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Old 08-15-2007, 08:16 AM   #1
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Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

OK, thank you for all the advice on looking for daycare/preschool. I've called tons of places around here and just haven't really found anywhere that clicked for me. Part of the problem is that socially, DJ is still a toddler (and I love that innocence) but he is very bright. That's not bragging, every child excels at something and for DJ it's his language skills (gets us into trouble sometimes because he has a 5 year old vocabulary and logic but a 2 year old understanding of social correctness ) I found one K-3 program (that is INSANELY expensive!) that I think pushes the children WAAAAY too hard and a bunch that are way below DJ's level. I want him to be somewhere fun and to enjoy learning but I do want him to be challenged and exposed to new things. Most of the K-3 programs focus on teaching kids letter sounds and colors and shapes. DJ knows the letters inside and out, he's already starting to put letters together and make words and trying to learn to write his letters (his fine motor skills are WAY behind his language development but he wants to do it so I'm trying to help him practice). He knows the colors and shapes and is starting to apply that to more abstract concepts. So I can't really see putting him in a preschool program where he's way ahead of the other kids...he's a bit wild anyway and if he's bored, he'll be a holy terror for the teacher. There's one Christian school I looked at that has a K-3 program that was sounding really promising to me until I said something about him trying to learn to write the letters and the teacher snapped (OK, I'm PMS-y and not really thrilled about this process but it did seem to me like she snapped at me) "Oh we don't do *that* until the 4 year old program!" OK, fine, so you don't, but he is already. I know I'm being defensive but it just didn't sit right with me. So today I called a Montessori school near us. They take children from 18 months up. I talked to the lady for a while and was really liking what I was hearing. I have always really liked the Montessori philosophy of education. One thing she said that got my attention was that they don't hold the children back if they're ready to move up. They have a toddler group that right now has kids between 18 months and 4 years but generally only up to about 3. Then they have an early childhood group which is generally between 3-5 but has had kids as young as 2.5 up to 6. The toddler program has a waiting list but the early childhood group has an opening. When I talked to her about DJ and the things he does she said that she definitely thinks he'll fit in better with the early childhood group. They have 1 "guide" and 2 assistants to 18 students which is a much better ratio than any of the others I've looked at. I'm kind of excited about it. I wanted to go an see the place before I took DJ because I don't want to get him excited about something that won't pan out but she said that I should bring him with me so that the early childhood teacher can meet him and see what she thinks. So we're going tomorrow afternoon for a tour/interview. I'm just wondering if anyone has any experiences good or bad with Montessori and if there are specific things I need to look for or ask. In theory, I love the philosophy but I know it's hard to put into practice. With DJ's personality, I really think it will be a good match but it's so hard to know and so scary as a parent! Thanks for any insight!

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Old 08-15-2007, 07:09 PM   #2
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Re: Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

I can't give you alot of help but I have one friend whose child is in Montessori program and loves it and another that works at a Montessori school that takes children from 18 months until 5 and she thinks it is a fantastic place so it must be great for some people. Of course, I'm sure like everything else it can't be right for everyone so good luck with your decision!
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Old 08-15-2007, 07:22 PM   #3
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Re: Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

A lot of it depends on what you plan to do after preschool? Home school? Private school? Continue on the path of Montessori?
Montessori is "child led learning" which is opposite of public school learning. Its actually opposite of how most of the world works.
I attended a Montessori school up til the 3rd grade. Then my parents divorced, couldnt afford it anymore and I went to public school about 3 months into the school year. I was almost held back that first year in public school. I had a nightmare of a time transitioning. I clearly remember getting up from my desk to work on something other then what the class was working on and being reprimanded. However, that is completely acceptable in Montessori.
I was also made to read to the class everyday as an example because I was reading well above grade level. But I was shy and I hated being made to do that.
So anyway thats something to think about.
Im not saying anything bad about Montessori as I dont have anything bad to say. Im just sharing my own experiance as a former Montessori student.
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Old 08-15-2007, 10:50 PM   #4
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Re: Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

My nephews are in Montessori and I feel they lack self control ages 6 and 8. I feel they lack self control or focus... if they want to do something they just do it, if somthing isn't interesting to them they want it turned off and do something else. They don't stick to one project till it is finished.

