Monday, January 24, 2011
How Does Montessori Do It?
This morning I took DS (aged 3 years, 3 months) to a local Montessori preschool for an in-class observation before we formally complete the registration paperwork and pay a deposit to secure his spot in this fall's entering class. The plan is for DS to go at least 3 mornings a week the year he turns 4 (this fall), and then either 4 or 5 mornings or full days a week (we'll see how the upcoming year goes) the year he turns 5; then he'll be off to our local public school for K-12. I've blogged about the public school choice issue before, and right now the plan is to send him to the school in our home district; I'm pretty sure we're not going to want to choice into the away district's dual language school when the time comes. Our friend's first grader is having a hellacious year there with the district's crazy, ineffective discipline policy (called "Make Your Day") and the administration has been no help, so we've pretty much written them off.
Today I was completely blown away by how this entire room of 3, 4, 5, and 6 year-olds was just so eerily quiet, with each and every child focused on their "work" (aka oddly interesting pieces of toddler & preschooler crack) at these small tables or on all of these neatly-arranged floor mats. Then I was blown away yet again by the fact that my son actually participated in this unspoken routine of his own volition (!!), without any type of struggle (!!), and was transformed right before my eyes into a model little citizen within this unique little world without needing much instruction. After an hour and a half of observation, the teacher (beloved by all in Podunkville, and I can see why) proclaimed he would fit right in, and said she looked forward to welcoming him this fall. Then she said she needed to make a note to herself not to ever touch him again without his permission first because he physically bristled at her when she touched his arm while she was showing him how to do a "work," and she said he was the first child in all her years to react in that particular way to her touch, and she was truly impressed. Huh? I almost fell over. I think I finally met someone who "gets" my kid! It was pretty cool that she chose to view his reaction in such a positive light, and formed a strategy for working with him that didn't automatically label him a misfit.
I can't stop thinking about how well DS meshed with this place. You recall that this is the kid who, once he turned the dreaded 3, had to quit pretty much every activity we used to enjoy. This is a kid who has a reputation of being just very hard in general, as in 'Your Spirited Child' to a T. So I was sure he'd hate the place. I've never been happier to say I was wrong!
Now I kind of want to know how it is that they do it. I understand that the term "Montessori" does not reflect a trademarked brand, and so it can mean a million different things depending on the school. Even in Podunkville we have 2 "Montessoris" - one that the locals refer to as "the real Montessori" meaning every kid has to go 5 days a week and commit to 3 years including Kindergarten; and the place we attended today, aka what the locals call "the fake Montessori" where there is flexibility as to the level of attendance. Anyway, I was majorly impressed, but left before I could really figure out the proverbial secret sauce they have going on in there. My guess is DS really connected with the getting to choose his own "work" to do, where he could just jump right in, and not have to sit there in a circle on a carpet square, and talk or listen to other people singing, or do craft projects he isn't into - which were the common themes of all the activities he now hates. Hmmm.....