice. My son was not ready for regular pre-school when he was 3. He had a learning delay and still has special education services at age 8. If I had known Maria Fermi when he was pre-school age, I know he would have benefited greatly from her school. Maria has a special interest in and knowledge of learning and behavioral challenges, such as autism, ADHD, bi-polar disorder, etc, and has worked with these kids for many years, through music therapy and special education. I can see how the structure of her classroom and curriculum is well suited to the autistic or special needs child, as well as the regular child. In fact, children with extra difficulties get more attention and help from her here, and thrive under her genuine love, interest and enthusiasm for them. Even though my son doesn’t attend her school, Maria has taken an interest in him, offering me support and advice from her expertise and knowledge.

Maria Fermi, Founder and Coordinator: An excellent school like this is clearly the product of an amazing person like Maria, with brilliant ideas, inspiring vision, energy, enthusiasm, talent and dedication. The teachers that work with her are also talented and dedicated to the school, and the
office staff that greet you upon arrival are friendly and fun to work with. It’s not surprising that this entirely independent school has flourished successfully for 14 years. Parents and children are clearly carrying the benefits away and spreading the word too. All the other parents I’ve spoken to speak very highly of Maria. She simply injects positive energy into everything and everyone she encounters. From the warm, loving way she greets each child personally, as they enter the classroom, to the kind, open way she listens to each parent as they talk to her of their concerns, to the wonderful, musical songs, dances and lessons she creates daily, Maria is indeed an inspiration.

Emery-and-me

Emery and Brando: Olympic Athlete and Professional Actor- both started at LMS!”
OakPark.com

Many more details about the classes, schedules, teachers and curriculum can be found in their brochure or on their web-site:

Visit: www.LMSCHOOL.com
Call: (708) 524-LALA (5252)
150 N.Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL 60301
(Easy location – on the corner of Oak Park and Lake Street)

Myrtala Casey

“Dear Maria,

I hope you are well. I’m not sure if you remember me. My name is Myrtala Casey. My son, Vaughn Casey went to your language music school in 2010-12 or so. He started when he was 2, almost 3. We started with mom & tot classes & then enrolled him 2 days a week. He really enjoyed school there as well as us sending him to your school.

I just came across a picture of Vaughn from 2010 and wanted to let you know that we think of you & your school fondly. Music continues to be a large part of Vaughn’s life & education. He naturally loves it and it’s something that he doesn’t fight us on. He toys with the guitar, piano, marimba, accordion, but loves to play the drums the most. That and any percussion instrument.

I also wanted to share a video of Vaughn from September. He played with one of favorite folk alternative artists & blew the crowd away. The artist is Langhorne Slim & the Law. We were very happy with the performance. They practiced just once before at sound check prior to this performance.

I hope you enjoy. I noticed on your website that there are several little boys who are now an Olympic athlete & a professional actor that started at your school. Very impressive.

Happy Thanksgiving & be well.

https://youtu.be/uLbzjcY9uEA

Tina F.

“My daughters have been enrolled for the last year with Mrs. Faith taking piano lessons. They struggle with wanting to practice at home, but are always excited and eager to go to LMS for their weekly lesson. Mrs. Faith is energetic, fun and patient. They have made a great deal of progress in their music education with her. The staff is always friendly and has been flexible with our make up sessions as needed.”

Jacinda B.

“My 23 month old daughter and I have been attending parent-tot Music w/Movement & Spanish since the summer. This session, she began attending the Spanish immersion pre-school 1/2 day a week (we plan on increasing her attendance soon). She adores Ms. Maria Emilia Fermi-Crawford, her group leader and the LMS founder. Tonight as my daughter, her father and I were reciting our 1,2,3s in the car, she began reciting the numbers in Spanish, all the way through 12. We don’t speak Spanish at home and had no idea she knew more than a couple of Spanish words, let alone her numbers. She’s only had three 1/2 days of immersion classes, so we’re floored. On the other hand, the teachers, particularly Ms. Maria Emilia, are so enthusiastic and they make everything so much fun – it doesn’t feel like “school” at all – that its hardly surprising she’s learning. We can’t say enough good things about LMS. Would highly recommend.”

Laura P.

“My daughter Bryton LOVES going here! She does the Preschool Spanish Immersion program. She LOVES her teacher Senorita Maria, and is getting comfortable with the language. Every week she is excited to go to class and loves the music involvement! I would highly recommend!”

Pat M.

“My nephew, Elliott, loves taking music here. He has been a student here for over 4 years. He has mild to moderate autism, but he has surprised me on how well he has progressed. He reads music very well and he is very passionate about learning. It has prepared him for music classes in High School, so he can participate in the general education music classes.”

Monica M.

“My son of 18 months love Ms. Maria, I love when he saw her and give her a huge, and not cry. He really loves the classes. I would highly recommend this school, for early stimulation & learning. They have a great service at from desk.”