Are you at a crosswords not knowing whether you will send your child to pre-school? Are you at your wits end since the lockdown? Do you feel that it’s time for your child to be in pre-school? But which one to choose?
Are you sending your child to the daycare close to your house or to this Montessori school and know nothing about?
What is Montessori? Is it even worth the money?
Well, I know this is a lot to take in, but I am here to help you evaluate the many choices. Instead I want to state some simple facts and leave the decision to you.
To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool?
When I was writing this blog 2 years ago, the likelihood that schools will not open because of coronavirus pandemic was something unheard of. Now, it gets real by the day. It is still uncertain whether a school group setting is even possible. And the chances of having distance learning could be a probable choice, even for public schools.
Homeschooling is the most viable option when you are faced with either following scenarios:
- You can afford to stay home and being your child’s teacher is something you are looking forward to do, or
- You cannot afford to send your child to a daycare or private pre-school. Incidentally, homeschool is something you know nothing about
Either way, in the next few months, I will walk you through this homeschool journey. I am convinced that adapting the Montessori philosophy is an ideal preschool setting. As a matter of fact, I have written a blog on how to prepare your home for a homeschool learning environment.
Who is Montessori?
Maria Montessori is the first Italian woman doctor who studied, researched children revolutionized the early childhood education with her Montessori Methods. Her early medical practice focused on pediatric psychiatry where she observed children with mental retardation. She opened up her first school, Casa de Bambini or Children’s House in 1907.
What is the Montessori Method?
The Montessori Methods was designed with the precept that not all children are the same instead are allowed to learn at their own pace. It does not follow a standardized curricula for every child. Instead, Montessori believes in, “following the child”. To this day, there are many who are inspired by her methods (including myself) and adapted her concept that it spread the growth of Montessori schools all over the world.
Comparing Traditional vs Montessori
The only way for you to see the difference between a traditional and a Montessori classroom is for you to observe both settings and find out for yourself. However, based from my experience and the feedback I gathered from my classroom observers there is a stark difference between the two.
First, In a traditional classroom the teacher is front and center of every lesson. As the teacher presents the lessons to the whole class and the children awaits on teacher’s instructions. the teacher determines what concepts to present as well as the lesson’s pace. Thus, it is on the teacher’s discretion on whether to stay or move on following her lesson plan.
In a Montessori setting however, the teacher may preside or present lessons to groups of different sizes. The class can have community meeting and children can be in small groups, or have one on one presentations.
The children are allowed to work on materials at their own pace. During the course of their work, the children can be their own teacher. They can extend to other activities to reinforce their lesson. For instance, a child using objects and the moveable alphabet can make their own word building books so they can color and write words.
Second, classes in a traditional setting are divided by age. They progress to the next level and will be in a different classroom with a different teacher. The materials usually has a white or blackboard and pencils and other writing instruments. Majority of their class is spent inside the classroom.
A Montessori classroom however, is a multi-age group setting spanning three years. Infant to Toddler 0=2. while preschool are 3 to 6 year olds. Lower elementary are 6 to 9 yearolds, while the upper elementary are 9 to 12 year olds.
Each group or class stay in the same classroom and they are with the same teacher. The Montessori classroom is considered a prepared environment. Meaning, the sensorial and teacher made materials are set up in all the different areas of the classroom. They are all arranged methodically, left to right, from simple to advanced.
Aside from that, nature and the outdoor areas like the garden, for instance is considered an extension of the class environment.
Third, the traditional school has a curriculum standard set forth by school or the government. There is a pressure to perform. As well as lots of testings done to gauge the school’s performance. That’s why, teachers need to cover a lot of grounds within a short amount of time.
In a Montessori class however, the lessons serve only as a guide. There is no as a standard format. Each year, I modify my lessons depending on my class make up. For instance, I had parents come to share their heirloom quilt when we had Black History Month.
Furthermore, the Montessori classroom is rich in materials which can advance the curriculum depending on the child’s level of readiness. For example, a child can use the the long chain of beads for counting, labeling and skip counting.
Fourth, in a traditional school parents are not expected to get involved. With the parents work commitments, the teachers might see parents once a year during parent teacher conferences. There is limited contact.
In Montessori, parents are an integral part of child’s education. Besides the twice a year parent teacher conferences, parent-teacher communication starts from the very start with:
- interviews prior to acceptance
- initial visits of the child to the classroom
- parent coffee hour during orientation
As a matter of fact, right from the very start, parents are asked to commit their time to be involved in their child’s class. They sign up ahead of time for any of the following volunteer opportunities event planning, special projects or as a class chaperone.
- event planning
- special craft projects
- field trip chaperone
- sharing of snack basket
- reading parents
- initial sounds
In addition, parents are welcome at anytime to observe a class.
FOCUS OF STUDY
Lastly, a traditional school is driven by academics. A child’s work gets increasingly difficult as he/she progresses to the next level. Learning is by repetition and rote memorization and reinforced with rewards.
In a Montessori class, the focus is on the development of the whole child. All the areas of a Montessori preschool, namely:
- Practical Life
- Geography including Cultural Study
- Perceptual Motor Development/ Art / Music
They all are interrelated where the focus is not about preparing for the next level of academics. Rather, it is about building a foundation where child is prepared for life.
How can that be, you might ask. Well, as children chooses work, they are empowered to learn independently without the motivation of external rewards. With the internal feeling of success, the child reinforces oneself to repeat or pursue new challenging works. There is no greater reward for a child that knowing a task was conquered without the aid of anyone, especially an adult.
Is it worth the money to choose Montessori?
The first 6 years of life is the most crucial stage in child’s development. The advancement of technology is now confirming what Maria Montessori developed 100 years ago. Her sensitive periods of child development is now what we call “milestones”. Moreover, Montessori’s view about the child’s “absorbent mind” has been validated using Postive Emitron Technology (PET) scans where the results are as follows;
There was robust growth of the human brain in the first two years of life, driven mainly by gray matter growth.
The first 8 years can build a foundation for future learning, health and life success.CDC Center for Disease and Control
With that being said, Montessori’s views and methodology stood the test of time. Everything about the Montessori approach sets the stage in building a strong foundation, as the American Montessori International states that,
The Montessori approach to educating your child is viewed not just as a means to an end, but as an aid to life
The method for learning comes not from a curriculum, but from the natural development of your child; a place where creativity, innovation, and individuality are valued as much as concentration, motivation, and persistence;
where your child is not just a student, but also a teacher.
In a nutshell, I would say,
Yes, Montessori preschool is worth every penny.
I would recap this blog with an analogy of my favorite story, The Three Little Pigs. Among all the three little pigs, the third little pig is the smartest to build a house made of bricks. No matter how many puffs the big bad wolf did, it never toppled it over. So much so if you set a solid foundation from the very start.