Team Rasler goes to Montessori

It’s hard to send your kids off to school for the first time.  And sending both of them at once?  Excruciating.

Also wonderful.

Let’s start with hard first, to get it out of the way.

First, there is the decision itself.  People here start looking at preschools in January.  That’s right, eight months in advance.  As I said a hundred times to everyone who would listen, how on earth do I know what will be best for my son eight months from now?  Have these people met two-year-olds?  Don’t they know that half a year is like an eternity for the under-3 crowd?  Ahem.  But it was decide, enroll, and pay up or lose a spot.

After much deliberation, hand-wringing, and late-night conversations in which my husband tried to nod off while I tossed one more “what if?” into the darkness, we decided to send Sebastian to Montessori.

Don’t get me wrong, I was psyched about Montessori.  I went as a child and I still remember the letdown that was regular kindergarten afterward.  But the local toddler classes that feed into the preschool co-op were pretty down on anything other than play-based programs.  The kids need social skills, not academics at age three, you know?  Sheesh.  And Montessori?  “Not so social,” one of the co-op teachers told me.   I did want a social atmosphere for Sebastian, because this teacher mama does plenty of academics at home.

Except we went to visit several of the local preschools, and guess which one saw Sebastian zoom straight in, get right down on the floor with the materials AND have other children talking to him?  You guessed it: Montessori.  Three-year-olds don’t typically talk to other kids that they don’t know, so they pretty much ignored us when we toured.  At Montessori, the classrooms are multi-age, so the 4 and 5-year-olds came right up, asked him his name, asked if he was going to start going to school there, and told him how to clean up the beads he spilled.

I was sold.

Also, have I mentioned how beautiful Montessori classrooms are?  Not yet?  Don’t worry, I will again before this post is done.

But I digress.  The point is that not only did we decide to send Sebastian to Montessori, but after many failed attempts to settle Theo into the daycare we’d chosen, we decided to send him to one, too.

Which brings me to my next hard part: my children are attending two different schools.  One of them doesn’t take toddlers and the one that does requires preschoolers to go 4 or 5 full days a week.  So they each go to a different place.  Which means twice as much paperwork.  The paperwork. Ack!  Why does no one warn you about it?  It is ridiculous.  I regret pretty much every form I ever sent home to a parent as a teacher, because I now know right down to my bones how much they hate filling things out, signing them, putting them somewhere to hopefully maybe cross-your-fingers remember to return them.  If they were fun forms, like “What’s the best thing ever about your child?” I might enjoy returning them, but no, they are all, “When was your kid vaccinated?” and “Oh yeah?  Prove it,” and frankly I’m so tired of filling out vaccination forms I could weep.

So obviously the third hard thing is that they don’t ask you the things you are desperate as a parent to tell them.  Because your children are still very, very small, don’t they realize that?  Don’t they feel they need to know my children’s favorite foods or colors or books or games?  That Sebastian won’t eat foods that touch each other or that Theo loves music?  Why don’t they want to know all of that??  Sigh.

The fourth thing for me is that the boys are at totally different stages of readiness for school.  Sebastian already knows nearly every academic thing that they teach in kindergarten, but he has an immensely long way to go with fine motor skills and more importantly social skills.  Theo, on the other hand, isn’t even walking on his own more than a few steps yet, is only signing 10 words or so, and yet can make friends with absolutely everyone within minutes.  So I find myself constantly worried about each of them for different reasons and whether school is going to help or hinder them as they grow up another year.

This week was Parents’ Night at both schools.  So the final hard thing I will mention about sending your kids to school is that you will probably inevitably end up sitting through presentations with some disagreements in your head and heart.  Or is that just me?  Is it the teacher thing?  I don’t know, but it was real and they were very loud thoughts.

For instance.

Why does Sebastian’s teacher refer to the letters by their letter sounds? Everywhere else in his world, we call it “d” not “duh”.  What about the letters with more than one common sound (which is a freaking ton of them)?

For instance.

Why did Theo’s teachers show us a video in which they told us that the kid who feels safe at home will feel safe anywhere, as proven by the fact that he showed no separation anxiety at all when he started school.

