Karen Hughes describes herself as “one of their biggest cheerleaders” for , the Glen Burnie charter school three of her four children attend.
That’s because she said she can see the difference Monarch has made in her daughters’ education, so much so that she can’t wait until next year when all four girls will be students.
As an example, she pointed to her first-grader Claire’s knowledge of negative numbers from a lesson on the temperature, even though she had not learned about negative numbers in math class. Someone had asked the girl what 14 subtracted from 10 was, and Hughes was about to reverse the order for Claire, when to her surprise, she replied: “Negative four.”
“It’s such a wonderful place for learning. With my daughters, I can see a connection every day,” said Hughes, an Arnold resident.
And with Monarch’s upcoming open houses, Hughes said she would encourage anyone interested or curious to check out the school. The school will hold daytime open houses from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. March 2 and 23 and evening open houses from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 3 and 17.
“I really can’t say enough good things about them,” she said of Monarch’s staff. “They welcome parental involvement. They tease me that I’m like a quasi-teacher because I’m there so much. But they’re in line with my philosophy on teaching—5-year-olds can’t be sitting at a desk.”
Monarch relies on the expeditionary learning model of education, Principal Maurine Larkin said. While traditional schools might spend a little time comparatively on one subject before moving onto the next, expeditionary learning schools examine topics in-depth and in many disciplines.
As an example, students learning about the American Revolution would examine more than just the key battles and important figures. They might learn about the science of gunpowder or even money from the 18th century in math class, Larkin said.
Hughes said she learned about this educational method from her sister and brother-in-law, both of whom are education professors and whose children attend expeditionary learning schools.
“It appealed to me especially with it being a public charter school,” she said. “We’re not private school people.”
Of the open houses Monarch held already last month, Larkin said, “I think they went well. We had about 25 to 30 parents show up, and they were very interested and asked a lot of questions.”
In both the daytime and evening open houses, students act as tour guides and take the prospective students and their parents around to different classrooms.
Monarch, a partnership between the county school system and the Children’s Guild, a Baltimore-based nonprofit education foundation, opened in 2009 with kindergartners, first and fifth-graders. Each year, a class is added to the elementary levels and the middle school. That is, second and sixth grades were added in 2010, next year, third and seventh grades will be added. This will continue until the school fills out with fourth- and eighth-grade classes in the 2012-2013 school year, said schools spokesman Bob Mosier.
This method of expansion will mean Hughes’ oldest daughter will be able to attend next year. She currently is enrolled in a public school.
“It has a lot of quizzes and memorization. I felt she wasn’t getting a true education,” she said. “My oldest daughter was upset she’s had to wait this long to attend [Monarch].”
Before Larkin’s arrival at Monarch, she was a principal at and Odenton elementary schools and an assistant principal at Park Elementary.
“I’m just so thrilled to be here,” she said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been revised. An earlier version stated incorrectly the sequence in which grades were introduced at Monarch Academy. The school opened in 2009 with kindergartners, first and fifth graders and added second and sixth graders in 2010. The school will add classes in grades three and seven next school year and become a full K-8 school when it adds fourth and eighth grades in the 2012-2013 school year.