Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

To Montessori, Or Not To Montessori

That is the question. Among others.

Wonderbaby - who is now, admittedly, more of a Wondergirl, even if I can't bring myself to call her that - is 28 months old. Soon, she'll be old enough to attend the well-regarded Montessori preschool that is just around the corner from our home. Which means that she would leave the lovely daycare to which we have all become well-attached in the three months that we have lived here, and move on to a more regimented, learning-focussed environment, when she is just shy of three years old.

She's been pretty happy in her daycare, which she attends three days a week. But she's a little ways beyond the other children her own age in speech and movement and general activity, and so - with our permission - she was moved into a higher age group where she could move beyond the things that she'd already mastered and not run circles around the other children in the room. And so far, it's been fine, but my heart does ache, just a little bit, when I see her in there with all the bigger children, her tiny self asserting her dominion in whatever corner she has staked out, defying anyone bigger to treat her as smaller, and I wonder, could we - should we - do better with this? Place her in an environment where she's not necessarily the smallest or the youngest (or, conversely, where she is not, by whomever's standards, the smartest or the fastest), but where activities are tailored more to her specific needs?

(There's a whole other post here, waiting to be written and filled with heartache and confusion, about how to do what is best by my spirited little dictator - how to adequately provide the stimulation and learning that she thrives upon while still allowing her to be the wee child that she is. I never, ever want to smother her with concerns about maximizing her potential or aspiring to whatever excellence I think she might attain or like nonsense - and I do think that it's nonsense for parents to pressure their children, especially their small children, toward such things - but neither do I want to close off opportunities for her, nor do I want her to become bored or enervated. All of which is to say - my questions here have far less to with 'what is best for her development' and everything to do with 'what is best for her soul?')

Her daycare is very good about early learning and engages children, within their respective age groups, in activities that are designed to stimulate their curiosity and facilitate interest in words and numbers and science and craft and whatnot. I think that it's more than adequate as a preparation for 'real' school later on. But then again, Wonderbaby's 'skipping a grade' - in freaking nursery school - concerns me. Is keeping her with older children the answer? Or do I need to be seeking out a program that is more suited to her, as she is, at her age? And might that program be Montessori?

We've visited the Montessori school around the corner. It was very impressive. But it was so markedly unlike her - noisy, chaotic, bright, messy, playful - daycare that it was almost disconcerting: quiet (although clearly happy and engaged) children busy with quiet activity, all in coded dress (nothing extreme, just variations on navy blue and white kiddy ensembles) and all seeming more mature than their three-plus years. More mature in many of the ways that Wonderbaby is herself already 'more mature' - studiedly reflective and tending toward extremely close engagement with tasks at hand - but also more, I don't know, mature in that mini-adult kind of way that spooks me when I see it in her, and makes me worry about the possibility of squashing, even just a little, the silly, free-spirited child that she is at her core.

And I just don't know enough about these things, and it's a lack of knowledge that weighs upon me as a lack that I cannot afford. Might Montessori be the right choice for her? Will her daycare suffice? Is 'sufficing' sufficient? How am I to know what's best for her, what's truly best for her, both the child that she is and the full person that she's in the process of becoming?

Anyone out there have some advice, personal perspective, personal experience with Montessori, personal experience with other early-education systems, general sympathies and/or - most importantly - reassurances that I am not the only mother out there who worries about not always knowing what is best for her child?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were you, I would keep her where she is. One of my daughters thrived in a Montessori environment, but it was a very creative one. She was my mathematician/scientist. Two of my children would probably have been expelled the first day. In general, I believe in a freer, more creative preschool that is nonacademic. Montessori is too structured for many children, creating the illusion of behavior problems for more spirited children. Wonderbaby sounds more like my children who would have hated it.

12:02 PM  
Blogger S said...

Why is it that when you write an entire novel as a comment, Blogger inevitably eats the comment? Sigh.

YES, Montessori! But it has to be the right Montessori. In the US, there is a strong distinction between Montessori teachers trained by the AMS versus AMI (International). The former is much more free-form and laid back, and in my view takes the best of Montessori while leaving aside the chaff. International Montessoris are much more rigid and rule-bound.

I fell in love with Jack's Montessori when he started there four years ago, and I will be so sorry to see him graduate come June. He has learned so much -- at least as much socially/emotionally as cognitively, but oh! The cognitive aspects! Montessori math is so intuitive -- the children end up understanding math at such a deep level. (Mommy brag moment -- beware -- Jack is doing long division, with understanding, at SIX.) And he's been so happy there. I like his school so much that I became President of the Board, LOL!

E-mail me if you want.

12:06 PM  
Blogger S said...

And I agree with Mary Joan but think she is talking about AMI Montessori, not AMS. As I wrote, it depends on the Montessori. Visit both types -- you'll see the differences instantly, I suspect.

In the best Montessoris, there is no child for whom the program is ill-fitting.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Dirkey said...

I can only speak from my experience, I loved it! What I remember is that we did so much and I loved that. I remember cooking, playing, learning french, etc. The only downfall is that my community only had a Montessori preschool and when I went to regular school I was very very bored with the curriculum. In reading the above comment I will add that I am a mathmatical person so maybe that is one of the reasons I liked it, but I really felt engaged while I was there.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Montessori my daughter attended was certainly AMS; it is widely considered the best in Manhattan. We never could have afforded it 30 years later. Still my rebellious first daughter would not have fit in.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I myself went to Montessori school and loved it. But, uh, that was a long time ago. I considered Montessori preschool for my oldest. But then I was freaked out on the tour by the fact that they expected my two year old to drink out of a cup with no lid. It was a little thing, but it set off the alarm bells for me that you've identified--too much too soon, too much pressure for a little one.

Now, that said, the positive is that Montessori will encourage Wonderbaby to work at her own pace. Since it's not a grade-leveled system, it's more flexible in its grouping. So that could be a good setting for her.

