She just finished her first week of school. This week, the new students only attended for 2 hours a day to give them a chance to settle in with a bit less pressure, and to give the older kids some time without all the chaos of the little ones. Sammy is probably the youngest in her class, I imagine, having just turned 3 a couple of weeks ago, but, for once, I don’t feel like she is way too small or out of place.
I won’t get to visit the class for at least 6 weeks so I can’t report much about what Sammy is doing as her work. I might get some kind of report in her Friday folder which comes home each week, but I’m not sure about that – the only thing in this week’s folder was information on a fundraising event.
What I have seen is drop-off and pick-up. Sammy has been fine overall with leaving me to go to her new school. We’re supposed to drop the kids off at the curb, where a teacher comes to get them and bring them to class. At the open house last week, the Directress said that on the first day they would allow parents to walk their kids to the front door or to the classroom, but that it was discouraged, both for efficiency’s sake and because it is actually easier for the children to separate at the car. I think every parent who has taken the time to find this pre-school for their child and has spent the high cost of tuition should have done enough research to know Rule Number One of separation: Don’t make a big deal of it! You tell the child what will happen and then when it does, you say, “Bye bye. Have a nice morning. I’ll see you at noon.” And you leave. Prolonging it is counterproductive. It tells the child that you are not comfortable parting from her and sends the message that you don’t fully trust the people who will be taking care of her. I’m sorry, but this is so basic. There was no way I was going to walk Sammy in. We were going to start as we meant to go on. But at the open house, one doofus actually asked if he could come and sit in the classroom for 20 minutes on the first morning! He was told, “no,” which made me feel pretty good about the school I had chosen.
Still, on the first day when we arrived, there were a few cars in line but many more people could be seen walking their children in from the parking lot. Because they did this, the line-up system didn’t work. There were so many people walking their kids in the front door that there weren’t enough teachers to take them away quickly, and the car line-up was ignored. I can’t really blame the teachers – they were inundated with crying children whom they wanted to whisk away as quickly as possible, while the kids in the cars had to wait, but at least they weren’t at that critical moment of separation. Of course, I didn’t realize exactly what was going on, and after 5 minutes of no movement in the line, the mom in front of me came back and said that the front car had been there for almost 20 minutes and that we might as well park and walk the kids in. I didn’t see any choice, although later I found out that the line did start moving a few minutes later. So we parked and I walked Sammy in and it was a disaster. Well, it wasn’t that bad, but she twice dropped the plant that she had brought in as a class gift (a suggestion from the teachers), and stopped at the front door, refusing to walk in on her own power. I was carrying so much stuff that I could not pick her up and we blocked the door for a good minute. She wasn’t crying, just refusing to enter and whining, but it was not the way I wanted to start her first day. I wish they had told us at the open house to stick with the line no matter what and that they would eventually get to us. They did say it might take “a few more minutes than usual” the first couple of days, but that was an understatement and it caused a lot of confusion. Well, in the end, it didn’t matter. The next day drop off went without a hitch and Sammy’s been happy to go to school ever since.
Because the youngest children were leaving early this week, they were taken out to the playground for pickup time each day. I watched Sammy’s attitude change throughout the week when I picked her up. The first day, she was on the swing with the teacher pushing her. The next, she was on the swing by herself. The third day, she was not near a teacher and she came running to me when she saw me, saying MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! She wasn’t relieved to see me, she was excited to show me what she had been doing. She showed me the slide and the sandbox and the swings and the playhouse. The fourth day it rained and she was brought out to my car, happy as a clam. And the fifth, she again came running to me, and I watched her interact with some of the older children.
I think that being in a mixed-age class is going to be one of the most important parts of the Montessori experience. It was important for Sammy to be around her peers in day care – she learned a lot (good and bad) from being with kids in her own age group. But the older Montessori children are true role models. Sammy likes older kids. She often chooses them over her own aged kids at playgrounds and at the supermarket.
We have noticed even a bit more independence from Sammy this week. She is picking up her toys without being told occasionally, and there seems to be a process for washing her hands now, instead of the half-hour long play session a hand-washing normally is for her. We’ll see if those things continue.
This transition has been very smooth. (Well, it’s been very difficult for me in terms of my schedule. I can’t figure out when to shower or how to deal with my even more fractured time. It will help when we move to a 3 hour day next week.) But for Sammy, it’s been pretty painless, and I almost forgot to take note of what a huge achievement this is for her and for me. I thought about sending a child to Montessori long before I even decided to have a child. My own experience at Montessori (I attended through age 11) played a big role in my own character development. Then I read what Ayn Rand had to say about Montessori, and I read Montessori’s own works. I took classes from a Montessori-trained parenting coach, and I did a lot of hard work and research to find the right Montessori school in our area. I didn’t know how it would turn out. I think there are probably some kids for whom Montessori is not a good fit. Even though that’s probably rare, I tried to keep an open mind about whether this would be right for my daughter. I can say with confidence after only one week that I now know I made the right choice. It already shows. I can’t wait to see Sammy in that classroom filled with all the materials that bring back my own childhood memories – the moveable alphabet, the math beads, the geography puzzles. I can’t wait to see what she will learn and how she will grow. I know she is going to thrive there, and that this is the best beginning for her formal education that I could give her. Hurray for Montessori!