Why We Montessori (my new school just opened!)

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About six months ago I realized that Julia is ready for preschool. She loves to go to story time at the library, enjoys social interactions, is absorbing information at a phenomenal rate, and is beginning to test the rules and boundaries, all indicators of readiness for greater social challenges. So I went and visited a hand full of preschools in my area. Most of them wouldn’t admit a child under three years old and since Julia isn’t quite two yet my choices were somewhat limited to a few Montessori toddler programs with pretty steep price tags.

I’ve worked in Montessori classrooms for years and while I loved the programs I visited, I balked at the price. Then I visited some programs that were not Montessori and I was again reminded why I love the Montessori classroom so much. The chaos, clutter, and lack of clear boundaries that I observed at some of the other schools I visited re-inspired me to continue to use Montessori philosophies to teach Julia at home. The only problem was that I don’t have any other children, so there’s no mixed age classroom and a distinct lack of peer interactions.

So I decided to open a Montessori-Inspired preschool and toddler house here at home two mornings a week. This was my first week of class with just one new student, but I was already impressed by the children’s immediate ability to engage with their work, follow my rules and directions, clean up after themselves, and innovate new and interesting ways to explore the environment. My new school is already a success!

Now Julia is getting the social interaction she’s been craving and she is already more physically adventurous after watching her new friend climb jump and play. Hooray! Plus, now I have an even better excuse to spend my evenings creating learning materials. Yes, I really am that much of a Montessori geek. Three part cards are rocking my world right now. More on that in a future post, but for now I’ll just say it’s wonderful to be back in a Montessori classroom.

Here’s a list of a few of my favorite things about Montessori vs. Traditional preschool environments:

Montessori Traditional
Peaceful, quiet, and focused on individual exploration; children are engaged in meaningful learning and expanding their interests and attention spans. Chaotic and loud; children are running around like maniacs with few opportunities for sustained attention.
Lots of choices and children are each doing their own thing, which emphasizes awareness of ones own interests, needs, and desires. The whole group does things together which emphasizes herd mentality and going along with the group.
Mixed ages means children can both learn from one another and teach one another. Varied social experiences and celebration of each child’s unique skills and expertise are the norm. Same ages grouped together means children have little experience navigating social interactions with older and younger children. A child’s only mentor is the teacher.
Clear rules, boundaries, and expectations about the use of materials and the need to put activities away so that the next person can use them creates a culture where cleaning up is just a matter of course. Children end up enjoying cleaning and often choose cleaning activities for fun! Undefined expectations about how to use toys and materials can lead to destructive behaviors as children search for the boundaries. Children are given free reign to create a huge mess and then inconsistently asked to help clean up at the end of the day but never develop a deeper care for their environment.

So, there you have it. Just a few of the reasons that a Montessori or Montessori-Inspired environment is the only one my daughter will be in. And to those of you out there who choose Waldorf for your kids, I’m curious about how you would include the Waldorf philosophies and practices in my chart. I don’t know much about Waldorf but from what I do know, the philosophies sound interesting and aligned with my heart, but my observations of Waldorf in action have been less than stellar. I would love to be converted to a Waldorf lover (although I think Montessori education will always be my first love). So, please leave me a comment to teach me more about why Waldorf is another great choice for conscious parents!

And have a fantastic week. Love, Shelly

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