Montessori Musings

Am I the only one who thinks of preschool and thinks, “Oh, cool. A chance for kids to learn how to play nicely with other kids, learn some colors and shapes, and figure out life in a classroom”? That had always been my impression…Until I toured a Montessori school.

Wes, being the stalwart Libertarian Constitutionist he is, asked me to look into Montessori education for our son. I took one look at the tuition for Montessori and passed out, then refused to look into it any more.

We saw a booth for a local Montessori at the farmer’s market on Wednesday so I stopped by to see what it was all about. They invited me to take a tour, which I did today.

Oh my goodness, you guys. They’ve figured out a way to civilize toddlers. The toddler room was so quiet, all the little kids just working away industrially on their developmentally-appropriate projects. A few came up to me and were exquisitely polite, and it was astounding to see these toddlers doing stuff like serving their own snacks using tongs and then carrying their plates to the table, where they sat and ate them nicely.

And then there was Aidan, rushing into the fray like a tiny conquering Viking child, messing with the other childrens’ projects and making a giant crumby mess of the snack table. I watched a little girl use a tiny brush and dustpan to sweep up the crumbs and could scarcely believe my eyes.

There is something to be said for the Montessory approach to educating children. I have never, in my life, seen children engaged in learning like that. Kids working on numbers and mathematics because they were interested in it, not because a teacher told them it was time to work on math. Absolutely incredible.

Man sakes alive is it expensive, though. I mean, think of a number you would feel extremely uneasy about paying each month for preschool tuition. Then double it. Then maybe double it again.

Is it worth it? Argh, that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? Experts say the most important foundations for how children learn are established from ages 0-6, so maybe. As a parent, you want to provide the absolute best possible start for your kids. Then again, when you’re talking these kinds of monthly costs, you start to really wonder how important it is to send your child to the Super Genius Kids’ Preschool.

You know what I could really go for right now? A giant pile of money. Or, better yet, a giant pile of gold bricks. Aidan can use them to weigh down his Montessori art projects.

9 thoughts on “Montessori Musings

  1. -Jennifer, I’m not comfortable saying on the Internet, just in case we actually decide to do it, but it’s more than your rent per month. E-GADS.

  2. Just reading the title my first response was that it turned my bosses’ grandkids into respectable human beings from the holy terrors they had been…so yeah, I would vote for it.

    And going back to the question of whether a college education is worth it, if there’s only X amount of parental funds for either college or early education I’d throw it towards early education and leave the college decision making up to the kids. (Also, I’d research scholarships…)

  3. -Blanche, Wow, the college education discussion! That’s going back to the ol’ archives a bit, huh? Isn’t it amazing what that kind of environment can do for kids? I’ve never seen such well-behaved toddlers in all my born days. Truly incredible.

  4. You can take my advice with a huge grain of salt but as an (almost) finished elementary teacher I would be wary of any school of any school that bends the child to fit their philosophy rather than fit their philosophy to fit the child. Montessori does have some appealing elements, but also drawbacks. For instance it promotes learner autonomy which makes it very appealing for libertarians but is very rigid on how the (very expensive) teaching materials can be used which discourages creativity.

    My advice is that you take a look at all the centres, are the kids engaged? Is your son engaged in the environment? What is the communication like between teachers and students? Can you afford the fees? Because actually the biggest detriment of children’s success in education isn’t preschool but actually the mother’s level of education.

    Sorry for the novel.

  5. Gah! Just realized I misspelled determinant. Basically if a mother is well educated, the child will do well in the educational system.

    In short montessori is nice but you are paying a premium and the premium you are paying for is the official Montessori materials (because the Montessori method is all about the materials) when what you need are teachers who communicate and engage with your son.

    Right done!

  6. -stef, Interesting points! I’m particularly intrigued by the last point, about how the mother’s education level impacts a child’s educational potential. Very interesting, and important methinks. Something else that you said really resonates with me too, about adapting the educational model to the child, rather than vice versa. I’m not sure it’s natural to have toddlers playing so quietly…

  7. Yay for Stef!!

    Honestly, my first thought was “Well… We didn’t go to Montessori preschool and we turned out ok.”

    Then I read some comments and your post some more and felt like a horrid monster for not wanting “the best”* for my future special snowflakes and your adorable Viking child (cracked me up, by the way.)…

    Then I read Stef’s comments too and immediately felt better about my gut reaction. You’re a smart cookie. Wes is a smart cookie. I think that no matter what you decide, Aidan’s got a great natural head start.

    *”the best” purely designated by cost and civilized little angel children…

  8. -Txtingmrdarcy, Maybe I’ve just been living in this area too long. We’re ear-deep in super smart programming geniuses who make buckets of money, and I think that highly competitive environment has affected my ability to step back and look at this objectively. Ultimately what it comes down to is whether or not I feel comfortable with the approach, whether or not I feel like we can continue the lessons at home, and I do not. Wes and I just smile too darn much.

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