Each weekday, I pick my three-year-old daughter, the younger of my two children, up from her Montessori Children’s House community at noon. Our commute home can range from five to fifteen minutes in duration, because of five sets of traffic lights. On the days when every traffic light turns red, the journey can be less than smooth sailing. “Drive, mama, DRIVE,” she begs as I come to a halt. I look back at her tired eyes, and there’s nothing I want more than to keep moving. With empathy and firm-ness I respond, “You don’t want mama to stop the car. You really, really wish I could drive so we could be home quickly. But the light is red and it means stop, and I will drive when it turns green.”
I have recently become aware that in the arena of Montessori parenting, I am quite the old fuddy-duddy. My first child was born in an age before the release of the iPhone 3G. Conversely, by the time my second child entered the Children’s House, I owned an iPhone larger than the size of her head!
The very first article I read that sold me on Montessori did not have the word “Montessori” anywhere in it. Seven years ago, when our first child was at the cusp of transitioning from baby to toddler, my husband and I walked into a Prospective Parent class at a local Montessori school. Until that evening we had understood Montessori to be an alternative method of education worth investigating. We walked out with several handouts, one of which was written by the founder of the school, Donna Bryant Goertz, and titled “Owner’s Manual for a Child.” It is written from the point of view of a child in the first plane of development and begins with these words, “Dear Parent, I want to be like you. I want to be just like you, but I want to become like you in my own way, in my own time, and by my own efforts. I want to watch you and imitate you”. I still possess my copy from that evening: creased, tear-stained, and printed on green paper.
I remember the first time I ever heard the question. It was during my first or second week of high school, and in one of my classes someone asked, “Is this going to be on the test?” I was sitting in my freshman science class and my first thought was, “Why would it matter?”
Since leaving the classroom recently, after thirty-some years in the delightful company of children, I have spent a considerable portion of my time leading the development of the parent education programs for our school. It has given me a new and different joy, and a great appreciation for parents. It is an honor to work so closely with parents who are the primary educators of our children, who are the children’s models, their supporters, and their greatest source of love and admiration.
Soon enough our early elementary classrooms will be filling once again with children excited to begin the new school year. Among the happy faces will be those of the youngest children, those who are making the leap into the second plane of development and experiencing for the first time the elementary environment that we will have so carefully prepared for them. In all the excitement of welcoming the new children, let us not forget their parents – for their parents, too, may be new to the elementary and just as much in transition as their children.
The school I observed is about as good as it gets in public education. It’s a “Blue Ribbon”, “California Distinguished” school, with standardized test scores in the top 5% of the state. It has families all over the city vying for spots. The principal, whom I had the pleasure to talk to at length, is a kind man and a good listener; he struck me as the type of educator deeply dedicated to providing the students in his charge with a quality education.
Imagine that you have just entered a special event.
Everyone is already there and has begun to eat their meals, having already had time to hang their coats, get a drink, find their table and get to know the people next to you and across from you before the special guest speaks.
You have arrived late and haven’t had time to do any of the above. It’s almost an arresting feeling to walk in the door and realize how late you are. I mean, it didn’t seem like things were running that far behind, right?