AUTHOR: Carolyn Savage | POSTED: September 25, 2012 | COMMENTS: 8 Comments
CATEGORIES: A Note From the Principal, Glass City Parent,
I often am asked if I’m doing anything differently for my second journey through parenthood. It’s a weird question to be asked, but I understand it’s origins. After all, there’s eleven years between our #2 (Ryan) and #3 (MK), so it’s almost as if we have a second cohort of kids.
Actually, we do have a second cohort of kids.
Sometimes I think of our second trip through parenting as a bit of a ‘do-over’. Now, don’t misunderstand! Drew and Ryan have turned out pretty good thus far, but mommying little ones in my forties is very different than it was in my twenties. I’m definitely making different choices this second time around.
A few of my new parenting routes are a symptom of my age: changing table instead of changing on the floor (arthritic knees) or homemade baby food instead of the jarred stuff (I can’t read the labels on those darn little jars!) Most of my changes in parenting techniques, however, are due to the experience I have under my belt. This isn’t my first time at the mommy rodeo, and I have the benefit of our “been there done that” adventures to propel us in new and sometimes very different directions.
One of the most distinct change-ups we’ve made is the choice in educational settings for our little ones. It’s not that I was dissatisfied with the grade school Drew and Ryan attended. Their kindergarten through eighth grade journey through our Catholic parish grade school prepared them well for the rigorous college prep curriculum they’re embroiled in now. What I am looking for this time is a school that not only uses best practice to capitalize on my girls’ individual talents, but also teaches tolerance and celebrates diversity. Oh…and an entusiastically positive faculty would be a much welcomed bonus!
Imagine my delight when I found such a school.
I’d heard the word “Montessori” bantored about many times over the years. In fact I even enrolled Ryan in a Montessori preschool not far from our old house. (I pulled him the day I went to pick him up and the teachers didn’t know where he was… which is fodder for a post all on its own!) You’d think that with an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration, I’d know a little more about the Montessori method, but it was only after I enrolled Mary Kate at Westside Montessori that I had an up close and intimate look at what a real Montessori school looked like.
Needless to say, I loved what I saw.
I admit I kind of defaulted into this school. In January 2011, I realized that Mary Kate would really benefit from being around kids her own age. Not quite three at the time, and definitely not potty trained, I was relieved when I learned Westside had room for her mid-year. I hesitated a bit, I’d never sent a child to school before the age of three, but with my book coming out, and the fact that Mary Kate knew the theme songs to Dora, Chuggington, and The Fresh Beat Band verbatim, I was thrilled when I learned that Westside would take her –diapers, Nick Jr. addiction, and all.
One of the requirements for MK’s attendance was that I observe her class for a morning. I begrudgingly went, mentally noting all the things I needed to be doing instead, but was so glad I did.
Imagine a classroom full of one, two and young three year olds, all working independently on tasks that interested them. These tasks were like nothing I’d ever seen before. Push pins being used to poke holes in a certain shape on a paper (fine motor control). Children being encouraged to fill up a giant jug using small cups of water retrieved from the sink across the classroom (gross motor control). Puzzles, and stacking games, and bead work…all neatly arranged on trays on shelves. Children choosing whatever activity they wanted, and concentrating on their “work” with a voraciousness for completing the task at hand.
The classroom was quiet, but it wasn’t. I know–weird description, right? But it’s accurate. Each child was embroiled in their “work”. They were interacting, but all were surprisingly on task…but all different tasks. The teachers moved from child to child, engaging and checking in, but definitely not directing. The child directed. The teacher facilitated. And the classroom buzzed with activity, but it was calm–almost serene.
Missing from the classroom was the “work” that I remember Drew and Ryan bringing home at that age. Sean and I used to lament about their preschool created art work. It was perfect, which made for pretty refridgerator decor, but was missing authenticity. You see, Sean and I don’t harbor even half of an artistic bone between us. There was no way under the sun, either of our boys cut out a perfect autumn leaf. They couldn’t even do that now–their high school art teacher would attest to that.
In addition to being intrigued by what I’ve observed in a Mary Kate’s classroom, two of Drew’s best high school friends graduated from Westside Montessori, and I’ve noticed something very different about these two boys. They are smart–so is Drew–but there’s a curiousity and level of engaged interest in these kids that is very different. Of course, they come from “good stock”, so I’m not discounting genetics! There’s just something special about these boys’ and their obvious thirst for learning.
My interest is peaked by the long term affects of the Montessori method.
So, when I’m asked if I’m doing anything differently this time around, the choice of the girls’ school is probably our greatest deviation from past parenting practices. I have no idea how long we will stick with the Montessori setting. I admit I’m having a hard time picturing how it will work for her as she gets older —remember, I’m used to, “Everyone sit down, and open your books to page 138!” . But for now, I couldn’t be happier with the choice that we’ve made for her.
I’m excited to see how it plays out over the long term!
To learn more about Westside Montessori or the Montessori method please visit Westside’s website here! You’ll be glad that you did! The pictures communicate more than a thousand blog posts!