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Old 05-17-2003, 07:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My ds has been attending a Montessori preschool since he was 18 months (he's 3). Lately, he just seems to hate to go and I'm wondering if it's Montessori or the particular teachers he has.

When he started he had a fabulous, warm teacher that he bonded with and who worked with him on things like solitary naps (he co-sleeps, and she helped him transition by laying next to him on his cot until he fell asleep). When he was upset she would pick him up and carry him (she did this with the other kids too). etc. His latest teachers though are kind of cold fishes - no carrying, few PDAs, and when ds started having trouble separating they just said "all the kids do that, just let him cry and leave real quick," which didn't seem right to me. Also, one day they let him cry for the better part of the day, and when I picked him up he was an emotional wreck. I talked with his teachers about it and said 'if he cries for more than half an hour, please call me and I'll come over' but they said it would just encourage him to do it more. I also noticed a few times they would let a kid sit in a corner by himself and cry or stare at the walls, really withdrawn. And this school uses 'time-outs' - is this consistent with Montessori philosophy? I have asked the directress about this and she equates time-outs with 'calming their body'. But to me, time-outs are punitive discipline.

I like the idea of Montessori schools, but I can't tell if this is just a bad group of teachers, or if all this is part of the Montessori 'philosophy' of independence. Anyone with similar experiences?

Thanks for reading so far!

Carolyn
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Old 05-17-2003, 08:40 PM
 
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Hi,

My younger stepdaughter, who is almost 4, is at a Montessori preschool, which her older sister (now almost 8) also attended. It wasn't our pick, and I wouldn't select it for my dd, personally. I do find many aspects of Montessori attractive, but at their school and also at some other Montessori preschools I've looked at, I've seen some aspects of the problems you describe. While the fault may not lie with Montessori as such, all the emphasis on independent work, order, and educators' expertise perhaps appeals sometimes to 'cold fish' types like the teachers you describe. I did find at my stepdaughter's school that there is a lot of emphasis on handing your child over to the 'experts' (hello? what are parents??): the rule was to do all pick-ups and drop-offs at the door since over the threshold is the instructor's turf, and if your child cried you were simply supposed to leave as fast as possible. In elementary, I've often seen children who have not been easily distracted from independent work placed out in the hallway on their own to do their work. So, you may be onto something -- of course, I don't want to characterize Montessori schools too broadly, and in fact I very much like both their current teachers, but I also see some delivery problems...
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Old 05-17-2003, 11:39 PM
 
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Our little guy is in a Montessori preschool. He has been there for one year and we could not have a better place for him to be. He started when he was 3 and had rarely been apart from me. The separation was very difficult for both of us. They did want me to make a quick break from him - the lead teacher would greet us at the class door and she would walk with him into the class room while he was crying and screaming! They suggested I wait outside the class for a bit each morning, bc his crying did not last long. His teacher is super gentle and caring and all wonderful things.

For about 6 months, he would periodically say he did not want to go and I always told him he needed to go... and his 'negativity'held up and then I told him he did not have to go if he did not want to and after two or three times of his choosing to stay home on a 'school' day, he stopped asking to stay home. He rarely asks to stay home now and I always say he can if he wants to, but then he will decide to go.

Anyway, it sounds to me like your 'problem' is with the teacher/s. Maybe you can try to talk to them some more and if that does not work, then I would switch classes. Personalities conflict sometimes (and sometimes there are lazy people). It sounds like he had a great teacher at first and I would guess there are more at the school.

We love our Montessori preschool bc it is so calm, respectful, community oriented, 'freedom within boundaries'. We have learned quite a bit from them. Good luck to you and the future success.

jen

I just reread your thread. I do not think time-outs are Montessori at all. Distractions, redirecting are the norm and sometimes a teacher will have to keep a 'challenging child' by her side, but not sitting in a corner - egads, that sounds awful.

best of luck
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Old 05-18-2003, 01:25 AM
 