What are your plans for elementary school? Could Wonderbaby stay for another year at her daycare and then go to preschool associated with the elementary school, or a non-Montessori preschool?

But the bottom line is what I tell parents (both my friends with younger children than mine and parents who I come across in my work as a school administrator) is that one decision like this is not a life or death matter. If you choose Montessori, and it's not the best place for Wonderbaby, you can move her. Or, if you keep her at her daycare and it turns out she's not optimally challenged it's not likely to adversely affect her in the long term.

I don't mean to belittle your worry in any way. I spent literally years agonizing over whether or not to start my child who has a birthday close to the cut-off date on time or hold her for a year.

You are definitely not the only mother who worries about these things. But, you have the luxury of deciding between two quality options. I'm sure Wonderbaby will do fine in whichever one you choose!

12:13 PM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

I would have loved to send my kids to a Montessori program, but the closest one to us was pretty far. The best thing I've seen in Montessori versus a regular preschool is they foster the independence of the child and let them work at their own pace at a level appropriate for that child. I would say trust your gut and do what feels right for you and Wonderbaby.

And no, your not the only mother who worries about not knowing what is right for your child. As a parent, you want to give your children the best opportunities for that child, and it's hard not knowing if you are doing the best thing. For us, the time came the year before Einey started kindergarten. I obsessed over where we would send her- public, private, homeschool. It was a very hard decision for us, but in the end, I am happy with the choice we made. Now that Einey is in first grade, Meenie in pre-K (she starts kindergarten next fall) and Moe right behind her, we are satisfied with our decisions and feel more comfortable letting the younger two follow in their big sisters footprint. We've already started the high school decision - and are pretty sure they will not be going to the public school in our town. So that leaves a few options - move to a different district where they have a choice or go private (at which we need to figure out how to have three kids in a private high school at the same time followed by college tuitions).

And also, Einey is the youngest in her class. Many other parents we know were surprised we started her in that grade, when we knew she'd be the youngest (she made the December 31st cutoff by 6 days). So far, she's exceeded many of her peers academically and we believe, had we held her back a year, that it would have caused more harm then good.

12:17 PM  
Blogger S said...

Oh, that's the other thing. The practical life skills part of the curriculum engages a part of children most schools ignore. Kids LOVE to sweep and wash dishes and feed birds and participate in all the practical activities of life. Montessori encourages them to do that.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing to keep in mind is where are you going to send her to school. If the school she will be going is structured then I would think twice about sending her to an unstructured school. I switched my daughter to montessori school in 5th grade, we loved the teachers, loved the creative projects, animal care, cooking ect.. but she could not stand the day being unstructed. We had to switch here to more structured school. Her best friend thrives at montessori she is a child who can't deal with rigid time constraints and a structured environment. The teachers at her montessori school thought outside of the box and when beyond what any teacher did in the public school. I wish she was still there for all the great life skills and confidence she got in 6 months.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Mocha said...

Nah. It's just you, babe. I never worried about that stuff.

You didn't believe all that, did you? I thought not.

Well, I suppose I would suggest trying anything out that you want to consider because you can always change your mind about it later. Mostly, you just her to be happy. Do whatever you can to make that happen and then the decision is right.

On the Montessori side, she'll be able to bring that street cred Bunny to class.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Jerri Ann said...

I own a learning center. So, I may or may not help you, but here's my thoughts.

My philosophy goes like this:
1. teach kids to respect authority
2. teach kids that all actions have consequences, some positive, others negative
3. weave in the basic academics and the kids will naturally learn to read/write, etc (most kids that is)

So, you ask, what curriculum does my school use. We have been cheating off of the local Kindergarten in the public school. Being a former physical education teacher (which is where I got my 3 philosophy points), I firmly believe that children (or everyone for that matter) learn best through playing. So, we take the public schools curriculum, break it down to the pre-K skills and the Kindergarten teacher and myself write lesson plans.

Ask me how that's going? I'm freakin' exhausted and simply don't have time to keep that up.

So, I've been searching through various curriculum. First and foremost, I would purchase the montesorri curriculum in about 2 seconds if I had teachers trained in that style. I taught in the pre-k program in GA and the programs that used this curriculum, seemed to have it so together.

Something people don't know is that the name montesorri is not trademarked. Anyone can open a learning center and advertise that they are a Montesorri school. All you have to do is purchase the curriculum and bam, that's what you are.

The problem with that is that montesorri trained teachers have extensive training on using the system. But, my teachers don't.

I have elected to purchase Houghton Mifflin pre-K and will use it for my 3 and 4 year olds. I prefer that under 3 years old simply play. They learn by playing with toys, blocks, babies, reading, playdoh and not necessarily creating anything because they don't really care...they just want to play.

I said all that to say, if I had the option of a Montesorri trained staff and center for my business and for my own pre-k kids, I would most definitely snatch it up. Why? Because it does just what I've said we do for those under 3...play and learn. The problem is, if the teachers are not trained on the curriculum, what you get is chaos. It is important for kids to function in organization and organized chaos is definitely a option. But, just loud running and wild is not ok. The kids need structure and Mont. offers that structure, yet does it with so much freedom. Freedom for your child to learn at her own pace, be her own little person.

That said, if you can find a center that teaches in "pods" (and I don't know exactly what that is slang for, but I will hunt the link if you are interested), it is very much like Mont. but demands more teacher interaction than the sit down be still structure of many curriculum. (that word is killing me with its plural).

Anyway, I would say until she is 3, go for what you are doing now. However, if a trained experienced Mont. is available, definitely take advantage of it...and obviously if you can afford it.

Believe it or not, I live in the country in Alabama...way far from civilization and my center is $80 a week for one kid. If I put up a sign that said "Montesorri" and called myself that, I could charge double and people would pay it. Problem is, not even I am trained in Mont.. I am not trained in pods either but the school 45 min. from that uses pods puts out some of the most successful kindergarteners in that area.

