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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My DS will start K in the fall of 08. We don't have many options around here - no private schools, but we do have a Montessori program within our public school system.

The Montessori school rented a space at our local mall a few months ago (during its fundraising season.) I started a discussion with the directress about the program. I'm interested, but some of the things I'm learning about the philosophy make me wonder if it would be a good fit for my DS, who is a very imaginative, loves to engage in creative play, kind of kid. When I asked her if she thought my son, who loves creative play - mermaids, talking animals, drama, etc. - would benefit from Montessori, she told me that the reason he likes those things is because I am failing to give him enough concrete things to do at home.

I've thought about this comment for a long while now. It still does not sit well with me.

My question to you all - am I missing her point? For those of you who understand the Montessori philosophy, was she trying to tell me something that was maybe a bit less antagonistic than it sounded?
 

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Y'know, I have heard some real hardline Montessorians say things along the line of fantasy play being a sign of a bored child or even a distressed child and they do quote some of Maria M's words to support it--but that's just one of the aspects of the theory that I leave behind.

It also is not a view taken by our M school, so it really hasn't fazed me or impacted my ds's education. However, if a teacher at the school ever did talk like that, I would also be bothered. It's just not how I view creative, imaginative play.

If I had more time and energy to delve into the theory more, it would be interesting, but that's not really my cup of tea. If you Google Montessori and imaginative play you'll probably find lots of info.

As with any school, you'll need to ask lots of questions to make sure it is a good fit for you and your child. M schools are definitely not all the same!
 

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I'm no montessori expert and I'm not married to the M philosophy, but think of it this way - your son already does a lot of imaginative play, is it better to give him more exposure to what he already does a lot of, or give him exposure to the things he does not? (practical play in this case)

While I think imagination and fantasy are important, I think kids use them more as ways to work out how they fit in their world, through play. I also think children have an inherent drive to learn to do what we do and to become constructive members of our society, and I think they should have the opportunity to do that - I think that is what montessori is getting at. If they are not giving a chance to learn how to become functioning members of our society, then they have to turn elsewhere to imaginitive play to fill that desire.
 

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My 4 year old is currently enrolled at a Montessori (2nd full school year) and he LOVES the same type of things as your son - talking animals, superheros, etc. At one point, when I went in for a report with the school, they said, 'your son has a vivid imagination'. I was, understandably, proud. I smiled and said, 'yes'. Then the teacher said, 'TOO vivid'. (gasp!) huh????? How's that possible for a 4 year old? And they then coached me on exactly what the directress told you - have him do more hands-on, concrete, practical life things...otherwise, he will turn out to be a 'lazy' child. It was after that report that I decided to start looking for a new school. In parallel, he did start making dinner (over the fire!), doing the laundry, setting the table, etc, but the imagination has NEVER changed. One previous poster said something to the effect of, 'do you really want him to go to school and do something he's already good at? or do things that he doesn't already do a lot of?'...well, personally, I firmly believe that we should exploit our strengths to their full potential...take a good or excellent skill to fantastic...rather than work on our weaknesses and only reach mediocre with them. My son IS very imaginative and I think that's fantastic...especially at this age. I've done research, and I've read that if the 'fantasy play' is limited to only one thing with no variety...or if they simply can't STOP fantasizing to do anything else and it's disruptive to the day, then it might be a problem. However, that's not usually a worry until a few more years from now.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that the comment bothered you for a reason - go with your gut. In my son's situation, he loves to 'pretend' and he's CONSTANTLY being told at school that 'you can pretend at home'. :-( I find that a bit sad. :-( Especially when I thought the Montessori method was supposed to be so individual in nature that the 'leaders' could guide a child through academics in whatever way, shape or form is most effective to that child. Well, then, why not have my child spell animal words? Or work with animals to teach counting, etc? Get creative! (maybe the could take a few pointers from my child on the 'get creative' part! LOL) Personally, I think the teachers simply don't know how to motivate him well enough (and it's not just my child, there are others in the class with issues being reported and it always sounds like it's more a teacher problem than a student problem).

