It’s official… M will be started real school on September 8th. I had all of the paperwork filled out and my gut was saying it was right, but I needed to see the classroom and talk to the teacher first. It all hinged on my feelings about the teacher. I finished reading Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard, as well as many parent discussion boards and articles on the internet about what Montessori is supposed to look like, the scientific theories of development behind it, and even arguments against some aspects of it. I then made up a pretty comprehensive list of questions both for the teacher and the administrator. Yeah… I’m kinda that parent.
I totally forgot the list, so I had to try to remember my questions. The teacher totally impressed me, though. She is older, maybe in her 60s, and has degrees and certifications up the wazoo in early childhood development, education, and Montessori. In fact, she even taught Montessori methodology to education majors in University for many years, and gave me quite an extensive list of experiences and credentials. More importantly, though, was that she was warm and welcoming, answered my questions just the way I was hoping she would, and put me at ease about what she would expect out of my 2 1/2 year old. I was mostly concerned that due to her age, and energetic personality, she would not be able to follow the routine and rules of the classroom right away. I was very reassured that there was no such expectation in the beginning, and that everyone there was very educated about the developmental stages of a 2 year old as compared to a 4 year old.
Once again, it seemed that the teacher really liked my daughter. She thought her strong-will was an asset to her learning, not a hindrance. I didn’t make her give me answers she thought I’d like, she just made it known to me that she thought my sometimes “difficult” toddler would be totally fine in the class, even if she gets into some scuffles, even if the routine doesn’t come naturally at first, even if she has an accident sometimes!
And I finally figured out why there was so much less in the way of “stuff” in the classroom… it’s because all of the children will be new to Montessori, so they are starting with a smaller variety of “stations” in order to familiarize them all with each type of learning material, and to start teaching them how to take out the materials, use them, and put them back when they’re done. That made so much more sense to me than just tossing M into a room full of awesome fun stuff and expecting her not to bananas getting everything out!
I loved it all, but more importantly, M loves it. She thrives on the school environment, she does well with teachers and much better with older children modeling better behavior, and I know she is going to change dramatically in this program, just like she did after four months of being in her current school. The difference between 18-month-old M before starting school and 22-month-old M was enormous. She began sitting and participating in group times, tasks, and meals. She began following directions, understanding complicated instructions, and learning letters. She understood taking turns, using food utensils, and using words like “please, thank you, and sorry”. Most importantly, she was pumped up and rejuvenated from her interactions there. I really believe this new school is going to do the same for her, but more at the level she’s at now. She’s not a baby anymore, and she’s smarter than I thought it was possible for a kid her age to be, and she’s looking for challenges and ways to grow.
I’m so glad she’s going to be in the very first class, on the very first day, and that she won’t be the kid who is new, new to the class and new to Montessori. Everyone will adjust and grow into it together this way. She will also be able to do the total three year cycle that is part of the Montessori method, and be able to move into free public Montessori (in the same building) for her next three years (K-2nd), before switching to regular public school for third grade.
Well, it’s exciting as can be! Can’t believe my baby is going to start REAL school in a few weeks! And what am I going to do with 6.5 hours to myself every single day??? Feel like a human again!