My head and heart?  Silently screamed.  Because I don’t want Sebastian to call letters “buh” and “duh.”  Because we know that Theo shows a lot of separation anxiety.  And I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t feel safe here.

But now we’re at the wonderful part.  Both of my boys were completely at home in their respective classrooms, which are oddly named the exact same thing, even though they are in different schools.  Crazy coincidence, or fate?  I don’t know, but I love it.

On Theo’s first day, he voluntarily took the teacher’s hand and walked with her away from me.  Ok, it was toward snack, but it was still major.  He smiled and played and yes, cried when his father dropped him off the second day, but they got him calmed down and he was happy at pick-up.  In practice they seem to understand separation anxiety just fine.

Sebastian sings the circle time songs for me and has gotten even better at putting all his toys away.  He told me the other day that he has three friends in school, and I had to bite my lip to keep from crying with joy.  So far he still calls all the letters by their correct names, too.

I love the Montessori emphasis on independence, practical skills, and doing what is inviting to the child at any given moment.  Also, I’m totally inspired to rearrange our house to look more like the Montessori classrooms.  Because they are beautiful and wonderful and even I wanted to play work with the materials.  I mean, don’t YOU want to try these out?

So it’s tough to send the kids off to school, even for just two days a week, but they love it.  And as long as they’re happy, I’m good.

9 Responses to Team Rasler goes to Montessori
  1. Blond Duck
    October 7, 2011 | 4:52 am

    People here start looking at preschools in utero!

  2. Life As Wife
    October 7, 2011 | 9:42 am

    I really want my little man to do the Montessori thing. Of course, it’ll all depend on what is the best fit for him closer to time. I just love the idea that learning can be fun and hands on. Who doesn’t want their kids to learn that way?

  3. Shell
    October 7, 2011 | 10:35 am

    Sounds like you chose the right thing for them.

    We looked at Montessori, but sadly, price kept us away. I know people will say you can find a way to make anything work… but this Montessori school here is unreachable unless I do something drastic like sell the van. And then I can’t get them to school.

    I don’t agree with calling letters by their sounds, either- so weird.

    But, there will always be something we don’t like about our kids’ teachers/schools.

    Mine? Are in three different schools. Oh yes. It’s kinda crazy!

  4. Missy | The Literal Mom
    October 7, 2011 | 2:06 pm

    Preaching to the choir here, sister!

    and the letter sounds? You’ll get used to it. Plus when your kids start reading at such an early age it TOTALLY FREAKS YOU OUT, you’ll see why they speak in letter sounds instead of letters. That’s what I love about Montessori – everything they do is geared to build upon skills already known and prepare for the next level.

    And the price, as Shell said? Breaks my heart that everyone can’t afford it. Not only at the school I’m the President of, but everywhere. Finding a way to change that . . . sigh. It’s a dream of mine.

    • Jessica@Team Rasler
      October 9, 2011 | 10:54 pm

      I know, it really is sad that quality preschool and Montessori are out of reach for so many people who would love them.

      I definitely love that everything Montessori teaches builds on previous knowledge and preps them for what’s next, but I still prefer to speak in both letter sounds AND names. That feels much more authentic to me. Sebastian was already beginning to read when he started there, knew all his letters and their sounds (including ones that make more than one sound and common blends and digraphs), so we managed to do it without ignoring letter names.

      That being said, it may very well be the best way for most children, so I’m willing to give the teacher and the system the benefit of the doubt. Professional courtesy and all… : )

  5. Natalie @MamaTrack
    October 7, 2011 | 6:13 pm

    Sounds like you found the perfect place for them! I’m so happy for you guys. And of course I want to play with those materials!

  6. Pamela
    October 7, 2011 | 6:28 pm

    Interesting info, as we are going to have to start the preschool search in our area in the next year or so to determine what we want to do…sigh. Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives! It must feel good to see them settling in so well!

  7. Sorta Southern Single Mom
    October 8, 2011 | 6:14 am

    The calling letters by sounds is ….odd… not my cup of tea!

    It is hard to send them to school no matter when and for how long. I’m glad you found the right fit for your family.

  8. Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking
    October 8, 2011 | 12:28 pm

    This is such a cute post! I am new to your blog and am so glad that I found it!!

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