Did you ask for a dissertation on this or would just a simple answer have sufficed? Anyway, if this makes no sense or you want to chat more about it, give me a yell, I'll gladly do what I can to confuse you more.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

I loved our Montessori in MA. But it was a real Montessori.

IMHO, the uniforms are a red flag a bit. That doesn't seem very Montessori, which emphasizes individualism more, and not equality and level playing field.

Be careful. Some schools call themselves Montessori and are merely academically rigorous.

We fell into that trap when we moved to Texas.

I think a loving, supportive, encouraging, environment that provides learning opportunities---EQ and IQ---and fosters curiosity is the best preschool.

Montessori---real ones---offer this. But so do other places.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Oh look luckily Sarah did a better job of distinguishing and explaining.

Yes, we far far far preferred the laid-back style.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We did the Montessori thing with my daughter, and loved it for the first three years. The fourth year, they got a new head teacher, and I ended up pulling Emily out in February even though we didn't move until June. Sometimes it's better to keep your kid home, even when you harbor a sneaking suspicion that you'll both live longer if she's out of the house more.

My son has been in a plain-old YMCA daycare, because we have moved and there are no nearby Montessori options, and my environmental/time/gas/effort worries outweighed my "what is the perfect place for him" worries. And it turns out that this became a good enough place. Not perfect, not by a long shot... but they love him and respect him and recognize his personality and needs, and I really can't demand any more than that. If we were to move tomorrow to a place with a Montessori school, I would investigate it... but if all else stays equal I'll keep him as-is for the last year here.

Your larger angst, the "what is best for their soul" thing, has been on my mind a lot lately. I blogged about it today.

When does the parenting become easier? Or at least give a "get out of angst free" card?

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! The worry! I am already looking into these options for Wito, as he seems to be a little ahead of his age group as well.

And speaking as a person who took the pre-school-straight-to-first-grade route myself, I know my parents did what was right for me as an individual, just like you will do for Wonderbaby. Trust your instincts, Catherine! :)

1:23 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

It is my personal opinion that we can never really know, with any deep certainty, what is right. We will always question and second-guess ourselves, because every child is different, every school is different, and every matching up of the twain will produce differnt results. What I would go with for now is whether you are happy, and whether she seems happy with the care she is getting. Does she seem to be making friends? Is she eager to go? When you get there, is she busy doing something? Then it's probably all good.

As to Montessori, I am not an expert either, but it is my impression that more spirited children are not necessarily well-suited to it. The girl across the street, for example, was asked to leave her Montessori programme because she couldn't handle the more rigid structure of the day and the tasks. A kid more like I was - quiet, introverted, serious, happy doing a solitary task for some time - would do very well. But I'm not sure that WonderBaby is that kid - she seems a bit wilder, in the best of ways.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to a Montessori school from preschool through elementary school and cannot wait to start our daughter in a Montessori school. That being said I definitely agree that you must find the right one. The "uniforms" don't seem right, at my nephews Montessori school they just are asked not to wear any characters (elmo, dora, etc).

The best thing about Montessori is that they allow the little one to learn how they learn. You use all the senses so for me, who learns by doing and feeling, I thrived, but my sister who learns by reading and listening also thrived. All four of us are very different, some rebellious others calm and quiet and we all did very well in our years at our school.

I would say to start though definitely by kindergarten. I think once the kiddos start learning in a different environment it might be hard to get used to the relaxed nature of Montessori.

Just my two cents!

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of those late birthday kiddos that the school district likes to screw around with. I went to preschool, at the end of which I was evaluated by a shrink for 30 minutes and promptly sent to prekindergarten instead of regular kindergarten. After prekindergarten, the teacher recommended I go to first grade instead of kindergarten- she was afraid I would be bored and it would ruin me for life. In first grade, I had some trouble with my math, and the teacher threatened- in front of the entire class- to make me repeat first grade. (which created a horrible math complex where there was none, thanks!)

Anyway. I would absolutely put her in a Montessori school, where you can let her learn and explore without being pigeonholed so much into the "little" kids room or the "big" kids room or "skipping a grade", etc. Figure out what her strengths and weaknesses are before she enters the public school system or a similarly regimented private school.

They were so worried about holding me back and skipping me forward according to my hard skills and my academics that they didn't consider what the effect was on me socially. The kids I would have gone to kindergarten with out of preschool didn't know me well, I left the pre-k kids behind when I skipped to first grade, and never ended up feeling like I belonged anywhere, and all of my classmates were very well aware of me being "smarter", which left me no room to rightfully struggle with my math. Then when I started to have trouble and got called out, I felt enormous pressure to maintain my "smarter" status, I was racked with self doubt, and all this as a first grader.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

kittenpie - you're right, she is pretty spirited. but she's also veeerrrrry independent, and independent-minded, and loves to buckle down to 'work'. So. Dunno.

She's pretty happy at daycare, but K and I both wonder whether she doesn't miss her peers in the younger group - she really likes to be down there at the end of the day when all the groups join together. And no, she doesn't really have friends in her current group because they are older (the youngest, I think, is nearly a year older than her) and they're much more into group play than she is - she seems to prefer to play on her own in that setting, although when she's with out-of-school friends her own age she can get quite into collaborative play.

GAH. DON'T KNOW. But all this feedback is VERY helpful.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended montessori when I was younger and it was a bit more laid back that what you were describing. I loved it and it suited my style of learning (self-directed.)

My son has Aspergers and there's no way I'd consider sending him - he's very smart but needs more structure than most montessoris I've seen (perhaps all AMS?)

My daughter, on the other hand, is more along the lines of my personality and I think it would be a perfect fit for her.

Any chance you and your daughter could spend part of a day there? Her integrated into the class and you observing?

