The History of Early Childhood Learning Program in Laurel, MD

In 1965, a group of parents formed a committee to start a nursery school program in Laurel as the town was lacking in child care at the time. This was a very progressive and innovative approach to the problem.

The committee acquired the special exceptions needed, located a facility, advertized the program as “The Children’s School of Laurel.”  The Children’s School was located within the Presbyterian Church on Main Street.  One of the Sunday school classrooms was equipped with materials needed for the nursery school.  The first nursery school in Laurel now needed a teacher and they hired Julia Brown. 

Julia Brown graduated from Appalachian State University in North Carolina with a BS degree in Primary Education.  She had taught first grade in Winston-Salem, North Carolina before moving to Laurel, Maryland with her husband Charles Brown in 1959.  

At that time, Laurel was essentially farm land and the growth of the area that we see today was a future thought. Julia and her husband immediately fell in love with the Laurel area and were happy to make it their permanent home.

The training of young children had always been of interest to Julia, but the approach she had learned in college did not satisfy her. She felt that approach was not best for the child.  So, Julia began a search for a better method of education.

While she was the lead teacher for the Children’s School , she joined a handful of women in Altoona, PA to become certified in the Montessori Method of education.  During the summers of 1965, 1966 and 1967, Julia Brown was trained by two women from London, England. 

These women had received their Montessori training directly from Maria Montessori, which was very rare.  Maria Montessori, the first woman doctor in Italy, was ahead of her time.  No one believed a child should be taught or trained in a professional environment; Dr. Montessori believed that to be the case and so developed the methodology that has been named after her. 

The Montessori Philosophy is based on the child’s self, self-confidence, self control, and self image.  Learning begins at birth, and at age 2 – 2 ½ formal learning can begin.  In Montessori, the child is taught phonetically how to read and write; each lesson in math, reading, practical life, sensorial, and cultural has a concrete object so the child can use the senses to learn.  This was the method of learning that Julia became part of and was so grateful to have found. 

Upon completion of her three summers of training, she was certified in the Montessori Method of Education and ready to teach.  After two years of working at the Children’s School of Laurel, Julia Brown and Charles opened their first school, “Julia Brown Nursery,” in an apartment on Main Street in Laurel.

Julia Brown Nursery opened with twelve children in 1967.  The parents knew very little, if anything, about the Montessori method of education, but had supported Julia Brown at “The Children’s School,” and followed her to her new nursery school.  The materials to set up the proper Montessori classroom environment came directly from Holland. 

Within two years, classes doubled in size and another apartment was rented.  Charles had already begun looking for property on which to build a proper school building.  He found land on Madison Avenue in North Laurel, not far from Main Street and began building their own “Children’s House.”  In 1970, they moved from the apartment to their first school on Madison Avenue in Laurel.

In the early 1970’s, many mothers were returning to work outside the home and a need for daycare arose.  The Brown’s fulfilled this need by adding a full day program and were pioneers in providing this type of care for families. 

Using the philosophy of the Montessori Method of Education, the fulfilled the requirements needed for the full day program.  The children were given a peaceful, calm and picturesque environment.  

In 1972, the Junior Program began and The Julia Brown Montessori Schools began educating not only 2 – 5 year olds, but now lower Elementary age students in Grades 1 – 3.  With the continuing need for full day care and the growing interest in the Montessori Method, the Brown’s opened their second location in Columbia, Maryland.

In 1986, to meet this growing demand they opened a third school in the White Oak area of Silver Spring, MD.  This location has consistently had a waiting list and so to fulfill this need, the school was expanded to include two more classrooms for a total of six classes in 1993.

The early childhood movement had grown more popular every year with research showing the importance of exposing children to curriculum at an early age.  This would be the last school that Mr. Brown would oversee with his passing in 1991. However he did have interest in finding land in Olney for a fourth school.  This became a reality with the opening of a school in Olney in 1997.

The Julia Brown Montessori Schools now have 65 staff members and close to 500 students.  Not only are the schools educating children but they are also providing an opportunity for staff to become certified in the Montessori Method of Education. 

The school receives resumes from around the world as JBMS has become very well known in the Montessori community. The schools are fortunate to still have the guidance of their founder. 

Julia Brown visits one of her four locations each day.  She observes the children, supports the staff, ensures the buildings are well kept, and that the environment is safe, pleasant and attractive. 

In addition to guiding her schools, Julia Brown also lectures on the Montessori Method of Education to potential early childhood educators. Her daughters, Theresa Leonhart, Director and, Ellen Komesarook, General Manager continue to run the schools that Julia and Charles began together. 

The Julia Brown Montessori Schools are fortunate to be family owned and operated for 46 years and grateful for the support of the Laurel area for their success.

Research has shown how self confidence, poise, patience, thoughtfulness, and independence can guide the child to adulthood.  This formation, the training of the young child, is the goal of educators. 

Julia Brown has spent the last 50 years working with young children, beginning in a one room nursery school to founding four Montessori schools.  Watching the growth and the success of so many children has been such a blessing for Julia and to know that The Julia Brown Montessori Schools are now educating the children of previous students is wonderful. 

Julia is grateful to have been part of the early childhood movement not only in Laurel, but throughout much of Maryland and to see Montessori spread throughout the U.S.

About WF Staff

Washington FAMILY Staff

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