This Is How We Do It: Why Montessori Education

This is another post that falls under the category of “getting it down for my own sake” (i.e., for me, not you).  It’s not meant to bring anyone over to Montessori; although, that’s a nice bonus if it does.  I am not writing this because I think Montessori is The Way, nor am I implying that a Montessori education is suited for all children.  I have found that I am/we are getting asked more frequently about Montessori and why we chose it for Harrison. It’s nice because we have now been a part of the school community for almost 18-months, and parents are asking us how we like it and what we think.  In the past month, I have had email and face-to-face correspondence with families considering Montessori.

It’s also a bit frightening. There are all these outward/concrete reasons we chose Montessori, but there are also many internal reasons we chose Montessori, and I am not always eloquent at describing that part.  And I kind of feel like that’s the most important part.  That’s the part I want people to know about, but I realize it’s probably different for everyone. It is very much a personal decision you make for not just your child, but your family.

I had long found the idea of Montessori appealing.  I first experienced Montessori while working as a speech therapist.  I treated a little girl in her Primary classroom at a Montessori school.  I remember being awestruck by how fluid everything seemed in the classroom. A class of 20+ pre-k/kindergarten age children was operating smoothly.  An image that stuck with me was this one little girl who had been working on a puzzle (perhaps a puzzle map) and when finished, got up quietly, placed the puzzle back where it went, and chose another material.  The Directress was working with a small group of children, but many of the other children were working independently with materials.  I remember talking to David about it when we were both home, and that was that. Harrison wasn’t even a twinkle in our eye at that point, so that experience was tucked away for later.

Fast-forward to Harrison being almost 2 1/2.  For many reasons, it was becoming apparent to David and I that he needed a more academic environment.  Harrison was also quite the social child (and still is), and he needed something outside of home.  Not being the homeschool type, I quickly realized we needed to look into something more structured for Harrison.  We specifically wanted a school environment.  We weren’t necessarily ruling out preschool, but we know we didn’t want daycare.  After all, I was at home.  We didn’t want to pay someone to watch him. I mentioned Montessori to David, and we looked into our options near us.

Here’s some things that came into play for us:

  1. Harrison is very intentional.  He typically has a specific “end” in mind.  You can’t just give him anything and expect him to be content.
  2. Harrison likes to be active.  If he is interested in the book/activity, he will sit for a very long time or stay with something to completion, regardless of time.  If he isn’t interested, good luck. He needs to be allowed to make choices.
  3. Harrison enjoys work; especially, purposeful work.  It’s even better if this work helps someone else. We wanted him to be someplace that would give him the tools to accomplish the work he so often sought.
  4. Harrison enjoys interacting with other children. He loves playing, but he also enjoys asking questions and learning from other children. A mixed-age classroom sounded ideal.

Those are/were some of the key playing points. When we toured Harrison’s school, we were given the book, Montessori Madness by Trevor Eissler, to read. I highly recommend it. It’s not a book on Montessori philosophy; it’s a book written by a parent who chose Montessori for his child, and why. It’s a parent-parent perspective. I liked that because I’m not really the type of person who’s going to call a bunch of parents asking what they think.  I am totally fine with someone asking me, though.

Really, Montessori just felt right.  Maybe a lot of it had to do with the particular school Harrison attends. That certainly helped.  Harrison was so quickly welcomed at his school.  As in, he walked into the classroom during our tour and at least two children came up and took his hand and showed him around the room.  He maybe looked back once.  Nothing is quite so bittersweet as seeing your first child so happy to leave you.

Now that Harrison’s into his second full year at his school, I can confidently say we made the right choice. Honestly, I could say that after his first few months.  His teachers are wonderful.  He is cared for and taught wonderful lessons.  He is respected and trusted.  He is LOVED! I don’t mean, “Oh, we love Harrison.  He’s so sweet and funny.” I mean, he is loved as their own.  And, Harrison loves his teachers.  Seriously, there was a time last year when Harrison would call me both of his teachers’ names before he got to, “Mommy”. I was third fiddle!

So, there you have it.  Why we chose Montessori education.  As we learned, it’s much more than an educational philosophy. It’s a way of life, and it’s playing a big role in our family life.  That’s another post, though.


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