I feel like I’ve been told there’s no such thing as Santa. Everything I thought I knew about children has been turned on its head.
I’ve spent the past two weeks observing the most incredible scenes of early childhood education in two private Montessori classrooms here in Chicago. I’m just coming up for air. And what better place to sort out my thoughts, than this here blog.
What I observed: children engaged, happily moving about their business-without disruption, without chaos. Frankly, I cannot think of any public or private school classroom I taught in that even came close to what I saw in the past two weeks.
In particular, the school I saw today, was basically the gold standard of what education should look like. Natural light, natural materials, children given the freedom to move, explore, create, and be.
I mean, we are talking chills up my arms, choirs of angels singing-that good. So, good, I’m considering selling an organ.
The price of course.
But, something in my stomach, says, the money will appear somehow, magically in my bank account, and poof, this educational pipedream can become a reality.
Now, a quick digression-
I’m happy with Moose’s placement for this year, his teacher is far beyond my wildest hopes. Someone needs to make a movie about this woman running Moose’s class. She’s like Jen from I Heart Organizing meets the most brilliant special education guru ever. I’d love to really know how she does it all:Manage 10 IEPs with such grace, patience, and persistence.
It’s not the Moose I’m concerned about, dear readers.
It’s this little fella in my house.
Monkey. My defiant-booksmart-wild-all boy-Monkey. Who according to CPS guidelines, is supposed to start kinder when he turn 5. Late July. Just before school starts. Moose started kinder at nearly 6. 5 is just so young.
Issue being:Monkey is really taking off in terms of his academics. He started reading last week.
At age 4.
I know I can challenge him at home. I’m mean, duh, come on. I’ve taught every age, grade, level, reason, and season.
My toughest student is Moose, but that’s another post. But Monkey, he loves to learn. He’s easy to work with. And direct.
But, it’s the methodology that’s in question here.
I learned quite a bit of my observations at the Montessori schools I visited.
And me thinks these Italians are onto something.
It’s truly eye-opening. So, eye-opening, in fact, I will not shut them until I’ve read every book on Montessori. Every blog. Ever article.
I want his education to be self-directed, not the hellish experience we had at his school in May. Public schools here in Chicago are presure-cookers of teaching to the test and common core and classrooms of 35. Not ideal for a kid with some sensory struggles. His academics are well-above where they should be, but in a big ocean of a class of 35, I think all hell will break loose.
No, I know it will.
See Moose escaped that pressure cooker. His class has ten kids. He has a sensory room. His teacher is the cat’s meow. I’m blessed.
Monkey’s in a decent spot now for PreK 4, but man, I’m talking the bigger picture here. It’s a lot to chew and consider.
Frankly, in public school differentiation of instruction is a unicorn. Sure, all teachers try their best, but in all reality: YOU HAVE A CLASS OF 35. Out of those 7 hours, how many minutes are really getting into your child’s head? Truly, consider that.
In a Montessori classroom, differentiation is EVERYWHERE. Today, I saw a 4 year old working on multiplication boards at one table, one little boys working on identifying nouns in a magazine with a cut and paste activity, and two little girls working together on a massive geometric solid task that would have had 6th grade teachers applauding.
I wanted to rise and give a standing ovation at the end of observation.
Not to say all things are evil and bad in traditional school settings, but we all have the same end goal, just VERY different ways of attaining it.
As a parent, I take my role as “teacher” or “directress” in Montessori lingo, very seriously. In fact, teachers will come and go, but as their mother, I am the force. The OG. The CEO. I’m the first in line when the excrement hits the fan.
Long before I was a mother, I understood this in my early 20s, fresh out of grad school, ready to change the world!
One thing I will always cherish from my teaching career was a professional development session I attended headed by author Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. Out of the many insightful things he said during those hours: this stuck with me the most nearly a decade later:
And frankly, I cannot go back to my notions of leaning and education after seeing the gold standard. Montessori has taken my brain and given it a nice talking to.
Even if I can’t send my boys to private Montessoris that are more than my mortgage, it’s time for momnivore to hit the books and shake things up-educationally speaking around here.
And of course, my friends, I will share.