Sorry for the long-winded answers...just one mom's perspective to what sounds like a similar situation. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for your comments, everyone.
We're still going to go sit in on a class before making a final decision. jcrites, I suspect you and I are in exactly the same position...maybe not the best fit. My son does like doing "real" things - he loves to cook with me, he helps me clean, but he also likes to build cities with his blocks for his mermaids and animals to live in, or pretend that the belt to my bathrobe is his pet snake. I would be very sad if anyone ever told him it was not appropriate or not the right time to imagine.
 

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I just had a talk with some friends about this very subject last week! I am a Montessori elementary teacher, and part of the reason for this is that I DO have a bit of a beef with the stance on imaginitive play, which isn't present in the 6-12 age because Maria Montessori said that the 3-6 age is when children are figuring out what is real and what is not real, whereas the older children know, and they are at a developmental level where imagination is appropriate.

I saw a movie about 10 years back, called "Life is Beautiful." It is about a father and son who were trying to escape from soldiers during WW2. I believe they were Jews, though can't remember those details. What I do remember is that the father created this elaborate fantasy world for his young son (not sure how old he was...somewhere between 5 and 7, I believe). His son had no idea of the terrible things going on. His father made it into a fun game, that they had to leave and flee for reasons he made up that were enjoyable for the child. I thought, after that movie, that imagination was what got this man through a hard time with his son. When reality isn't good, people escape to imagination as a coping mechanism.

THis by all means is not the only reason why people escape to imagination, though. Some people are creative. The definition of creativity is to use something ordinary in a novel way. If everyone in the world used something for its intended purpose, then we wouldn't have many of the inventions that we have today. The ice cream cone was made when a waffle maker and an ice cream person were at a fair next to each other, and the ice cream guy ran out of bowls. THe waffle guy figured out a way to bend his waffle into the shape of a cone, and poof! There we have the ice cream cone!

My friend had a beautiful AMS school in Massachusetts, where her son attended. They had a dress up box, and a pretend corner. I believe that area was open to the students as a job, just as the other work is. I believe if it is set up as a work, then there wouldn't be a "mad rush" to this area.

Again, often Montessori purports that she doesn't have certain materials/things in the classroom because when she presented them to the children, they didn't want them/they weren't interesting to them. This is generalizing based on certain students. What if we present these same things into the classroom and children DID want them?

I love Maria Montessori...she was a visionary for her time, and she created some amazing materials and an amazing philosophy. Yet, at the same time, she is a human being, and not a goddess. Is it possible that she made any mistakes? Indeed, it is. I hope no one gets upset by my saying that, but I do believe even she would have grown and evolved had she remained alive for a longer length of time. Her trip to India had such an impact on her that it added another dimension to the curriculum..a more spiritual dimension that would not have been as strong had she not been to this country.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by jcrites View Post
One previous poster said something to the effect of, 'do you really want him to go to school and do something he's already good at? or do things that he doesn't already do a lot of?'...well, personally, I firmly believe that we should exploit our strengths to their full potential...take a good or excellent skill to fantastic...rather than work on our weaknesses and only reach mediocre with them.
I didn't say we should ignore our strengths. But I want my child to be well rounded, not really strong in one area and really weak in another. Sure, I want my child to love to read, but not be unable to do math. I want my child to be happy and I think being well rounded is important to that. Being really good at one thing and bad at everything else will lead to her feeling bad about herself most of the time.

And for me, I think true creativity comes from necessity and solving real problems. There is no onus to be truly creative and come up with a creative solution to a problem if there isn't a real problem. The solution to an imaginary problem is to just imagine a solution, change the parameters, or just forget about it, since it wasn't real to begin with . The waffle cone was born of necessity to solve a real world problem, not pure flight of fantasy.

I love fantasy and imagination too, I'm just defending that I think children need to be exposed to more real world work and whatnot to allow them to be creative in their lives. Giving the child a real problem to solve is not squashing imagination, its allowing it to flourish - if you told them there was only one right answer, that would be a problem. I don't see the point of sending my child to a school where she does exactly what she does at home, I would just keep her home then. I think what she's doing in the classroom is important to round her out as a person and to help her learn to solve real problems with imagination and creativity. I want her exposed to things I don't have at home.