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Hi Carolyn,
I am more a "co-op preschool" girl than a "Montessori" type so I don't have a lot of personal background info for you - though I have researched a few Montessori schools just to be thorough in my decisions for preschools each year for my daughters. My questions are this:
*how many days a week/how many hours a day does he go?
*why did he start at 18 months? (where I live preschool starts at 3 years old with some Montessori schools starting at 2 1/2 but I haven't heard of 18 months anywhere in my area)
For me, preschool was a practice run for kindergarten - kind of a chance to get ready and have some experience with the school setting. To make friends, do the messy art stuff that I don't always put out, have some time away from mom and learn that that is ok. Any intellectual learning (as opposed to social) was just a bonus to me - my focus was for her to learn that school was fun and a place she wanted to be. If your child is learning that school isn't a place he wants to be, is that accomplishing what you want in the long run?
I would pull him out and find a preschool that is more in line with his age/readiness to be away from you, and also with a teacher you LOVE! The teacher is the most important part IMO. When my dd1 was three, she went two half days a week (one I was there, one I dropped her off). When she was four, she went four half days a week (all drop off). Full day kindergarten (not my first choice - wanted half day but the alternative school we fell in love with didn't have half day K).
Good luck deciding and keep us posted.
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Old 05-18-2003, 09:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the info. Ds started at 18 months bec I had to find a p/t job - he went three days per week about 20 hours. Now he goes 3 mornings per week for 9 hours; I thought when he reduced his hours he might like it better (maybe a separation thing), but it didn't make a difference.

I think we are going to shop this summer for a better program. He's home with me this summer, and I agree - I want him to think school is something wonderful and want him to love going!

Carolyn
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Old 05-18-2003, 10:38 PM
 
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It's all about the teacher, period.

There is no bad system a good teacher cannot overcome, and there is no good system a bad teacher cannot ruin.

Is the school AMS or AMI? There are two very distinct philosophies within Montessori. American Montessori Society (AMS) is more teacher-directed, while the Association Montessori International (AMI), a European model, is more student-driven but more ideologically hard-core regarding Maria Montessori's methods.

My son was in an AMS school with AMS teachers and they really clashed. The teacher gave the children 45 minute work cycles and repeatedly interrupted them for teacher-driven activities like reading, singing, and circle time. My son wanted to do more work; AMI schools are required to give the kids 3 hours of uninterrupted, student-driven work time. The week he's spent at the new school has been great so far.

Good luck to you.
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Old 05-18-2003, 11:45 PM
 
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i was surprised to hear they took him at 18mo, too! That is just too young to begin the real life excersizes MOntessori prides itself in teaching! Was there a phase-in period? This is mandatory, too, I've seen what Maria M. wrote about it, it was sent home with the packet we recieved from the school. It lasts three full weeks, and each week, the class time gets a little longer...they start with only a half hour a day! Is he in a mixed age classroom? See this is where the age thing comes in to play, There's only suppose to be three age groups in there. How many grades are in the school?

If you don't feel comfortable with the school seek out others. I like parariemama's advice, too. You might try letting him make the decision to go or not, and see how he does with that apporach.
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Old 05-18-2003, 11:55 PM
 
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I agree with SunMountain (of course ). If you were to start at this age, I'd be enclined to make myself available to the child at the play group.

But then you would not be able to go to work

Letting him make the choice is a really good idea. You will have to repaect his decions though.

a

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Old 05-19-2003, 07:06 PM
 
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We just moved to a new city and I've been looking ahead to preschools for when dd is 3, out of curiosity (she's 19 mos). I was surprised to find that many of the Montessori schools here start at 18 mos, too! One of them seemed by its website to really push starting that early, and pretty much said that after 3 1/2, if your child isn't in Montessori, it's too late -- I dislike this kind of hard sell immensely. Another one bills itself as a 'Montessori Academy' that takes children as young as 3 months!!! I understand the need for good quality infant care, but this seemed to be all about image to me -- for example, their calendar of school events mentioned an 'infant dress rehearsal' that would be videotaped. It was also massively expensive, of course. Yuck! If it were about providing the quality care, I'd be all for it, but I suspect that's not entirely what's going on in these cases.

Hmm. I have a feeling this was a bit off-topic, but others seem similarly perplexed by the toddler preschool thing, too. In any case, the important thing is to find somewhere that meets your and your son's needs, where he will enjoy the time he spends away from you -- and it sounds like you're quite right that this isn't the place. Good for you for listening to him!
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Old 05-20-2003, 01:58 AM
 
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Quote:
and pretty much said that after 3 1/2, if your child isn't in Montessori, it's too late
ok, this is load of crap. My ds1 started at age 6, repeated K (he had K at a public school but we knew he wasn't ready for 1st grade yet) and is doing great. I think it is important to start them by age 5 or 6, grade K, b/c they do have to develop certain skills that they build on in the more demanding grades ahead, kwim? The younger kids learn how to use certain math materials, for instance, that they use in more complex lessons later.

True Montessori schools start as young as 2yrs9mo, but not sooner, imo.
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Old 05-20-2003, 03:00 AM
 
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Chicagomom -

Hmmm, I have looked into various Montessori schools around Chicago and I have the same concerns that kids are expected to be independant too young. I'm seriously in the throws of "what to do for school". My son is at a Catholic church based preschool two afternoons a week now, mostly because I LOVED the teacher and was not impressed by the other early childhood programs in our neighborhoods. We live on the far NW side of the city.