1:36 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Hot damn, yes, I worry about this. Our case is a little different, because Munchkin is very advanced cognitively for her age, but also very very big, so her main lag (and by lag, I mean, 'the only area where her profile matches her age') is emotional / social. So daycare is great for us.


The little brains! Like sponges! Can learn so much, now! I was bored crapless at school my whole life, and I was instructed 100% in a language that no one in my family spoke. The smart kids deserve some challenge, and WB is a smart kid.


Everyone else has much more clever and helpful things to say than I do but all I can offer is: I think about this stuff too. And am just as torn.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

verybadcat - "They were so worried about holding me back and skipping me forward according to my hard skills and my academics that they didn't consider what the effect was on me socially. The kids I would have gone to kindergarten with out of preschool didn't know me well, I left the pre-k kids behind when I skipped to first grade, and never ended up feeling like I belonged anywhere, and all of my classmates were very well aware of me being "smarter", which left me no room to rightfully struggle with my math."

EXACTLY what I worry about.

Chris - we did take her with us for the visit, as they suggested, but the teacher there was adamant that she *shouldn't* join in with what was going on, because there was, he said, such a sense of proprietorship among the kids about their learning materials and they might find it unsettling. Which I found somewhat discomfiting.

Also - they weren't wearing uniforms, exactly - I think it was a sort of dress-code where they all wore similar colors and no characters.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible to simply tell her current daycare that you have changed your mind and want her to return to her peer group?

Kids of similar ages develop at way different rates but still play nicely together. HF and WB did great on the weekend and there is striking differences between them. Those didn't seem to matter or hold either of them back when they wanted to do something else, one without the other.

-Baby in the City.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

BITC (oooh, dangerous acronym) - HBF and I have talked about that. The advantage of WB being in the older group is that she gets to do reading and numbers and like-stuff that is more on her level. So, developmentally, it seems better for her (and we've definitely noticed that her speech - already very good for her age - *really* got more advanced once she moved into the group where there's more talking.) BUT - we've wondered whether she mightn't *enjoy* it more to be back with her Little Sprout group.


2:27 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Oh I am having the same dilemma! I am glad you posted about this and the comments have all been really enlightening.

My 'Nut is also very free and creative and so I worry about an environment that is overly structured, yet I believe Montessori has freedom within the structure if you get the right school. I visited an ordinary preschool nearby and quite frankly just found it overstimulating. It was way the other end of the spectrum...overly chaotic offering little to no structure for Peanut which I think for her can be equally as difficult. So I am still visiting, but also applying to one Montessori that I really like.

One of the strengths I've seen of the Montessori setting is the smaller class sizes and also the fact that older children work side by side with the younger ones. That alone just about sells me on it.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Most assuredly, you are not the only person who worries about this. My girl still have preschool issues and it never ceases to break my heart.

My sister teaches Montessori. It is highly appealing to me. Unfortunately, none are within distance.

I hate thinking/worrying about this. It seems I do it ALL THE TIME nowadays.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

For some reason I'm having odd deja vu reading this and scrolling through comments. Did we go through this a year ago? No? Ok forget it.

I have no advice except to say follow your gut. In your heart, you know that it is either right or wrong. And the good thing is - nothing is permanent. If she goes and isn't thriving the way you'd like her to, it seems like you have other options.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love my son's Montessori. I love it so much that he is staying there until grade 3 (the oldest grade they offer). I am an enthusiastic advocate for the teaching style and learning philosophy.

That having been said, I've spoken to many of the parents at his school at length about it's universal "fit". It isn't right for every child and finding the right environment for your particular child trumps the merits of anyone educational approach. In my observation, it works really well for kids that are hungry to learn and academically inclined but also for kids who struggle with studies and benefit from an alternative, more intuitive and tactile approach to teaching. Just as many parents put their kid in the school to "give them an edge" before moving them to a traditional school in grade one.

I did not put my son there to give him an "edge". He had taught himself to read and do math long before I ever enrolled him. I let him go there because I knew it was a good fit for him. BUT I didn't put him there until JK (age 4). I let him play and be with a non-academic, nurturing, uber-fun preschool until then. He needed that. For him, sending him there at JK was fantastic.

He thrives there, is understood, is happy, and is balanced. His program have some wonderful creative, art, music, and gym elements now that he is in grade one. It's exciting to see his eyes twinkle when he talks about Ella Fitzgerald or when he tells me why Picasso is his favourite "dead artist".

I could go on an on. And maybe some day I'll post about it. But I can only speak for my child at his specific Montessori and his specific set of teachers. It has been beyond inrcedible.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

It's deja vu, Liz, because I have been worrying similar issues about 'what to do with WB omg', since she was, like, BORN.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Good luck. In a way this makes me glad we are rather limited in our options for KayTar...because OMG...finding suitable schooling for that child might kill me. LOL.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

We went through the exact same issue with Matthew when he was about the same age. We went to visit a ton of daycares and montessoris and struggled.
Like WB, Matt has always been a bit precocious. In our case, putting him in daycare when I went back to work was wonderful because he was finally stimulated and entertained - and NAPPED and eventually slept at night.
But, when we were moving it seemed like a good time to check out our options.
There were some things we loved about montessori, but what struck me, like you, was that despite the fact that the kids were so happy and content at what they were doing, it was QUIET. Matt is not a quiet child, and I could not get it out of my mind that in school he will have to be quiet, in daycare he can be a little noisier.
I also like the concept of learning through play.
So, we found a daycare we loved, where he is with kids that are his age and a little older. He loves it.
I love going in and hearing the noise and seeing the activity. And, I have no worry that he's not being stimulated enough. In daycare they still learn at their own pace.
I really love the concept of Montessori, and if Matt were a different child I think I'd have him in it. But, for us it just wasn't the right choice.
Good luck. It's a tough call.
But, you know, if you're happy I'd say stick it out.

6:44 PM  
Blogger The Mama said...