I've gone and helped in their class room before DS was born and found it wierd that kids weren't expected to finish projects and allowed to move from one learning station to another. Also 8 year old doesn't like reading or spelling and he is way behind IMO. I'm sure he will catch up but it just seems wierd to have his 6 year old brother reading for him. He wont even try. I tmay just be his personality or a learning dificulty and totaly not the program.
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Old 08-15-2007, 11:16 PM   #5
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Re: Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

I don't know about the good and the bad parts, but IMO the ugly part is the price tag.
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Old 08-15-2007, 11:24 PM   #6
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Re: Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

I think it completely depends on the kid, parents and particular Montessori school. I was in a Montessori school from when I was three until I started public school in 1st grade, and it was perfect for me. I did not have any difficulty transitioning to public school, or any difficulty when we switched to homeschooling in third grade...or any difficulty graduating at 15 and starting junior college then. If your child is a self starter, which it sounds like he probably is, he will love it and thrive. If the school is aware that the world is not a Montessori-flavored place, it will slowly be preparing him to enter that world as he nears the end of his time there. Our classroom (or whatever they call it - I can't remember) became more structured as we got older, so it was not weird for me to have to sit down when I got to public school. I was very bored, though...but I think there are a lot of kids that are; it's not due to having been in a Montessori school.

Well, I hope that actually helps instead of sounding like a wandering personal history!
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Old 08-16-2007, 09:32 AM   #7
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Re: Montessori....the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Thanks mamas! This really does give me some things to think about. I've always thought that when I had children my first choice would be homeschooling and my second choice would be a *good* Montessori school (because anyone can use the word Montessori and a bad one can do more harm than good IMO). I make about twice as much as my husband right now and I have much better benefits so giving up my job is not really an option. I have considered the possibility of hiring a tutor to homeschool and actually have someone in mind who has a daughter the same age as DJ and homeschools her older 4 children (and has had a couple of tutored children through the years) but that's down the road a bit. I talked to her the other day and she said that right now she has her hands full with homeschooling 6 older children so she's not really interested in taking on another preschooler at this time but when her daughter starts first grade, she may reconsider. I am keeping that in mind but if this Montessori school is as great as I've convinced myself, then...who knows.

This school goes up to 15 years old or 8th grade. It's still a ways off so I didn't look nearly as hard at their programs for older kids but it is definitley something I considered. As the children get older, the program does become more structured. I don't remember if it's the early childhood group or the next one (6-9) where the children make a contract with the teacher for the projects they will complete. In theory, I can see how this philosophy would ultimately help children learn to manage their own time better (working in higher ed, I see college students all the time who have been told what to do for so long that they can't manage their own time or motivate themselves to do anything without someone holding their hand) but in practice, it does seem like the teacher ("guide") would have to really stay on top of things to make sure that it doesn't backfire. Starting with the middle school aged kids at this school, the children do internships and service projects in the community (the service projects involve the younger kids too but it's a big part of the education for the older ones). By the time you get to the high school group, you're doing a lot of college prep and a lot of real world service....still in line with the Montessori philosphy but merging that into the real world. When I talked on the phone to the adminstrator about the program, she said that they understand that there is life after Montessori school and that especially as they get older, they try to prepare the children for a "traditional" public or private school environment. I can see how that would be a difficult transition.

One thing I really like about this school is that it is competitively priced with the other private schools and preschools around here. Basically, the going rate for in-home daycares is around $100/week, some more, some less. Daycare centers are running $140-$175/week. Half-day preschools are in the $125/week range (and I'd still have to have daycare! ) Full-day, 5-day preschools are $150-200/week. This Montessori school, if I did the math right based on the yearly tuition, will be $140/week for 8:30-2:45 and afterschool care from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I believe she said is an extra $65/month. So the price is very reasonable for this area. They also offer discounts for additional children, and for other things and they have several fine arts scholarships for the older children.

As an educator, I have always been intrigued by the Montessori philosophy and it just makes sense to me, although like I said before, I can see how it could easily get out of hand without skilled teachers and administrators. For me, the notion of putting DJ in a traditional classroom is terrifying...I just don't think that would fit with his personality at all. I think the Montessori style will be a much better fit although I admit that he will need some guidance. DH was saying the other day that if we sent DJ to kindegarten now, he'd come home the first day with a note saying not to send him back till he's on Ritalen. But he's not ADD...when something interests him, he'll work for hours on it. We were playing blocks the other day and he said he wanted to build a castle as tall as he was. I just laughed and went off to cook dinner. Every time I looked in there, he was building a little bit higher...and he figured out that he couldn't just stack up a single column of blocks...he moved on to a pyramid shape...it was fascinating to watch him experiment and figure out how to get the foundation just right so he could build a little bit higher. And he stayed at it until he ran out of blocks...then he started stacking books on the bottom...little cheater! Anyway, I know (because he's a lot like me) that his personality will not fit well with "normal" public or even private education. But I'm hoping that Montessori will be a good fit and from everything I can tell, this is a really good school and program. They're having a cookout for the families at the school this weekend so I'm hoping to have a chance to meet some of the parents and observe the children.

Anyway, I've got to get some work done so I can take off early to go over there this afternoon. Thanks again for all your input!
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