In our M school, rather than having a pretend kitchen, children actually wash dishes in a real sink and cut up real food - I don't see how a pretend kitchen would be better. Instead of focusing on mermaids and princesses, they learn about the real cultures around them and celebrate their customs. I guess I just don't see a problem here.
 

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My kids both went to/go to a Montessori preschool, and much as I love it, I would have been pissed off at a comment like that. Now, maybe it's true that your son would enjoy doing more concrete things at home. Who knows. But to frame his imaginative play as your "failure" is simply inexcusable and rude.

Before enrolling my first son, I asked the teacher whether they did any imaginative play at school. She said that, no, they didn't, because that kind of thing came naturally to young kids, they did a lot of it at home already, and the school wanted to offer something different, activities that parents would not necessarily have on hand or want to do. I am totally on board with this. Believe me, I don't want to turn my house into "pouring containers of beans back and forth" central. But, boy do those kids love doing it at school - along with all the rest of the "jobs" they have.

I think that, as with any system of education based on a philosophy, individual schools and teachers are going to be different in their approaches. I love my Montessori, but based on what that teacher said to you, I'd have reservations about that particular school.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you for your comment, zinemamama, and your explanation Freedom72, and your clarification mightymoo. Zinemama, you hit the nail on the head - that comment really pissed me off. It WAS offensive. This woman doesn't know me, doesn't know my son, and yet she judged me there on the spot because I told her my son likes mermaids. I didn't tell her that he often helps me cook dinner, clean, do laundry, that he helps me shop for groceries. . .

You all have said enough positive things about the program that we're still going to go check it out. And, I hadn't thought of it like that mightymoo - it might not necessarily be a bad thing to have him go to school and do different things than he does at home. I think the deciding factor is going to be what the teacher's attitude is about creativity/imaginative play. If she comes off like the directress did - that it is a negative quality and that implies a lack of parenting - that will be the end of that.
 

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I visited a local M school and asked about imaginitive play. It wasn't critical to me that they offer imaginitive play in the classroom, since ds does it all the time at home. But, I did want to make sure that if he started talking about something imaginary (right now, he loves playing "scary monster"), that he wouldn't be discouraged or somehow told it wasn't something he should do. The teacher I asked mentioned that Maria Montessori just thought younger kids should be grounded in reality. She said the kids had outdoor time for pretend play, and they read books with imaginary characters. She said they talked about the difference between real and pretend when they read the books. She also mentioned that they expected the materials to be used appropriately.

None of those responses bothered me. I saw so many positive things at the school, and all the teachers seem so caring and respectful of their students and their parents. I think that's the key difference. The directress was not respectful towards you. Instead of explaining Maria's philosophy, she went on the attack and said YOU were doing things wrong. Anytime you talk to a teacher who believes they know it all, and are only there to tell parents what they are doing wrong, it's a red flag. I think you're as likely to find that attitude at any other school as at a M.
 

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I also agree that a child should be very well-rounded and there is merit to the whole 'don't do at school exactly what you do at home' theory. I'm all for that. My problem comes in when I go in for reports and they say he's too imaginative (again, at the age of 4) and suggest that AT HOME (as well as at school), he needs to do more real-world, practical-life, activities (and he's already doing house cleaning, dishes, cooking, cheese grating, laundry, grocery shopping with me, etc). So, for our experience in particular, we're not encouraged to have that nice balance between school (real) and home (allowing for imagination). Instead, we're being pressured to replicate the school life at home and I'm finding it difficult to get past the idea of 'but he's also allowed to be a child and have his fun!' As people have implied that every school is different, I think it's a specific school problem in our case. Alaska - I look forward to hearing what you decide.
 

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Yes, I think Montessori schools can go too far in that direction. My daughter is extremely imaginative and artistic and I guess I wonder if that would have been protected enough at a Montessori school. She's 13 and has an excellent grounding in the real world- knows where it's all at better than a lot of her peers- but still has a rich imaginative life and appreciation for fantasy.

My son is so interested in the real world even at 2, that although I just visited a school, I almost wonder if he would need the Montessori curriculum.

The school I visited seemed ok regarding play- the most experienced 3-6 yo teacher said, when I questioned her, that "you can't stop play, so of course we don't try," unless they start getting crazy and silly with the materials. But she doesn't correct the children if they line the blocks up to be a train.