I've been a loyal reader for quite some time. Not posting a comment, but just enjoying. I feel compelled to put my two cents in here.
My daughter, a very spirited, independant, loving girl is in Montessori. We've had her in there since she was 12 months old. She is hearing impaired and I was worried she wouldn't fit in or be able to keep up. I didn't need to worry - she moved up to the toddler group at just 14 months old; already surpassing the other kids in her infant room. She has learned so much and I couldn't be more proud or astounded with her accomplishments. But more importantly, she loves it. She thrives, she's happy, and she's amazing.
I can't advice you whether Wonder"girl" is fit for Montessori, but let her try, let her find her spirit and her way with Montessori. Wonderbaby seems like a girl ready to explore her mind and Montessori might just be what she's looking for. You can always go back to the comfort and surroundings of the daycare she's in now. You don't want to ask yourself later on "..... I wonder what she'd be like if...."

8:09 PM  
Blogger aviendra said...

delurking to say... I always thought I would Montessori but then my beloved magazine had an article about the different preschool philosophies and I was really turned off by the rigidness and adultness of the Montessori approach, for me and my own child- I had an immediate reaction to other philosophies in the more positive sense. It is a fantastic article, and I think your gut reaction to the descriptions will be more telling than anything else:

I think when my 18 month old is 3, we are going to enroll her in a wildlife preschool run by our local Audubon.... :) a much better match for our personal inclinations.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oy, Catherine. Such big decisions on our horizons and they seem so weighty. I am currently struggling with the decision of whether to leave my daughter in public school, pull her out and send her to private school or suck it up all together and home school her. Sigh. Not only do I have to think of her education, but her bright shiny spirit and what is best for that. While trying not to damage the completely intwined and symbiotic relationship her and her brother share.

I have no suggestions about Montessori or not, but I can tell you that I was pulled out of preschool because I was heads and tales above my classmates. My parents chose to put me into a program which sounds very similar to the Montessori program you are looking at, and I loved it.

Good luck, my friend.

8:33 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

I loved the Montessori I went to as a child, but I've never forgotten the horrified expression on the face of Bub's speech therapist when I mentioned it as a possibility for him. At the Montessori schools she had visited, there was a sense that the teachers actively discouraged the children from interacting socially and cooperatively: the emphasis was on quiet individual work, and children could actually be reproved for trying to help or interfere with another child's work. Bub needs exactly the opposite approach; he needs to be shown how to integrate other children into his world.

None of that has much to do with WonderBaby, of course - but from your description here (both in the post and in the comments) it seems like this particular school does not feel right to you. Maybe I'm reading you wrong, but that's the impression I get.

With these smart, precocious children, I think we can afford to relax a bit. It seems obvious that WB will have more smarts than she knows what to do with - so even within the day-care, I vote for fun and social over challenging and verbal.

9:29 PM  
Blogger caramama said...

This is such a tough situation! But just the fact that you are worried not just about her development, but that you are worried about what's best for her soul says so much about you and your parenting instinct.

The Montessori schools I've heard about (apparently the AMS) are supposed to be more relaxed and better for certain types of children because of the less structure and focus more on what each individual child would like to focus on. I've always been fascinated by them and hope that they will be a good fit for my little one.

But you have to listen to your mommy-gut. I am sure you will figure out what is right for WB. And like others have said, you can always change the situation if it's not working.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Mamalang said...

You know your child best...When my bear was almost 5, I had her tested to start Kindergarten early. They made me feel like a horrible mom for it. But I knew it was what was right for her...and 5 yeears later, I still feel that was the best choice for her. Listen to your mommy instincts, and know that nothing is that permanent.

10:31 PM  
Blogger S said...

OK, well I'm pretty sure I've exceeded my commenting quota over here, but to address bea's point...

A BAD Montessori discourages social cooperation. A GOOD Montessori program encourages it. Consider this... In Montessori, children are placed in mixed-age classrooms. Why? Because the older children are thought to be the best teachers/models of all for the younger children. It works beautifully. Jack is now among the oldest in the school, and part of his job at school is to spend some time showing younger children the ropes -- reading to them, teaching them how to do some of the works, helping them with snack, etc. He is so proud in his capacity as teacher -- almost to bursting. And the younger children adore him. It's a wonderfully reciprocal relationship.

As for peers, Jack has always had plenty of social stimulation at his school. There are many works that require at least two or three children -- even math works.

I know I've said it, but it bears repeating: EVERYTHING depends on the particular school. And you'll know it when you see it.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If she is a smart kid, then it doesn't matter. It is preschool. Go with your heart.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been in the Early Childhood field for over 30 years. As a matter of fact part of the group of adults I teach every Tuesday night did a presentation on Montessorri tonight and I just had this discussion.
I think many of the materials are wonderful. I love the emphasis on self care-things like preparing your own snack. I also think that many of the highly touted "academic advantages" are overstated and fleeting. Bright kids are bright kids, they are going to learn no matter what. However, I am not impressed by kids who can name the countries on the globe at 4 because there is no real meaning behind it. Read some Piaget. Actually, read some explanations of Piaget-reading him is like slgging through the proverbial vat of molasses. There is also a body of research that shows that if you take a group of kids of equal intelligence, some who enter Kindergarten ahead and some who don't, the differences are a wash by Third Grade.
The real problem is that Montessori programs do almost nothing to teach kids the social skills they will need to function in a group. Almost all activities are solitary. There are few chances for the kind of interactons that are so important if a child is to learn all the important skills like taking turns, negotiating compromise, what to do if another child bothers you, how to ask for what you need, how to make yourself understood by others, how to be kind...I could go on. In Montessorri programs kids are discouraged from helping others who are having trouble with their "work". You don't hear the give and take conversations you'd expect. In addition, creativity is highly undervalued. There's not much chance to take some pots of paint and a big piece of paper and experiment.
I'd leave your daughter right where she is. In most day cares there's a certain amount of "in and out' in any case. It's probably true that the whole group will not move on at once and she may not think it is strange if a some of her classmates leave and she stays.Keep an eye on her and make sure she is not overwhelmed socially. (Doesn't sound like it!) Give her lots of intersting experiences. Remember that just being smarter than most doesn't make you more socially adept than most. If she seems stressed being with the older kids let her go back and insist that the program find ways to give her the little extra she needs.On the other hand, try not to stress about the academic piece. The rest is as important, and maybe more so.
PS I'd be happy to stop posting anonymously if I new what the hell a HTML tag is and how to enter it in the right place.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Lara said...

