Thirty years ago Domenick and Julie Maglio started a private school for 15 preschoolers.
Now, Wider Horizons School in Spring Hill teaches 130 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
So, its 30th anniversary seemed worthy of a big party, and the recent celebration included face painting, balloon art, bounce houses, games, crafts and treats. High school students manned the games and crafts. Middle schoolers escorted the elementary school children through the fun. And the little ones played.
The school grew, the Maglios said, because as children began to approach the highest grade the school offered, they wanted to stay. So the directors kept adding grade levels. Their first graduating class was in 1998. This year eight students will graduate from high school.
Domenick Maglio has a doctorate in human development and counseling. Julie Maglio has a bachelor's degree in education and Montessori certification.
"We started the school for bright students who weren't being served in the public schools," Domenick Maglio said.
He explained the school's philosophy: "To help children become independent learners and we do it by individualizing the curriculum for each student. It allows students to advance at an optimal rate."
In the lower grades, Julie Maglio said, "We follow the Montessori traditions." Second-graders learn cursive. Elementary level students have an option to learn Mandarin."
Once student reach fifth and sixth grades, Domenick Maglio said, the students move into the college preparatory curriculum.
"(We) teach them advanced math, writing, the classics," he said. Spanish is offered at all grade levels.
Students study history, geography and civics. "The kids are aware of what's happening around them," he said.
Before admitting younger students, the Maglios confer with parents about their and their children's expectations. Older students, fifth grade and up, are tested and the prospective students' willingness to work is evaluated.
"The kids come in and they learn how to do things in a correct manner and they're very happy," Domenick Maglio said. "We teach them how to be appropriate and there's no bullying."
Another kind of learning goes on at Wider Horizons, as well. "The most important thing is learning from the children," Julie Maglio said.