I have always been a huge fan of Montessori and my son went to a Montessori preschool from age 3-4 and spent the last year in a private kindergarten program that was not Montessori but only had 7 children in his class - we are letting him repeat Kindergarten - not because of academic considerations but because he is tiny - under the 1st percentile. He is a sensitive kid- doesn't like rough play and his attention span is unusually long - he can spend hours working on a project he is interested in and loves to learn. When he is concentrated nothing else exists... He actually liked his last school because he loves working with other children- he didn't mind the structured environment one bit even though the teacher commented that he had a few adjustment issues ( mainly time management and switching from one activity to another when he wasn't done yet) - however the teacher also said that he likes to please more than anything.
This year we have a spot for him in a public montessori school that he could attend with his sister - full day is 8-2pm and no homework which I love as it gives us afternoons for family activities.
However - there is also a new language immersion school opening with a German immersion class ( I am German)- both kids are not fluent in German and I would love for them to learn. However school hours are from 8-3.30 with homework, it is a challenging curriculum with Singapore math and the class size will be large. It is also a brand new school with the usual growing pains of course and I am expecting some chaos in the first few years for sure.
I am torn in my decision - I feel like montessori would offer a more nurturing environment and accommodate my slightly eccentric but very sweet natured kid better. For the first time he would be among the oldest in the class and not the shortest which might boost his confidence. The school is small but public and the teachers, administration and principal super nice. The classrooms are inviting and the entire school oozes comfort...
The language immersion school would offer language fluency and a motivation to learn my mother language but I won't meet the teachers until the week before school starts, they will most likely be new at the language immersion thing and there will be chaos. The class sizes are large and the curriculum extremely structured.
Does anyone here have experience with either language immersion or Montessori and can offer advice - especially regarding children that might be a bit "different". My son doesn't have true learning disabilities - he learns fast, has an amazing memory but might be bit different from other kids ...
My dd has been in full Chinese immersion since she was three. She just finished kindergarten. Her school has three language tracks (Chinese, Japanese, Spanish) and uses the international baccalaureate primary years program. It's rigorous, but inquiry based and student led. She has learned so much. She's a hard worker with a good attention span and she's a rule follower so I think the structure works well for her. I really love the immersion aspect and it would be cool for your kids to learn German.
Your son is highly sensitive and could potentially use his scholastic ability as one of his biggest strengths. A large and challenging immersion class will be just the thing to challenge him on being more adaptive and structured; something Montessori doesn't tend to teach much from my experience which is important for adapting to college later on. I attended montessori myself as a kid until age 8 and am not a fan of it, especially for highly sensitive kids with amazing focus and difficulty changing tasks (like I was). The more people shield people like myself, the more shielding we tend to need.
I would definitely go with the language school. At the end of the day, you won't see many differences between a kid who goes to public school, Montessori, private school, or no school at all, especially for kindergarten. However, giving the kid the gift of another language is something he could use for life.
My dk also go to a French school; we live in an English-speaking community. It's so amazing to see them switch from English to French when they meet different kids on the playground.
I have one kid that finished k-5 Spanish immersion and one still in. This is a program within a "regular" neighborhood public school. We have had a very good experience with it. I'm personally teaching kids my other native language (and they attend a language/cultural school on Saturdays) plus they get English and Spanish at school, so I obviously vote for the language school. :-)
Es ist doch super, wenn deine Kinder deine Sprache lernen! (Sorry, German translator here!)
My DC went to a German pre-K when we were living there and the immersion plan did not work for her. She may well have been struggling with some readiness issues but I think the language immersion put her over the edge. Back then (this was 7 years ago) I did some interesting reading on how immersion isn't the end-all-be-all that Americans tend to think it is.
Have you considered focusing more on speaking German with your kids so they get the language exposure that way? I realize that can be difficult but I'm sure some bilingual mamas/papas can give you some guidance on that. Maybe something as simple as having breakfast in German or something.
If it were me, I'd go with the best fit for school and then work on other ways for helping your DCs learn a second language, especially considering they have you as a resource!
I am sympathetic to the desire to promote a heritage language. I don't speak my grandparents' language and I truly regret it. I have studied it sporadically as an adult but language learning as an adult requires a certain amount of dedication that's tough when you are working and raising a family. My dc attended extra-curricular heritage language classes for years but that's just not the same as an immersion setting. I understand completely why you would consider this new school.
Having said all that, personally I'd lean toward the Montessori school. Overall, it sounds like a better fit for your sensitive and focused DS. His natural learning style and ability for lengthy concentration will be nurtured during the cherished Montessori 3-hour work period. A typical classroom where he will jump from subject to subject could be torture for him. I think ensuring that a child is in a comfortable, nurturing learning environment is critically important in the early school years. Challenges should come in the form of educational and intellectual pursuits not emotional and psychological stresses. 5 and 6 y.o's don't need to be forced to be more adaptive and structured. They will have many years to develop those aspects.
Even aside from personality and educational fit, there is also the issue of growing pains at the new school. Frankly, it doesn't sound very appealing.
I would probably investigate the language immersion school's admission policies. Is admission restricted to kindergarten entry? Is there a middle grade entry? I've known students who started immersion programs in middle school and they have been very successful. Possibly even more successful than kindergarten entry because they already have solid language arts learning. Note - the entire class of students starts immersion together so they are all on the same learning curve. It would be a little more difficult for a single new student to join an ongoing immersion classroom.
If this is a new school trying to build enrolment, perhaps they will consider admission in later grades, particularly if your DS develops some familiarity with German. You could enrol him in the Montessori school for a year or two (or more), while building his German language skills at home. Then he can transfer to the German school. By that time, the German school will be beyond the early growing pains of a new program and the teachers will have more experience. Win-win.