It's the first day of Nathan's last year of preschool! We took the plunge and made what felt like a huge decision in changing schools from where we have been for the last three years. We felt that while the old school had a lot to offer, they may have been missing the essence of our particular kid. Montessori philosophy seeks to encourage a love of learning while following the child in their own interests and pace, that did not seem to be occurring with Nathan. We felt he was being shut down rather than encouraged to bloom in his own unique way.
When I was introduced to the practices in a Montessori classroom; I was told that before the child was allowed to "work" with a particular material, he had to be given a "lesson" on that material (and it's intended use). After said lesson, I was told the child could "work" with it in any way he chose, so long as it was respectful. One of our first red flags was when his teacher made a point to tell us that he turned whatever materials he could into instruments. This was mentioned as though it were a problem simply in the material being used differently than its prescribed use, not because it was loud or boisterous. We were glad she told us of her concerns; we thought it was smart, creative, and a peek into the heart of our child.
Encinitas Country Day is a few miles from my office, it is still Montessori, but with a heavy play overlay and a much less strict interpretation and execution of the Montessori philosophy. The campus feels like a handful of quaint rural cottages surrounding two huge playgrounds on two different levels. A far cry from the tiny outdoor concrete space the kids are limited to at the old place. They have at least two outdoor playtimes, which may well transition to three or four depending on drop off and pick up times. It is a newly formed class so it's small and all the kids and even the teachers are all new together. A weekly gymnastics class and a music class are part of the curriculum, to which we added a keyboard class to support his continued interest in music and specifically the piano after his encounter with one in Ventura over the weekend.
We are looking forward to the Halloween parade and the Thanksgiving Feast created from all the vegetables the kids will harvest from the gardens they are tending outside each classroom cottage .
I am here to update a week and a half in; Nathan seems very happy with the change. There has been nary a tear and he's come home singing new songs, talking of plans for tomorrow, and generally happy to go back each day. So far, we are thrilled.