To Montessori, Or Not To Montessori

March 25, 2008

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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    { 73 comments }

    Mary Joan Graves March 25, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    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.

    slouching mom March 25, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    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.

    slouching mom March 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    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.

    Dirkey March 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    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.

    Mary Joan Graves March 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    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.

    LSM March 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    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!

    Whirlwind March 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    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.

    slouching mom March 25, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    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.

    Anonymous March 25, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    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.

    Mocha March 25, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    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.

    Jerri March 25, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    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.

    Julie Pippert March 25, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    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.

    Julie Pippert March 25, 2008 at 12:53 pm

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

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

    katesaid March 25, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    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?

    whoorl March 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    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! :)

    kittenpie March 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    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.

    jennifer March 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    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!

    verybadcat March 25, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    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.

    Her Bad Mother March 25, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    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.

    Chris March 25, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    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?

    Mimi March 25, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    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.

    But.

    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.

    Dunno.

    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.

    Her Bad Mother March 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    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.

    Anonymous March 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    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.

    Her Bad Mother March 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    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.

    TORN.

    Heather March 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    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.

    Miscellaneous-Mum March 25, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    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.

    Mom101 March 25, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    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.

    Sandra March 25, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    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.

    Her Bad Mother March 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm

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

    Kyla March 25, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    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.

    Laural Dawn March 25, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    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.

    The Mama March 25, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    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….”

    Sarah Rose March 25, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    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:
    http://wondertime.go.com/learning/article/choosing-a-preschool.html

    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.

    Redneck Mommy March 25, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    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.

    Bea March 25, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    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.

    caramama March 25, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    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.

    Mamalang March 25, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    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.

    slouching mom March 25, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    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.

    Dad March 25, 2008 at 11:01 pm

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

    Anonymous March 26, 2008 at 12:31 am

    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.

    Lara March 26, 2008 at 1:01 am

    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. :)

    GIRL'S GONE CHILD March 26, 2008 at 1:04 am

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

    SERENDIPITY March 26, 2008 at 4:16 am

    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.

    Sandra March 26, 2008 at 7:28 am

    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.

    Sandra March 26, 2008 at 7:32 am

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

    wright March 26, 2008 at 11:06 am

    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!)

    Undomestic Diva March 26, 2008 at 11:13 am

    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.

    Miss Britt March 26, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    “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.

    Her Bad Mother March 26, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    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.

    Grim Reality Girl March 26, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    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!

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