It was with privileged optimism that I enrolled my sons at a Montessori preschool during a “sensitive period” of my own during which I needed to assume less responsibility for their growth and development. Conceived of by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, at the turn of the 20th century, many of her ideas were refined while observing mentally challenged children, or children, as it were.
Over the course of my boys’ collective five years at the school, I watched as they became once-removed embodiments of the movement: they didn’t so much subscribe to freedom within limits as they did freedom with no limits. But heh… organic tom-a-to, organic tom-ah-to.
Montessori, in certain primary colored circles of parenting, is a synonym for order, beauty, harmony and nature—words that can only be used to describe a place one takes their children to, never the place the children reside. But I soon realized that while my sons took to the environment like nut-free butter on a seed-free cracker, I was not as capable of falling in line with the neon vest-wearing, bubble-taking (that’s Montessori speak for “shut your mouth and take a deep breath”) little humans on a hike through the park.
Here are nine* things I’ve discovered from sending my kids to Montessori:
#1: No matter who brings snack, the room always smells like farts and apples.
#2: I will not attend a “Montessori in the Home” lecture simply because it would hurt to hear how un-Montessori our home is (and will stay). A rotating, carefully curated selection of books displayed at a time? Let me direct you to the overflowing shelves of overdue library books in each room. Strictly wooden toys? I keep those for myself and give my kids battery-operated plastic. Child-height hooks and cabinets? No way! I decide what comes down and when. (The joke’s on me, though, as is clean-up.)
#3: I am actually sending my children to Montessori for the colorful plastic (gotcha!) beaded bracelets I am gifted each week.
#4: I outsource everything. This began with having boys so that down the line my husband would have to parent more, and it’s continued with the relegating of tasks I’d never attempt to teach my kids myself: buttoning, pouring, chewing… counting. Is it amiss that I don’t correct my son when he disrespectfully calls one of his teachers “the bathroom teacher?”
#5: Birthday celebrations are Pagan sun worship ceremonies in disguise. I love ritual, and the Montessori birthday one is touching. It involves setting up the sun, a candle, and a globe, and inviting the child to walk around the sun clutching the globe to signify each passing year of his or her life. It’s cool. It’s creepy.
#5a: Birthday-related: Never before and never again will you witness 15 two and three-year olds wait, hands folded like nuns, in front of a School Safe® mini cupcake that requires a microscope to see.
#6: Work with your child day—a scheduled time to see what your kid is working on each morning during his three-hour work cycle may be a disappointment. (Or 2.25-hour, if you drop off late like me—see #7.) Since children can only do work that has been demonstrated to them, you might get stuck in the practical life area hammering nails into putty or in art making more bracelets. (Yessss!)
#7: There’s nothing I like better than a drop-off grace period that lasts for 60 minutes. You say drop-off is between 8am-9am? I say, “See you at 9:15ish!” If my son is in a scooting mood, it might be 8:55,” and when my three-year old innocently asks, “Mommy…are we yate?” I mumble a reply and usher him past the threshold beyond which I am not allowed. Yate, shmate… how about teaching my son to say his L’s?!**
#8: Deepening a child’s connection to nature is best left to others. I rely on Montessori’s “outdoor classroom” to provide my child with adequate fresh air on a daily basis so that I don’t have to. I can keep him locked inside the apartment the rest of the time doing arts and crafts and baking (things I like to do). Rain or shine, sleet or one-of-a-kind snowflakes, that outdoor gear better be put to use so that my kid’s cheeks are as chapped as a Finn’s when I come to pick him up (ten minutes late).
#9: The teachers have bionically calm voices. This makes my regular speaking voice appear like I am yelling!! BLUE ROOM TEACHERS!!!… Please speak at a f#@cking normal decibel level so that my everyday tone does not come across like an eastern screech owl!! (I bet you thought I didn’t have the head for nature. Thank you, Google…)
* Montessori triangulates around multiples of three: three-year developmental stages, the three-hour work cycle. I might poke fun, but I am paying attention.
** I actually yove the way my son says his L’s and would throw artificial flowers on Maria’s grave if the teachers took it upon themselves to improve his diction.
About the author: Rachel Abrams designs, writes, dances and mothers in Harlem, NY. Find here at http://www.rachelink.com/, on https://www.facebook.com/rachelink sometimes, https://twitter.com/rachelink rarely, and https://www.instagram.com/rachelink/?hl=en twice ever.