Daniel Monks doesn't know what a Montessori school is but he does know he enjoys classroom activities such as tracing maps of his former home, Australia.
The 4-year-old Ellicott City boy is one of 30 children registered at the Children's Manor Montessori Day Care in Ellicott City, which opened two weeks ago.
The area's second Montessori school, Children's Manor offers day care, pre-school and kindergarten classes for children between the ages of 2 and 6.
And within the next six to eight months, the school will share its 1.5-acre site with a group home for senior citizens.
Pradip K. Ghosh, a developer who owns the site, said the two projects will complement one another.
"Kids can go visit the elderly and the elderly can visit the kids," he said. "It will give meaning to their lives."
The group home will shelter about 30 residents, who will receive daily meals, housekeeping services and monitoring of their medication.
Tenants, who must be 62 or older and be able to care for themselves, will be invited to participate in school activities.
"We will encourage senior citizens to come and talk about their lives," said head teacher Darshini Jayawardena. "The interaction between the two groups will be good."
At the school, children study and play in groups of two or three. Teachers encourage students to develop independence, concentration and thinking skills by allowing them to choose their own activities and complete them at their own pace.
"We play a low role," Ms. Jayawardena said of the teachers. "We allow the children to do the lesson as many times as they want."
The Montessori method was devised in 1907 by Maria Montessori, an Italian educator who believed that teachers should "guide" rather than control children's activities.
By the time children leave the school, Ms. Jayawardena said, they will have been exposed to botany, geometry, world geography, and grammar.
Ms. Jayawardena said the children are able to learn so much in such a brief period because they are with the same group of people day after day.
"They would be [at the school] for three years with the same teacher, same group of kids, so they learn a lot more," she said.
Parent Theresa Wiggs, whose youngest child, 4-year-old Neal, attends Children's Manor, said the philosophy has given her two older children a head start in school.
"Academically, they're right on target or little bit ahead," she said of her two other children, 9 and 6, who each attended another Montessori school and are now enrolled at Waverly Elementary in Ellicott City.
Ms. Wiggs, who just moved to Ellicott City with her family, said she chose Children's Manor because she liked its large playroom and backyard.
"I really like the physical building," she said.
In the middle of the room, three children listen to a teacher read a story, while another group creates geometric designs by stretching rubber bands around nails embedded in a wooden board.
Most important is the lifelong interest in learning that children develop in Montessori schools, Ms. Wiggs said.
"It teaches them to love learning."