I visited another Montessori school years ago which was just horrible (certified and a member of all the organizations, very official). The teacher was very stern and sharp with the small children, constantly correcting them if they "misused" the materials. They actually gave literature that said you should throw away your toys and replace them with only "educational" materials. Not for me!

I think my ideal school would be more Waldorf in Early Childhood and more Montessori for first grade and beyond.
 

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Oh, I forgot what I really wanted to say!

ANY school, any teacher or administrator, should give you the strong impression that they appreciate and welcome your child no matter who he is, and that they delight in his strengths and weaknesses as part of his individuality.

So there, directress!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by alaska View Post
When I asked her if she thought my son, who loves creative play - mermaids, talking animals, drama, etc. - would benefit from Montessori, she told me that the reason he likes those things is because I am failing to give him enough concrete things to do at home.

I've thought about this comment for a long while now. It still does not sit well with me.

My question to you all - am I missing her point? For those of you who understand the Montessori philosophy, was she trying to tell me something that was maybe a bit less antagonistic than it sounded?
I think that Dr. Montessori has been slightly misunderstood on this point. If you read The Montessori Method, she never says that imagination in the sense of role playing something that a child has seen in real life has no place. In fact, there is one point at which she describes a little girl in the children's house who stands on one of the tables and pretends to be a teacher, instructing the other children. Dr. Montessori not only does not condemn this behaviour, she writes that clearly this girl has leadership skills that need to be honed and that allowing her to continue with this pretend play allows her to develop those skills. In a traditional school, the little girl would have been told to sit down and Dr. Montessori criticises this restriction in traditional schools.

What I do think that Dr. Montessori condemned and what I think too many parents and teachers are "guilty" of (for lack of a better word) is imposed fantasy - that is, "imagined" things that your child has not imagined at all but that come from Disney or fantasy books that you read to your child rather than from your child's own head. Ask yourself, when your child talks about mermaids and talking animals, how much of it is him and how much of it is just mimicking what he has been told or shown. The former is his imaginative play. The latter is not. He is just copying what he has heard. Why not tell children about the real world instead and let them develop their own imagination? Especially given that there is just so MUCH about the real world that is truly wondrous.

I don't know what your home environment is like at all but for my own DD - she does not have a clue who Nemo is. But she knows all about real fish. She does not know any Disney characters but she know about real mice and ducks and bears. What little television she has been exposed to has consisted of figure skating and tennis (when my mother babysits her) rather than cartoons and Sesame Street. Would cartoons and Sesame Street develop my child's imagination more? I don't think so. I think that if anything, they would limit it. Whenever she thought of a fish, she would think of Nemo. Whenever she thought of a make believe people, she would think of Ernie and Bert and the like (not to mention the TERRIBLE effect shows like Sesame Street can have on a child's attention span but that is a whole other can of worms). I truly believe that the more reality one is familiar with, the more creative one can truly be.

Just my two cents.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by cmlp View Post
If you read The Montessori Method, she never says that imagination in the sense of role playing something that a child has seen in real life has no place. In fact, there is one point at which she describes a little girl in the children's house who stands on one of the tables and pretends to be a teacher, instructing the other children.
I guess I'm confused - how is the above example different than 'role playing' what they've seen in the movies? Just because one is real life and the other is on tv? Because, in my view, they are both just 'mimicking' (sp?) action...and who really cares whether it's something they saw in real life or something they saw on tv? In the end, they're doing the same thing - COPYING what they witnessed.
 

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Originally Posted by jcrites View Post
I guess I'm confused - how is the above example different than 'role playing' what they've seen in the movies? Just because one is real life and the other is on tv? Because, in my view, they are both just 'mimicking' (sp?) action...and who really cares whether it's something they saw in real life or something they saw on tv? In the end, they're doing the same thing - COPYING what they witnessed.
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Absolutely. Both are copying. But some schools even believe that this type of role playing real life situations is wrong when in fact Maria Montessori never condemned this at all. She condemned encouraging children to play out fantasy that had been imposed on the child in the name of developing the child's "creativity" when in fact this is not creative play at all. Real creative play comes when the child is able to take hard information and use it in a way that has not been thought of, not imitate some fact or fantasy that someone has told him about.
 
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