hi lady. when i was teaching preschool last year, it was at a montessori school. i do have some opinions about montessori vs. play-based systems if you're interested, but i also know that you've already got a lot of food for thought here. let me know if you want more, and i'll shoot you an email. :)

1:01 AM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Archer's in a montessori. He loves it. That is all. xo

1:04 AM  
Blogger Serendipity said...

I think the "structured" thing is a myth - they get to choose their activities, it is all about self-discipline. My kids thrived, learned to read and write early (because they were ready) and are still independent, self-disciplined kids. Just be sure it's a well-run school. You know your child better than anybody, so go with your instinct.

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some of the comments that talk about the social downside of Montessori are unfair. It totally depends on the school. One of the reason I put my shy son there is BECAUSE of the encouragement for the social side. He works with older kids and younger kids and in partners to really collaborate. They have a fantastic system of buddies to tidy the classroom and rotate lunch tables so all the kids make friends. THere is a healthy physical aspect and he has blossomed socially there ... at a school that took lest time to proactively foster it, he might have been the bullied kid in the corner. His school is "quiet" and "steady" but far from solitary or rigid or adult. It's been amazing for the more "hyper" kids to redirect some of their enthusiasm to work they are interested in and it is great for the quieter kids who can do their own thing too.

What I like most is that I didn't have to put my son with older kids so he'd be "stimulated" but miss out on playing with kids his own age. At Montessori, he could stay with his own age group to play and work at his own pace on the learning he grooved on most. It is an ungraded, non-competitive system so the kids that are excelling and the kids that are not all can get some great confidence and self esteem.

It was the right balance for us.

Shutting up now.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But importantly (guess not shutting up) I didn't put him there until he was 4. That was a conscious choice.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No advice, just support. I know whatever you decide to do will be great. Because WonderBaby is great and so are you! (That's so cheesy, but I mean it!)

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously every kid's different, but I've been struggling with my 5 year old who is far beyond the kids his age in pre-k and always has been. It's a difficult decision to either keep them their age or move them up for the challenge, but honestly, I bet she'll do better and thrive in a more stimulated environment. I always worry that my son won't be "his age" or a kid for long because of his advancements, but at the same time, it's not like I can stop him from exceling and god knows, I wouldn't want to. If your child's got the potential to be better, brighter and smarter, then take advantage of that.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Miss Britt said...

"reassurances that I am not the only mother out there who worries about not always knowing what is best for her child?"

Of course you aren't. Some people are just better at faking it. ;-)

When you visited the Montessori, did she go with you? I bet if you took her in there, you would know if it was right for her or not.

You know, sometimes it's hard when are kids don't fit what we think they should fit as kids. My son would rather read a book than play baseball, and it's hard on his dad. But we're really trying to encourage what fits for him, rather than push our expectations on him.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Miss Britt - we brought her, as they suggested, but the teacher didn't want her to involve herself, because blah blah blah. Which I didn't like, and which I'm now seeing as something that I might follow my gut on.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Grim Reality Girl said...

No advice due to no experience with this -- trust your gut and you will make the right choice. Both sides have benefits so you are choosing from a win / win perspective. Either way, life is good. Reduce angst and enjoy!

2:28 PM  
Blogger tallulah said...

Although I think that a Montessori has the best children's interest at heart and would choose it over a daycare any day, with another baby on the way, I might consider waiting on the Montessori thing. Children often revert back to more infantile behaviors after a sibling is born. They long for the attention that the baby gets which is normal and natural. Putting Wonderbaby in to a more structured environment at the wee age of 3 may be a little too much to handle with the changes that are taking place at home. (Mom of 5)

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please read this blog entry that I came across on the same subject from Mandajuice- someone who choose to pull her son out of Montessori. I found it interesting.

5:50 PM  
Blogger moplans said...

I looked at the montessori where Sandra's son goes as my colleague sent his son (who is brilliant like her's). I decided against but now I have to call them tomorrow just to see if there are any spots for sept.
damn you all! I am so indecisive about school. It is so hard to know if a school will be a good fit for your child.
The best thing about Katie's nursery school is the mix of kids this year. That just cannot be planned.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

Okay, so I've heard so many people singing the praises of your blog, yet I'm somehow just coming around to finding it and reading it. So I just had to get that out of the way first.

Secondly, I find it refreshing that I'm not the only mother of a toddler-soon-to-be-preschooler that is worried about not enough stimulation versus too much stimulation. I find myself in a very similar situation as you, with my 28 month old daughter. I wish I could say I have it figured out, but I don't. We've decided to let her be a toddler another year. No preschool. If she seems like she needs more of a push, then we'll find ways to challenge her little brain, but I don't want to rush her into school.

Wow. A novel on my first comment. Sorry. I'll try to be shorter next time!

9:03 PM  
Blogger the new girl said...

I haven't read the comments, so I apologize if I'm repeating.

I say get quiet for a moment, get out of your head (not that you're super in your head but for a *decision* like this, I often don't listen to my *head*) and listen to what your gut says about what kind of environment would be the best for Wonderbaby.

I believe that you know her better, care more about her individual spirit and her overall growth more than anyone else and I also believe you can trust your deepest instincts about what will be right for her. It's hard to think of that, though, when the situation is confusing and conflicted and brand new (like schooling.)

