I was smitten by the order, peace and child-led work of the Montessori classroom from the first time I stepped into the toddler room at my daughter’s school five years ago.
I didn’t think there was any way I was going to send my first baby off to school five days a week when she was just shy of her third birthday. I just wanted to see what the alternatives were to the average preschools in our mid-size town.
Leaving my babies in the hands of another has always been extremely difficult for me. But after seeing what I saw, I decided to do it.
Now in her firth year at that school, I know it has been the very best thing for her. She has been engaged in ways that I could not have ever accomplished at home with her myself.
Every year, through every developmental stage, I learn more about what Montessori means as I see the benefits through her.
This week is Montessori Education Week so I’m going to be sharing a few posts on Montessori, from a parent’s perspective.
In honor of Montessori Education Week, my daughter’s school hosted something called The Montessori Journey.
It was a three-hour workshop where parents began in the toddler community and progressed though each classroom in succession through middle school. It was hands-on. We were encouraged to choose lessons, work directly with the materials and projects available in each classroom. Just as the students do in the varying age groups throughout the school.
By now I have a clear grasp on the importance of what Montessori does for children ages 3-6, by creating an environment for them to be successful at the things they are capable of doing themselves. From choosing lessons on the solar system, watering the plants, counting beads, writing out the names of objects to preparing their own snacks – the child takes joy in learning and doing these things that become important to them.
Naturally, learning, reading, and having inquisitiveness for wanting to know more happens because the way it is presented is enriching. They are learning by doing and not by just doing worksheets.
My first baby is now in the first grade. At her school they don’t give homework, but she brings work home to do just for fun. She fills whole sheets of paper up with multiplication problems that she does just for fun. At Christmas she created word search games – the kind where you draw a grid, fill it with letters and include hidden words to find – and gave them as gifts to family members. She took pride in her work and she wanted to share that.
On a three-hour car trip to Atlanta she read a whole chapter book, cover-to-cover out loud to her sister. They never asked to watch a movie one time, which they usually get to do while driving long distances. They were both in deep concentration, entranced by the fairy book.
“Maria Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy,” explained the school’s director at The Montessori Journey workshop. “She believed education starts with observations, just like in science. It is the basis of Montessori, follow the child to see what they need. To first observe and then to act.
As a parent, I’ve gotten to see the results of this philosophy at home.
One of the lead teachers in one of the 3-6 year-old classrooms where two of my daughters attend, helped organize The Montessori Journey. She had some meaningful things to say, that I see at home too.
“Children enjoy repeating meaningful work, until they feel like they have mastered it,” she said. “I have seen children show intense focus on one lesson for 20-30 minutes and even up to two hours. This is the deep concentration you see in a Montessori classroom.”
“In a Montessori classroom they are doing everything themselves, from lessons to snacks. And she (Maria Montessori) set it up this way as to what she observed,” she continued.
What I loved the most about going on my own Montessori journey that day, was seeing how the materials and lessons built upon each other, through the mixed age classroom settings.
I always thought the middles school seemed like a great place to spend those volatile ages. I see the freedom those older students have, sharing community spaces, on sofas working with laptops and preparing lunches in the home-style kitchen.
Then I stepped into the math and science room where calculators, formulas and equations were set out for the parents to figure out the astronomic miles between planets, just like the students. In class the students worked together to hang the planets from the ceiling making a correct-to-scale model of the solar system.
So far at our house we’ve just seen loads of colorful planets and one-dimensional galaxies coming home on flat construction paper made with crayons and pencils.
This was one small example of how I saw the pieces of this meaningful, hands-on work, go from age three to 13.
As a parent watching this journey unfold with my own children, I also appreciate the well-rounded affects that the Montessori philosophy has on a child’s wellbeing.
“The Montessori model of education has the goal of peaceful education,” said one of the teachers at The Montessori Journey. “This model inspires the children to be problem solvers while recognizing each other’s unique qualities and differences.”
“The foundation of everything we do in a Montessori classroom is respect for the child,” she continued. “Just like adults in a work place. We respect them and they respect us.”
I can see these seeds being planted in my oldest daughter as we try to recreate some of these philosophies at home. Recently during conflicts with others I have started calmly asking her to be a mediator, to patently explain what happened, be a leader and set good examples for the older children around her.
At a weekend house recently staying with a total of 12 children under one roof, she took pride in this role. For a brief seven-year-old moment, it worked beautifully and conflict was resolved.
But I’m not taking the credit. I too have learned a lot as a parent about children from the Montessori school – from workshops like these and others.
After we took our journey and were wrapping things up, one parent asked the director of the school where the children typically go on after middle school.
She reported that 60-70 percent go on to large public schools where they do well to find their way, form new groups and become leaders. Some are going to a new science magnet school. Others choose private schools.
And now, I’ll leave you with the fact that many of the world’s great successful people did so after attending Montessori schools, where they learned to think for themselves.
This Youtube video by Trevor Eissler titled “Montessori Madness!” – 321 FastDraw is a great illustration about how Montessori philosophies foster independent thinking.
It’s easy to do a few quick Google searches and see lists of successful people who associate their success with Montessori education.This article titled The Montessori Mafia from The Wall Street Journal is one of my favorites.
I’m not expecting to generate the world’s next great inventor just because we sent our kids to Montessori preschool and beyond. But for now, I am even more smitten by my children having the opportunity to attend this school as I was the first day I saw it.
I have not included the school’s name in this post, or the teachers names, because I choose to keep it private as to where my daughters spend their days. If you are a Montessori professional or a local parent looking for schooling options for your children, and you want detailed information about this school – just email me. I’d be happy to share.