Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Montessori, What do You Think?

Me combing Peanuts.

What do you guys think about the Montessori method of teaching? I'm pretty intrigued and think the openness of the classroom and the freedom children have to explore would possibly fit Noah well. If he's anything like me, sitting at desks and trying to listen will be difficult. Watching, touching, smelling, playing with your school lessons will be much more productive. I was a well behaved kid in school who was very afraid of getting in trouble, so I never acted out. The thing that the teachers didn't know though, was that I rarely paid attention in lessons and spent most days doodling, writing stories and day dreaming. Once at parent-teacher conferences my teacher told my Mother and Father that I was using my imagination in class too much and not paying attention enough. I guess she saw me "grooming" my imaginary elephant in the back of the room. Gosh, I must have looked totally nuts. I remember perfectly though, third grade, Peanuts was huge and needed a good comb each day. I know elephants don't have fur, you've got me, but hey, I was 8. Anyway, Peanuts had this fabulous sand-box sized box on top of him that you could ride in. It had a red scalloped awning for shade and tons of pink pillows that you could sit on for a soft ride. The best part, a pudding bar. Yes, a chocolate pudding bar. There were a bunch of big parfait glasses to choose from and then you would fill them up with a number of different Jell-O puddings from a very cool machine and you could add tons of toppings, like heath bar crunch. This is what I imagined everyday that year. I would comb peanuts and then imagine going for a cruise around town with him, eating great pudding.

As usual, I am off on a tangent. The point is, while I like school, it was so difficult for me to pay attention for long, even when I really wanted to. My only salvation was the one hour or so a week that I was let out of regular class to attend "G.T." gifted and talented class. Never did I feel so empowered and excited about learning than when I was in GT. They let us choose what we wanted to learn about, we did our own research, exploration, development of projects. It was great. The kids in the class were just as weird as I was, so I never got pick on in there.

It was, I imagine, similar to Montessori. Is Montessori like this? Am I wrong?


Bree said...

Okay, I just called you, but I will try to type as much as I can before baby wakes. This subject was relevant to me just a couple of weeks ago, and I'll tell you what I found out.
I visited one, and this is only one school, they are all different and they all interpret Maria Montesorri's way of teaching differently. That said, I hated it. While it's true that the child is encouraged to pick their own activities, they are made to finish it through until the end and must put it back in the order in which they recieved it. While I think that is a wonderful aspiration to have for a young child, I don't think it's all that practical for preschool and kindergarten aged children. There didn't seem to be much of a "play" factor at all. Jack was walking around exploring and pulling out books and puzzles, and they kept grabbing him by the wrist and dragging him back to what he had pulled out, telling him he could not leave until he put it back just so. It made both jack and I very upset. For example,Jack spotted some blocks and started to build, and the directress told him he could not build with them that way, they were blocks to be stacked from smallest to largest, and she wouldn't let him go until he did it the "right" way, again grabbing him by his wrists and pulling him back down to the floor. Also, all of the children were painting rainbows, and it was expected that they all paint them in the order a rainbow is seen. While it certainly does have a natural pattern, none of the children were allowed to be creative and change up the order, or make the rainbows different shapes. They were ALL the same, and I found it really quite bleak. Jack was drawing a picture while we were there, and he was't allowed to be finished after what he had done, the directress specified he use more orange and color another eye on his face because people don't have one eye, they have 2 eyes. Well, okay then. I have a fridge covered with one-eyed people and I love it. Most places too, will only let you visit if invited by either the directress or your child, which means no dropping in to say hello to see how his day is going, or to observe, which is very important to moms sending their kids off to a strange new place for the first time. :(
My sister sent my niece to one, though, and she liked that kind of structure. She was taught to read quite early, and their way of teaching reading is very cool, it's something that you can try to do at home yourself. They actually end up writing before they read, which is backwards to most, but it makes sense in the method.
We decided on a Goddard school, which is very play- based learning, you can look at their sites to see the difference. They still teach a foreign language, just not French like most Montessoris. While I think French would be a great novelty language to learn for travel and possibly later on for work purposes, I just think Spanish is more practical.
But, all of that of course is my opinion. I think you should take him to several schools when the time comes and see which environment you are both comfortable in. HTH

Judy said...

I tend to agree with Bree. I think that Montessori is a great place to start looking. You might find it is a good fit for Noah and for you, or it might encourage you to look at other alternatives. We have a private school here called I Cento (pronounced EEE - Chinto). They are a STUDENT-LED, TEACHER-FACILITATED learning facility. Not Montessori. Every Montessori school is different, so don't base your decision on one that you visit - try out two or three. And, if you aren't comfortable there, chances are Noah won't be either.

Don't rule out your more "traditional" classes either. As a public school teacher, I think you'd be surprised at how far public education has come. It still has a long way to go, but don't judge the system based on your experiences. Gads, I would hate to think that schools are the same as they were when I was a student! Yikes!

It is a big decision, and it is never too early to begin your search. You are doing the right thing.

Kendra Lynn said...

I don't know alot about Montesorri, but...I have met several moms with kids in Montesorri, and I must say, their kids are not very well-behaved. I think there may be a bit too MUCH freedom in the child's behavior. The kids I have met are loud, whiney, and demand their mothers' attention to the point of being rude. And I'm not talking about kids Kelsey's age...I'm talking kids four to eight years old.
I'm not sure what I think of the whole system.
In some ways, they are very strict, as Bree pointed out. In other ways, they are too lenient and allow obnoxious behavior.
They may not all be like that, though.
Perhaps I have only met kids who happened to have negative Montessori experiences.
Perhaps a charter school, that teaches morals and caters more to your child than a public school may be the answer.

Love ya.

p.s. don't take me too seriously...i'm just going by my own experience here.

Laura said...

I really don't know too much about Montessori either, just what I've read and learned from my friend who has her degree in early childhood. I learned enough about the methods to know that I didn't want that for Caitlin.
We have enrolled her in a pretty traditional, children-first and play based nursery school. They do what's called Core Concepts in which for a set amount of time, usually a month, they will focus on one area, like animals. The children will be engaged in various activities having to do with animals for that month...dramatic play, songs, books, etc. Their emphasis is on hitting all areas of a child's development. While they are structured, they also encouraged a great amount of creativity. This to me, was the perfect balance. I guess, you just have to chose something that you think will work for Noah since every child is different. I went to a Lutheran preschool myself and am no worse for wear. :)

Titanium Girl said...

Hey there!
Found your blog through Mamlogues. I have thought about being a Montessori teacher and I have met some wonderful people who run Montessori Schools and train teachers that being said - I think the most important thing you can do is choose a school who has a trained Montessori teacher - and make sure that the school follows the Montessori method strictly. Each school is different - anyone can stick the name Montessori on a school so just because the name same Montessori does not mean they are teaching her method.

I spent a few hours observing for my early childhood ed class and WAS very impressed with the children's behavior and eagerness to learn. The children have the ability to choose what they want to study and when. I think it's very empowering for them. I always grew up having problems with math and I was fascinated to see 4 year olds counting tens, hundreds, thousands -- and there is an alge-bray-ic cube! (I know I spelled that wrong) It teaches problem solving and it was super cool!

The kids are also encouraged to learn about other cultures and receive gymnastics classes (each school offers something different) the teacher played guitar and there was a sing along too.

I wish I could have benefited from an education like this. I think the children were well behaved and the smartet I have seen.

A good Montessori school gets 5 stars from me.