After literally years of research and trial and error, I have found the right educational fit for my son, Montessori. Before he could walk, I began researching preschool methodologies and consulting professionals about the right fit for him. Montessori v. Waldorf v. Play Based. The debate ensued. (See my earlier post) I looked to find him the “match,” somewhere where he would build his confidence, develop his intellect and be able to enjoy his precious childhood.
The consensus was that social and emotional development was important for him and that starting a more structured academic experience had little benefit. So, we started out at very play-based schools.
The first school was of more of a Waldorf philosophy which aimed to promote social and emotional development through creative play. B enjoyed it and did well. The director was extremely well versed in early education and child development, and the teachers were engaging, positive and nurturing. The children were well behaved, expressive and welcoming to B.
Just when we thought we had it made, a spot opened up at the coveted play based local school. It’s the type of school where the wait list is a binder. We thought long and hard about moving him there. A difficult decision to say the least since he was content. We were ultimately sold on the progression a different teacher and classroom each year for 3 years. We also liked the idea of having B be one of the oldest children in the class – we thought it would teach him to be a leader. With so many of our friends’ children thriving there, it seemed like a safe bet. The decision, however, completely backfired. He regressed from knowing his shapes and colors. He protested going to school. Walking from the car with his head low while dragging his feet. Thinking that consistency might help, we kept him there for a year, hoping that things would change. They didn’t.
After the play based approach failed, it was time to try something different. My husband had much success at Montessori. I was reluctant based on the professional opinions I received recommending a play based approach for B and critiques about the method that it could limit creative and imaginative development. Having tried the play based model, it was time for a change. Three of B’s oldest buddies were at the local Montessori. By some miracle, there was a spot for B.
I was reluctant at first to try Montessori based on critiques that it imposed too much rigidity to early childhood at a risk of stifling creative and imaginative development. I can say, however, that while this may be true for some children, it does not ring true for B. Within weeks he started asking to go to school. Now, he tells stories, sings songs and dresses up as whatever he imagines. Clearly his imagination is booming.
I have no idea what is going on at his new school, but whatever it is, it is truly magical for B. in a very short time, I noticed changes in B’s ability to express things in a positive way. Out of the blue, he’d tell C or me that he loved us so much, calling the sky or falling leaves beautiful and start to sing songs. He’s more independent – demanding to try things himself first. Yay! Whether this is due to his age or the school, I’ll never know. All I know is that he is blossoming.
I am now a Montessori convert and am looking forward to C joining the ranks when he’s old enough to do so. In fact, I’ve again started reading Maria Montessori’s books basically promoting an educational approach to follow the child’s development and build independence. While it didn’t seem a fit years ago, now it is.
I’ve begun to try to incorporate many of the ideas into our routine at home, swapping bookshelves cluttered with toys with more targeted and organized choices. Both boys are thriving beyond what I could have imagined a year ago.
Don’t take this post the wrong way. I’m not saying Montessori is right for every-child as I believe that no 2 children are the same, they are unique. What works for one child may not for another. All I’m saying is that Montessori works for B.
In addition, there are universally applicable concepts like building independence and instilling confidence. Whether a child gets that through Montessori or Play-Based, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is finding a good fit and helping to build the child.