“There is no man existing who has not been formed by the child he once was.”
This is one of many memorable quotes from Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori philosophy for educating children, and it is this respectful attitude toward how important early childhood is to the rest of our lives. It’s one of the things I love most about my son’s Montessori school experience.
But let me back up. A year and a half ago, my husband and I were overwhelmed with the prospect of choosing a preschool for our then-three-year-old. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so our questions ranged from, “should he stay home another year?” to “should he go part-time? full-time?” to “what kind of preschool experience do we want him to have?” to “is it worth spending [insert price of any given school here] for him to basically go and play and sing songs and eat snack?” We didn’t know what the right decision was, and we felt a lot of pressure — this was our first major choice to make concerning our child’s education.
I had heard bits and pieces of information regarding Montessori schools over the years, but I didn’t know very much. I knew there was an emphasis on individual attention, on kids learning to do things themselves, and on letting the child lead the way through his educational experience. I wanted to know more, and I knew there was a Montessori school near our house, so my husband and I scheduled a visit.
The first thing my husband said when we observed the children in the charming school was, “wow, everyone is so calm and focused.” It was true. These were small children (3 to 6 years old) and yet there was no running, so screaming, no throwing toys or squabbling. They all seemed completely absorbed and engaged in whatever activity they were doing. They were working with beautiful materials — wooden counting rods, sandpaper letters, building blocks. They were either quiet or speaking calmly to each other or their teacher. We looked at each other as though to say “This is amazing. Could our kid do this?”
We got our answer the following August. Our son William started school and never looked back. He loves it. He feels valued and respected there, and he loves learning. Another thing I love about Montessori school is they know that they can expect a lot of their students, and that the students will rise to the occasion. When met with the expectation that he would behave peacefully in the classroom, William did. When met with the expectation that he will carefully put his work away when he is finished, he did. We have seen him grow and change in innumerable ways since starting school, and we both agree that choosing Montessori school for him was the best choice we could have made at this point in his development.
As I mentioned before, the best part about the Montessori philosophy, to me, is the respect shown to the children. They are listened to and spoken to like adults. What they are doing is not considered “play;” it is called “work.” This isn’t to say they don’t have a lot of fun — they do. They sing and read together and run around and play outside (my son gets into the car sweaty and dirty at the end of most days — the mark of a fun day if you ask me!). But everything inside and outside the classroom is done in a way that demonstrates to them how valuable they are as little people.
So, if you’re making that sometimes-scary, often-overwhelming decision about where to send your child to school, I strongly urge you to consider Montessori school. It was done wonderful things for our child and we are so happy about the decision we made.