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On Montessori As Daycare

Keep Me In The Playground!

We’ve been touring Montessori schools in our city this week. We would have been touring Waldorf ones too, but there aren’t any here.

With thoughts towards making a change regarding child-care and early education in the long-term sense. Currently, Wyndham is in daycare full-time; 3 days a week in preschool and 2 days a week at a home-daycare, the same one that his sister Abby goes to 2 days a week. (She’s at home the other 3 weekdays.)

We’ve been leaning toward Montessori for a while now, the more we implement Montessori style activities at home, the more we learn about the theories and practice of Montessori, the more we dig it. We like it because our little children? They LOVE it. They are naturally drawn towards this creative, organic way of learning. All of their own accord.

However. After much research into both Waldorf and Montessori practices, I was left with a feeling that it be wonderful to blend both together. Perhaps not for grade 1 and on, but for the early years? In a daycare setting? Heck yeah! A few things that I found to be missing from the official Montessori pedagogy were the absence of focused emotional/spiritual development and creative/musical development. More free play. I don’t think that every moment during a young child’s waking hours needs to be filled with constant stimulation, constant activity, and constant learning. No matter how organically based and creative it is.

I also don’t feel that keeping them home with me while I work is the answer. While I may be able to take care of their basic needs day to day, and perhaps squeeze in time for the park and a few activities, I don’t feel that they would be getting the very best of me. Stress levels during deadlines would most likely sky-rocket and I would get run-down, really fast. Unfortunately, we are not able to live on only one salary. Surprisingly, the cost of Montessori is the same as daycare where we live.

Moving forward, with a desire to provide them with quality care where each of their days is full of magic and exploration, I’ve stopped driving myself batty with the what if’s. I’ve stopped seriously considering halting my career (again) to reinvent myself as a daycare owner, so that I might keep my kids home with me and keep our finances in flux.

So we’ve been on a few tours, which have left us feeling sure about one thing. We feel that the execution of the Montessori way of teaching, this divergent way of educating is of the upmost importance. While we’ve found that the foundation has been very similar across the boards, naturally the individual style, additional activities and general vibe of the schools has differed greatly.

Not in all of these awesome ways, either. One school in particular, seemed like something straight out of the twilight zone. Upon entering the school, which was in an amazing, re-modeled Victorian home, we met with the head mistress. What a bizarre experience. Upon first entry into the building, we were met with quiet. Not a serene, kind of comfortable silence, but an eerie one that begged the question, “So… where’s all the kids?”

Oh, they were there in their funky, kind of grungy, mirrored-little classrooms doing things like cursive writing while listening to Bach. Sure, great. But where was the joy? Do you play classic rock too? (Yes, the mister actually asked this and she avoided the question entirely by looking at him like he was crazy). I think classical music is stellar. I also don’t turn my nose up at other styles of music like they are the plague, the way that she did. This lady… Freaked. Me. Out. Full of lateral answers and droning on about how elite their school was and that Montessori taught people excel in society above all others, and all of it sounded like a bunch of pompous crap to me.

She actually said that she never accepts children with behavioural problems (aka; children who voice and experience joy, probably, or heaven forbid – act like children), “like autistic kids.” She ACTUALLY said that. Going on to divulge that her reasoning behind this decision was that a child with autism would not be able to excel, which is “completely unacceptable.” (Didn’t-we-know?) Barf-o-rama. I’m sure she thought that these were anecdotal notes of wisdom or something. It seemed like an avalanche of ignorance to me. Don’t even get me started on the pure BRILLIANCE of autistic children/adults.

Only one out of the five teachers we met actually smiled and made eye contact with us and it seemed like there were some major politics brewing under-foot. No thanks. It was a good thing we had a second tour of a different school afterward because that sort of regiment is nothing that we want for our children. We were wondering if we had potentially idealized Montessori. Maybe it was but a dream.

Thank-fully, it is not. We found a little school, mere blocks from our house, in a gorgeous church. It’s run by a a sweet, down-to-earth, progressive woman. The first thing we heard upon entering? The sound of laughter. The air was thick with the presence of children. All of the teachers smiled at us when we came their way and, as the fates deemed necessary , the Beatles could be heard coming from one of the Casa rooms. There was bright artwork displayed creatively all over the place and basically, there was an entirely different vibe within. PHEW.

To be clear, we’re not sure if Montessori is the way to go past the toddler and preschool (Casa) years for both financial and unique individual reasons. I think that only time will tell whether or not it’s right for each of our kids as they grow and develop. It’s also a major financial commitment, one that I’m not sure we’re ready to make for the rest of our children’s elementary school careers.

After all, we’re not talking about daycare anymore. We’re talking about private school, right? Also? I don’t turn my nose up at the public school system. I had amazing teachers who impacted my personal, emotional and academic development in profound and sweeping ways.

I also had a couple who were horrible. Who should not have been teachers at all, in my opinion. Some jaw-dropping experiences. The kinds of horror-stories you hear from many a person. We all feel that we’ve had a bum teacher or two along the way in school, right?

As with many people within a profession, there will always be some who are emotionally unstable, poorly suited for the job, etc. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t think that experiencing such is unavoidable within the private school system. It’s part of the human condition, it’s all part of life. We can only do our very best in protecting our kids from unsavoury characters in life and unfortunately those types don’t always present themselves clearly at first. Unfortunately they are sometimes all dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Ya feel me? Perhaps this is why homeschooling has had such a resurgence in the past few years; not only within Christian/LDS or Catholic families.

This by no means should be taken as a rant against teachers because the work they do is some of the most important work of our world, often a thankless job and one that is judged harshly. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m just speaking some truths. Truths that have gotten me a bit off-topic, but it’s hard to delve into one’s thought-process regarding such important decisions for our children without fully dissecting and delving into the bigger picture.

Oy. This parenting gig can keep one up at night, (past the newborn stage) of this I now know. For all of those restless hours we spent breaking everything down last-night, we came to a decision. Both of our little ones are on the waiting list for the second school I described. We feel good about it.

I’d love to hear from the rest of you on your daycare and school choices for your children! Did/do making such decisions rattle you to your core like they do mine? What have your own Montessori or Waldorf experiences been like? Please, do tell.

I found this video to be rather enlightening (Although a bit much at times, with the whole paint-the-public schools-black-in-comparison-to-the-shining-beams-of-glory-shooting-out-of-Montessori-ones…thing; and other such nuances. You’ll see what I mean if you watch it. Thought-provoking, either way).

More Babbles From Selena…

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Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Creative Director. Social Media & Branding Consultant. Regular writer on Disney Baby. Part-time big-mouth & frequent foot-eater. Proud of her Anishinaabe roots.

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