I hope that doesn't sound too simplistic. Or crazy.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved to Canada from England when I was 6. I was put into grade 1 but they realized that I already knew how to read, write, etc. so I was put half a day in grade one and half in grade 2 for a few months and then moved in grade 2 permanently. Socially, it has left its mark I think. I hate feeling 'different' and always felt a little alone. I loved to read, rocked math. I'll say it - I was very smart. Trouble was, I had terrible work ethic and that carried over into university where I floundered and got the easiest degree I could and left. If there is one thing I tell myself about my kids is that peaking and being the smartest in grade one or grade two means nothing if you don't have the work ethic.
Everything I've read on this blog leads me to believe that you are pretty smart! Look back to when you were a kid and where you are now. WB will succeed because of you and your husband and the work ethic you teach her and the confidence you give her.
I peaked way too young - it was all downhill after 6!

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catherine we all fret and worry about what is best for our children and whether we have made the right decision.you have great instincts as a mom so just listen to yourself and you will always make the right choice for wonderbaby and for sprout.i am debating whether to put my 3 year old in playschool/preschool but she is so attatched to me can we say double sided velcro.and this is for next september i am thinking of doing this...LAVANDULA

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have a strong willed child who is creative. Everyday he dresses in a costume of some sort. I was worried the nonfiction montessori environment would squish that creativity and imaginative play. It hasn't. Instead, it has helped him develop in other areas like self disipline, organization and manners - all of which were not being taught much in our frenetic, chaotic, noisy household. He still dresses in elaborately detailed costumes when he gets home from preschool now but at the end of the day he actually folds them and puts them in the tickle trunk.

His spirit has not been quashed and his self disipline has helped maintain my sanity.

6:25 PM  
Blogger MommyTime said...

I know I'm coming very late to this discussion, and you may be uninterested in more opinions by now, but I have struggled mightily with this myself, as my son just turned four and misses the birthday cutoff date to attend Kindergarten next year by six weeks. Yet he is already taller than anyone else in his current class, extremely verbal, writing reasonably well... academically, he could certainly be ready for K in the fall, but socially, I worry about the shyness factor and other elements of his personality. On the other hand, the notion that he will be in pre-K for ANOTHER year next year seems heartbreakingly dull for him. I really struggle with this balancing act of "academic" versus social. This is a particularly hard thing to figure out when there are all those stats out there about kids who are "too smart" for their classes being so bored that they fail.

It's also hard for me personally because I was one of those who was skipped ahead (started first grade a whole year early at urging of the preschool), and I did very well that way. I would have been bored to tears another year back, I think, and was in the AP classes all the way through school. Socially, I was not ever part of the "popular" crowd but always had a few close (geeky) friends like me. I suspect that had I been in the grade below, that situation would have been exactly the same, as I have always been inclined to be social in more one-on-one ways than as part of a large group. Which is to say: you might want to think about how WB interacts with others and what her m.o. seems to be in order to help you decide what environment will be best. Also, I think you might want to wait another year before putting her into a more structured school if she is just three, since there is still plenty of time for that yet.

I have a colleague whose kids went through Montessori, all of them for preschool, and one of them till high school -- it worked much better for some of them than others. That being said, one of the hallmarks of a true Montessori school is an adaptability to children's individual needs that is heartening. BUT, schools can call themselves Montessori without a lot of accountability to the true Montessori methods, so it's worth spending some time exploring the various schools and reading about Montessori options. And, for sure, don't assume all Montessori schools are the same.

Good luck with what I know is a difficult, agonizing decision. If it helps at all: we all go through these moments with our children. And after all the research, reading, talking, weighing, and calculating we do, we ultimately have to take the plunge, do what we hope is best, and see what happens. Keep in mind, though, that if you don't like how things are going, you can always switch schools the next year. Best of luck.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, and from experience with 'The Beast' let her choose.

The Beast currently attends two differnt pre-schools, and her does prefer one over the other (he gets teary when you leave him at one and asks to go to the other one) He is a bit older than WB but still kids know what they like.
I think you should possibly-perhaps send her to both? And see what one is best for her/what environment she prefers?
As for the Beast he likes the 'fishy school'(it has an aquarium...)
Best of Luck..

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish my mother were still alive - she was a Montessori teacher for years.

Of all the comments you've gotten on this post, I like your dad's the best.


10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't read the comments, but it seems to me, in your post, you are trying to convince yourself that this would be a good place for Wonderbaby.

If she's happy where she is, and it works for her, then there is no reason to change it.

I am a fan of Montessori, myself, in theory. A huge fan. But when push came to shove, I didn't send Linus to the Monessori school.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am dealing with the same issue, for my not quite 30 month old. She is already up a group for her age at her daycare and today her new teacher told me that she is "difficult" because she is "very smart".

The being ahead doesn't worry me to much; I started Kindergarten one year early and never looked back. Even then, most of my friends were older and I took "advanced" coursework. Had I been skipped up, things might have been different.

Right now, we're making do with the daycare we've been at and whatever her dad and I teach her at home.

So, no real advice, but I'm constantly trying to figure out the balance.

7:55 PM  
Blogger dizzibloom said...

Wow! This is so crazy, so many people worrying about all the same thing... and me too!!! We are trying to get our son into a montessori pre-k. We find out if he was chosen to attend in 2 weeks.

When we toured the school it was completely like what you've described, way more structured and stuffy than what we experienced.

I hope that you find a good solution for you, and thank you for your post here. All the comments have really made me happy that we've chosen Montessori for our son. Thanks!!

8:59 PM  
Blogger dizzibloom said...

Wow! This is so crazy, so many people worrying about all the same thing... and me too!!! We are trying to get our son into a montessori pre-k. We find out if he was chosen to attend in 2 weeks.