One of my close friends teaches at a Montessori school in Chicago and I know that she believes in children being independant. As an attachment parenting mama, this makes me uncomfortable. I know that her son attends a Montessori school and started wearing underpants at 18 months, despite accidents all day long. That just didn't make sense to me...

I would like to send you a private message to talk about this some more, but my computer is acting funny. If you don't get my PM, can you send me a private message? I'd like to pick your brain about your experiences (if that isn't too intrusive).

Thanks
Kathleen
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Old 05-22-2003, 09:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I decided to pull him out of the preschool for the rest of the year (it ends in a few weeks anyway). When I told his teacher, she just casually said 'ok'; didn't even ask why or say she would miss him, or anything else. Which reaffirms my opinion that she is just a cold fish.

I'm going to try to find some park district activities for him this summer, and look around for something different for the fall.

Thanks again for listening.

Carolyn
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Old 05-22-2003, 11:16 PM
 
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Good for you! It sounds like it was a difficult experience for both of you. It can be such a challenge listening to your instincts as a parent when some 'expert' calls them into question, but you did it. And, you're right, the teacher's reaction just confirms your read of her.

Hope you guys have a fun summer!
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Old 05-23-2003, 01:26 AM
 
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to you, Carolyn
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Old 05-26-2003, 04:20 AM
 
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I have absolutely no experience with Montessori or any preschoolds, but just wanted to say that it makes me cry with joy when I hear of moms listening to their kids about school stuff, and not making them go just because they are supposed to. My dh was tortured in grade school, and begged to change schools. His parents refused - no reason other than he was in a private school that was trendy, and they wanted him there. He is still scarred from it to this day. But even if there is no apparent "real" reason why a child is uncomfortable in a particular school environment, I believe strongly in respecting that.

Of course I recognize that some kids just need an adjustment period or some extended hand holding, but I just think it is so wonderful to respect that your very young child is telling you that they are uncomfortable, for whatever the reason may be.
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Old 05-27-2003, 03:24 PM
 
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We have been at our Montessori school for almost 6 years (since my sons were three years old). They did occasionally experience seperation anxiety, but the teacher would take my kids and promptly get them involved in something she knew would interest them. On the days that they did have a problem, I would almost always get a call about 30 minutes later to let me know how they were doing.

I often would go in to 'spy' and check out things for myself. I found that my kids were always happy and actively involved in some kind of work.

Our school is more student directed, especially in the primary grades (pre school thru kindergarten). They were allowed to work on anything they wanted to during work cycle (2/90 minute pds. each day). Often, they would work on the samething for days on end.

There were routines for circle time, work cycle, nap, recess, lunch, etc. But the majority of the day was devoted to work cycle. If the children didn't seem to be able to decide what to work on that day, the teacher would help guide them.

In short, I have found that a good Montessori is based largely on the staff. When we hire teachers, we not only look at their credentials, but there personality based on our school's philosophy. This works well, and we have had the same teachers at our school since the day my kids began there. Our school goes thru 8th grade, and the only time we need a new teacher is when we have added a grade. We currently go thru 4th, and add a grade each year.
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Old 05-27-2003, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree wholeheartedly. Ds' first teacher was a dream and ds loved her. I remember one time coming to pick him up and all the kids were in a circle dancing to Beatles songs with her. They all looked so joyful - it brought tears to my eyes!

On the other hand, the directress chastised me for co-sleeping and extended bfing - said I was creating 'separation issues' by not encouraging his independence and that *this* was why he was crying when I left him (ie it was my fault - great way to talk to a parent, eh?!) She just didn't have much experience with attachment parented kids I guess. But my point here is I really think the director/directress sets the tone for the whole school - the good teacher ds had was there more 'in spite of' rather than 'because of' the directress' philosophy.

Carolyn
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Old 05-27-2003, 06:17 PM
 
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chicagomom...amen to that! If the director doesn't have a kind and loving heart, not only would it be difficult to hire loving teachers, but perhaps even harder to keep them.

In any schooling environment, the attitude of the teachers and the staff can make a bad situation good, and a good situation even better!

The directors of our school have been the only directors, and have been there for 20 years. I know their philosophy, and can trust that the staff will remain as devoted as the staff we have now.

