So about a month ago I posted here about pulling my daughter out of her Montessori preschool. I love love loved it, love Montessori, would like to get certified to teach adolescent Montessori, and am thinking about doing Montessori long-term. However, my daughter wasn't even three yet (she turns three tomorrow, yay!!), and the primary program was just way too much for her. She couldn't handle going five days a week and she was totally overwhelmed by all the kids, materials, and choices. She needs a little more structure than is offered in Montessori still, I think. I agree 100% with the Montessori philosophy of giving kids freedom, I'm just watching my daughter and thinking about this a lot and I feel that she needs a little more direction than she was getting there. She was spending all her days sitting in the observation chair watching because she was too overwhelmed to choose work for herself.
So. I pulled her out and I think it was the right decision. But I really need to put her somewhere because I need a break. :) She doesn't nap and she doesn't sleep all night so mama's gotta get some time somewhere! Also, I really want her to have some time with other kids.
I visited several preschools and have narrowed it down to a couple. One is a play-based Spanish language immersion school. It's cheap and very laid back, got a great neighborhood feel that I love. We have several friends whose kids go there and they love it. However, there are a lot of things there I'm just not nuts about...they have tons of plastic toys, which is ok but you know, not my favorite...they use more traditional discipline stuff like time-outs...it's kind of chaotic and unstructured. We visited an open house and my daughter LOVED it; she's been talking about it ever since and wanting to go back. (Hey, she got to wear butterfly wings and do painting; what's not to love?) They also have openings right now so I could sign her up tomorrow.
The second choice is a school that's kind of Waldorf-inspired, which I'm definitely not nuts about. However, it's not hardcore Waldorf so I'm open to it. They have all natural, wooden toys and do tons of art projects with natural materials. They have dress-up and pretend play with play silks and wooden kitchens, but they also have lots of real-life work: the kids bake bread every week, they have mops and brooms and polishing, stuff like that. They seem to offer a lot more responsibility and trust to the kids--they're allowed to pour their own drinks and things--that isn't offered at the play-based school. No reading in the younger class (argh), but I can get some sandpaper letters and keep doing reading activities at home. Honestly, I think the biggest attraction for me about this school vs. the other is the fact that they agree more with my discipline philosophy. They never use reward and punishments and they don't do all the "good job" over-the-top stuff...they say, "I see you" when a kid does something good (very similar to the Montessori mantra, "you did it"). They seem really good at redirecting and finding positive outlets for energy by giving kids jobs and things like that. I wasn't nuts about the director--she seems to think the school is AMAZING and doing something that NOBODY is doing; she kept telling me things like "the two year olds are actually starting to put on their own shoes sometimes!" like this was a big deal. Uh, my daughter has been dressing herself entirely since 18 months, hello! Ack. She also really doesn't like Montessori. She doesn't like "academics" for young children. This school also doesn't have openings till fall, so I'd have to figure out something to do till then to give myself a break.
Third option is a friend of mine who *might* be starting a Montessori homeschooling coop. I really want to be involved with this, but it's not certain at all, and I'm not sure if my daughter would enjoy it as much as going to the same building every day, being part of the same group of kids, having the same teachers. You know. The whole preschool thing. She really likes that.
So...I'm struggling. Here are the choices I'm considering:
1. Enroll my daughter at the Spanish school for the rest of the year, take the summer off, then start at the Waldorf-ish school. Problem with that, of course, is that it's too much transition.
2. Do something for the rest of the year (hire my mom? exchange childcare with a friend?) and then start at the Waldof-ish school in the fall. Problem with that is that I really want a break now!
3. Enroll at the Spanish school and stay there 2 days/week, and do the Montessori homeschooling coop in the fall. Problem with that is that the Montessori co-op may or may not happen, and there are a lot of things about the ways teachers interact with kids there that I'm not crazy about. I'm also worried that the Spanish school will be overwhelming for her because it's so chaotic.
From your description, she will encounter the same difficulties at the Spanish school, and perhaps even worse. If it's chaotic and unstructured, I don't see how it will be an improvement on the Montessori situation. There you say she was overwhelmed by choices and needed more structure. Providing less structure, in a school that sounds like it is less organized doesn't seem like a good answer to that problem, even if she enjoyed a short visit there. Will she love it after she's been there for a while on a routine basis or will she find it's just as overwhelming as Montessori was?
With the Waldorf school, I'd be very careful about a serious clash of philosophies if you intend on sending her there and afterschooling her. It sounds like you will antagonize the director and probably the teachers as well. Your daughter may receive negative attention, if not outright discouragement, for early reading and academics. It can have negative repurcussions on your dd's own attitudes about learning. Personally, I would never consider that situation. It's too uncomfortable for everyone and likely to create difficult conflicts between you, the school and your dd. If you agreed completely with the Waldorf philosophy and didn't intend on any afterschooling, it sounds like it's a good choice. If you had a very frank discussion with the director and her teacher about your intention to afterschool AND they supported it wholeheartedly, then this school could work. Unless you can find some personal resolution with either of these two strategies, I don't think the Waldorf school will work for you and your dd. In any event, you would have to sort out something in the interim though, or wait it out.
The homeschooling co-op sounds too vague, honestly, to suit your needs right now.
I'm assuming that part-time at Montessori wasn't an option. She may find Montessori a better fit in the fall or in the new year, if they accept January admissions.
Given the tough choices as you have described them, I would lean toward part-time at the Spanish immersion school, possibly 3 half-days, to minimize overwhelming her, and reconsider Montessori in a year or so.
I am not sure what advice to give you, so I am just going to tell you what I would do. I would see if there is someone familiar that could give you a break now, like you stated maybe your mother and that would save you from having two different brand new transitions in the next few months. Then in the fall the Waldorf type school seems like the best fit. Although it doesn't seem perfect regarding what the director thinks versus you, it matters more how the teachers think and respond to the children. Good Luck:)
I think I would talk to the Montessori teachers about ways to help her learn to choose appropriate and challenging work for herself. Maybe they could offer her some specific choices to help her focus. Maybe they could enlist the help of an older child to get her interested in something. If that absolutely couldn't be made to work (understanding that it could take a period of time for her to adjust) I'd probably do the Waldorf-ish school for the rest of the year, and then revisit the Montessori school in the fall or next spring. She'll still only be 3.5 or so by then, so it wouldn't be the end of the world for her to not be getting the pre-reading stuff at that point. I wouldn't try to afterschool her really. Maybe put the letters on the shelf at home if you want, and if she's drawn to them then ok. But I wouldn't put a huge focus on it - mostly because they do a lot at school during the day, and I feel like when they're at home they should just relax and do what they want.