When we toured the school it was completely like what you've described, way more structured and stuffy than what we experienced.

I hope that you find a good solution for you, and thank you for your post here. All the comments have really made me happy that we've chosen Montessori for our son. Thanks!!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Minnesota Matron said...

Montessori. Yes, the room is quiet. Seems sort of mechanized, right? Worrisome that way, that the creative happy dictator would feel unhappy, silenced?

First, Montessori trained teachers LOVE children and are professionals in a way that most daycare personnel are not.

Second, underneath that quiet is an intense focus, intelligence and tremendous creative energy.

Montessori all the way for these young ones - our third child has joined the older two at our fabulous (and free) Montessori public school here in St. Paul.

Wonderbaby almost girl will love it.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I think my mother was very brilliant. And she did not believe in schools that have uniforms. She did not believe in conforming for the sake of conforming. Neither do I. So I vote no to that school. Oh and hi.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Another Chance to Get It Right said...

My mother teaches in a Montessori classroom in a public school--in our school district, every parent can chose for their child to enter either Montessori or "traditional" pre-K. Our Montessori program runs from 3 years to 8th grade, and then the kids transition into the public highschool. My youngest two siblings have Montessori experience. My brother was in the pilot group, and was in a Montessori classroom from age 5 to 13. My sister started at age 3, and at age 9, this is her sixth year in Montessori school.

I would agree, however, that your description does not sound much like my mother's classroom, which is not always the quietest place [they also don't wear uniforms]. But my siblings--both very different people--prospered in Montessori. Although my brother is not the most "academic" of people, he is a self-taught [beautiful] guitarist [at age 17], and I do believe that his Montessori education gave him the self-sufficiency and drive to learn something as complicated as the guitar without a formal music education. My sister continues to learn way more than I did at her age, and I am always astounded by her knowledge when I go home.

Although I agree that Montessori is not for every child [my mom has had some children transition out of her room and into traditional classrooms], it does work for a wide range of personalities and educational interests. And, if what I see in my sibs and my mom's students holds true, their creativity is blooming in beautiful and noticeable ways every day.

10:32 PM  
Blogger tracey clark said...

I asked myself the same questions with my tiny rebel child before she began at a Montessori. I looked at 3 different Montessori's and only 1 of the 3 felt right.

She has THRIVED there in the last few years and it has in no way squelched her wild streak. : ) She is enjoying learning so much (at her own pace and with kids that have seemed far older and now seem far younger than her) and yet she is still as rambunctious, clever, creative and playful as ever.

Wonderbaby will do well wherever she goes to school because she is your child. How could she not with a bad-mother like you?


12:53 AM  
Blogger the mad momma said...

been there. ranted about that. and finally sent to the damn school. all the best with whatever you decide.

11:51 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I was grateful to have the option of 'summer school' as an entre to preschool. We tried out Montessori preschool for four weeks and I was convinced I would hate it. Sure it was not a fit.

I was wrong.

My girl and teacher really hit it off. I have no explanation for their good relationship. But she gets what she likes; that suits me.

If there are any options to more fully case the joint, do it.

ps. Our Montessori is kind of a Montessori Lite, I think. I actually try not to think about that stuff.

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our son goes to Montessori inspired day care. He's now 4 and has been in a bi-lingual class for the past 15 months. We love it. SOmeone mentioned above that theri school was Montessori Light which I think was a good explanation.

Our school uses many "Montessori approaches" which to me is exactly the same as common sense. THey try to let the kids develop by themselves, with a little guidance, and help the kids to become independent early on. If I was running a day care myself I would do exactly teh same thing myself.

Kids start eating by themselves at 12 months (minimum age for day care in Sweden), they have to clean away their toys, no running or screaming in school, they serve themselves lunch and snacks, etc. You can call it Montessori but I call it common sense with involved parents who look at day care at something else than simply a storage solution.

Sounds like Wondergirl is doing just fine. A day care can be great and be Montessori like even it's not official. It depends a lot on the teachers....

10:52 AM  
Blogger karen said...

I am thinking about sending my 2 year old son to both montessori and tutor time. I think the mix would be good. I like the two setting for different reasons and I think it would be good for him to be able to distinguish what behaviors are appropriate at certain places or situations as in real life. In addtion to these programs, he is going to phyical classes like gymboree and swimming. It is a good idea to socialize children in different settings and expose them different things to see what works best.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous sueinithaca said...

We considered the local Montessori programs for our daughter, who is currently 4 and will enter K in the fall. Considered both for pre-K and K/elementary.

My primary criticism (and it's a big one) is thatr, while there is the APPEARANCE of highly individual, child-directed "work," the childrens output is nearly identical. Just like in the public pre-K program, where all the art projects had a specific look to them (I was terribly creeped out when the art teacher bragged that all the styrofoam penguins actually looked like penguins) and the Waldorf schools where all those projects had a specific look to them, there was a definite style to the Montessori projects. Minor variations on a theme, if you will. Plus, the kids are all freakishly calm and quiet.

Now, my daughter is more spirited than most, and thinks WAY outside the box, so she's definitely not your typical kid, even your typical "brighter-than-peers" kid. In fact, she may be an evil genius. She can't read (which we're not concerned about. she's 4) or perform many of the standard gifted-preschooler tricks, but she can problem-solve like a pro, and has the vocabulary of a college student (and can tell you the etymology of many of the words as well). She goes to ballet wearing a hot-pink leotard (with rhinestones) and hot pink and purple argyle tight, with unbrushed hair (sensory integration issues) - while the other girls are in black leotards, pink tights, and tight buns.

Any school which focuses on conformity on any level is not the one for us.

A friend has her daughter in Montessori. She's doing vcery well there, but her parents were concerned the day she came home and told them she had been doing "hitting work" at school that day. (she's two, and had whacked all her friends with a plastic hammer)

10:53 PM  

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