Good point...know those that operate the school as well as those who teach!!!
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Old 05-27-2003, 07:34 PM
 
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A number of Montessori schools--AMS and AMI--have started 18 mom-2 yr 9 mo programs for a few reasons. There are Montessori principles that can be taught at this age--all of them practical skills. Maria Montessori did not design any materials for this age group, as she believed that these younger children would be wholly engaged in imitation of the parents and exploration of their world. At dss' new school the 18 mo-2 yr 9 mo classroom has no "Montessori" materials--it's all tiny brooms, pouring bowls, spoons and beans (to learn to balance, empty and fill) and so on. They help the toddlers potty train as well. It's also a program, frankly, because there's a demand for it from parents who don't want to feel like they're just sending their little ones to day care--they want to feel like it's something more than that.

It also provides a "feeder" system for the older age groups. And it's another source of income, though toddler programs don't generate much $ because the studentcher ratio, at least here in MA, must be 11:3, whereas at the 2 yr 9 mo+ ages it can be 10:1.

I'm here in Amherst, MA, and the school my dss' will go to has a directress whom I find to be quite direct. I asked her about nursing toddlers in the program, and whether that was an issue, and she looked surprised and said, "Of course not. They're still little. Plenty of parents nurse at that age." She went on to say, however, that past 3 or 4 it could be an issue for some kids trying to assert their independence--but she was very careful to say that it's a case-by-case situation.

Michael Odent, a well-known Montessori "expert" (sarcasm) has written a lot about weaning at 9 months, never nursing to sleep, teaching babies sleep independence. I don't believe any of it. I pick and choose, just as I pick and choose from Sears' statements.

I think your son's teacher made it clear how she felt about him, and I'm so sad that someone working with small children could be so cold. Good luck searching for the right fit for him. I know how hard it is to see your wonderful child not be appreciated--after our bad experience we think we've found a good place with good teachers.
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Old 05-27-2003, 11:39 PM
 
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guru, I am so glad you chimed in here to explain the younger age programs. What you say makes a lot of sense, they have those same materials in the preschool unit. I was really trying to figure out what they could be doing with those kids, but now that you pointed it out, it makes a lot of sense, especially if you want to continue with Montessori into the primary and junior units.


mommy22, what you describe is exactly like the school my boys attend.

School should be a safe predictable atmosphere, whatever the enviroment (meaning I'm not discounting homeschooling). It's the biggest selling point of Montessori for me. It's a scientifically proven method to teach children by their own rules, that they will learn, they love to learn, they are driven to learn---so let them!

And personally I don't give two hoots about what they think about how long I bf or if I cosleep. It's none of their business.
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Old 05-27-2003, 11:50 PM
 
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i just wanted to stick my head in here and say that many places that advertise themselves as being montessori schools, are not following the philosophy at all. they think if they have some cubby holes and some of the tools they are montessori.
i went to montessori for 2 years, and those were the only 2 years i was ever happy in school.
i want very much to get my daughter into a montessori program, but here in disgusta, ga there are no true montessori programs. there are 3 schools/daycares calling themselves montessori, but none of the "teachers" are certified, the schools are not certified, and they are just regular schools/daycares who charge more for the name.
i have to give you for taking your kid out of a place where the teachers suck. my niece was enrolled in a montessori school, but then the certified teacher left, and they replaced her with some 19-year-old girl with zero qualifications. one by one the parents pulled their kids out, but it was only after the kids were mistreated.
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Old 05-28-2003, 12:44 PM
 
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elphaba...you are so right when you say that just because they call themselves Montessori, doesn't mean they are. We had a brief experience with a different Montessori from the one we attend now(long story). Anyway, they had a beautiful building, wonderful Montessori equipment, and the staff were very knowledgable about Montessori philosophy.

Our first year there was OK. Good Montessori instruction, etc. Our second year there was a NIGHTMARE. It wasn't until that second year that I found out most of the teachers had no Montessori certification and not even any real prior experinece in Montessori at all. My son's second grade teacher had 20 years experience in a Catholic school, but none in a Mont. school. They had all this beautiful equipment, but never used it.

I could go on and on, but you hit the nail on the head. Just because it says Montessori, doesn't mean that actually use Montessori methods. They can even have Montessori credentials, and still not use Montessori methods. This 'bad' 'Montessori' had 5 differenct credentials from 5 different Montessori Associations (including International Montessori), and was just a horrible school for us.

The lesson is...be informed on good Montessori practices, and spend some time at the school to make sure these practices are being used in the classroom, and at the same time, pay attention to how the teacher/staff are treating the children.

One good indication of how well a Montessori school is doing (and any other school for that matter) is teacher/staff turn-over.

But a true Montessori is a gift, and I cherish our good fortune in having such a school available for my children!
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