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I’m disappointed with Montessori

Posted Feb 10 2009 10:22am

Emma has been in a Preschool Montessori program since September.  Emma is my sweet - outgoing - good natured - always happy - princess.  She loves to dress up, hangs up her pajamas in her closet, and makes her bed without being asked.  She likes things just so!  (I’ve no idea where she gets it from - my bed is made perhaps 3x out of 7.)  Anywaaaaay.  Can you just tell how sweet my middle child is?

And she turned four last March so we signed her up for out local preschool - and the one closest to Haley’s school happens to be a Montessori style preschool.  And by close to Haley’s school, I mean in Haley’s school - they rent rooms in the same building!  It is sooo convenient.  So although, I don’t have a problem with the public school, play-based learning preschools, we decided to seriously consider Montessori style because of the convenience of it.

Now, this is the stuff that I learned from interviewing this particular Montessori preschool:

  • they believe children’s play is learning
  • they believe in learning opportunities - as in there will be a time that the child will desire to learn about a certain subject if left to their own in an appropriate learning environment
  • the teachers guide each child individually - this was very impressive.  Every day before Emma arrives, her “journal” exercises have been created for her based on her previous day’s work - usually this involves tracing dots in shapes and letters. And some practice on her own.  Stickers are earned for rewards.
  • I was also very impressed with the expectations of the children’s behavior.  I whole heartedly agree that children can be taught to be “traditionally” polite, when there are clear expectations, and there is lots of patience and reinforcement, and positive peer-pressure.  Emma doesn’t EVER leave the mudroom without putting away her jacket and boots now.  She waits for the teacher to open the door to her, and she (sometimes with a little bounce) shakes the teacher’s hand and says, “Good morning.”  And she even shakes with the right hand now!  I think that took until after Christmas to figure out.  But it is adorable!
  • Children will be encouraged to work individually at their own rate on the topics that interest them, and some guidance or suggestions are given by teachers if the child seems ’stuck’ in a particular rut.

That all sounds good.  I had some reservations because I was really hoping for socialization among her peers, and the whole plastic scissors and glue in the hair preschool environment. But those can be put aside, what she needed was stimulation!  She NEEDED preschool; was entirely too bored at home now.  So that was it.  We enrolled her in Montessor, for a little extra dough, and a lot more convenience for Mommy.  And let’s not forget how high a priority convenience is when you’re suffering with depression and can hardly remember to shower!  Convenience was my middle name, or first name, however you want to see it.

Now….

My reservations became bigger when a month into Preschool, Emma could take it or leave it.  This is the girl who is STILL asking about her swimming lessons in the summer; the girl who cries if she doesn’t get a play date.  She is a people-person! Now she wasn’t arguing about going to preschool, but there wasn’t any anticipation AT ALL.  That gives me a huge pause.  Several weeks after this has been going on, I pick her up crying after Preschool because she didn’t get a sticker for her journal; other children did, she didn’t.  :(  THEN she started not wanting to go to preschool AT ALL because she doesn’t like journal. So we went and talked to the teacher.  I encouraged her to state her feelings about her journal to her teacher, and the teacher encouraged her with kind words and a little motivating talk, and Emma was off to play.  But to the side, the teacher warned me that Emma MUST do her journal exercises to be ready for Kindergarten.

This is where I go off on Montessori!  Are you kidding me?  A four year old doesn’t have to do ANYTHING to be ready for Kindergarten!  LOL  Possibly, you could correct the way they hold a crayon or if they are speeding ahead with spelling, correct the way they print their letters so as not to learn bad habits- but actively encourage learning outcomes for a four year old??  Puh-lease! Hasn’t it been proven (not like I know where I learned this) that children no matter when they are reading and writing all level out to the same academic milestones around grade three?  Who cares if she doesn’t want to read anything except Princess books, or only draws her name?  The ONLY thing I care about Preschool is that it is a positive first introduction to formal education.  Positive!!!  There are 13 years, minimum, ahead of her to attend school a good chunk out of every day.  Could we please let her know this will be fun?

I wonder - is this what they mean by Montessori isn’t for everyone???  My concerns are not for HER per se, they are MY concerns about how her first year of school will affect her attitude.  It is very academically oriented.  And now I have a parent/ teacher interview next week.  Sigh.  How the hell am I supposed to bite my tongue for an entire interview about my daughter’s progress in preschool???  I’m worried I’m going to come unglued.  I really like her teacher - sweetest thing - and I think we could be friends - but I’m not so sure about the foundational principles of her Preschool.  Perhaps I would feel differently about Montessori in elementary school - in fact I know I would.  Especially as the children grow in years - the method of learning is exceptional.  And the standards of behavior are absolutely spot on, if not a tad old fashioned, but I can live with old fashioned.  I just can’t live with pressure to perform on a four year old, namely my Emma.

Now I have to decide what to do with Megan.  Emma would have done better in a play-based learning environment where children work in groups.  Megan?  Yeesh.  She’ll do better with a full time tutor to cater to her every whim and fancy.  She is after all, the baby.  We’ll think about that tomorrah (in my best Scarlett O’Hara voice).

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