After any decision is made, there is a pause for breath. In part, it is a breath of relief--perhaps the removal of anxiety making space in the chest for air. Perhaps it's a sigh of resignation, and the extra breathing room comes from letting go of a fight. Or it could be a deep breath before the dive into a new adventure.
As I contemplated my decision about Nuvy's next year of preschool, I had a parallel imagination of the future of this blog. It was sure to take one of two courses. Either we would stay with our lovely neighborhood co-op school, and my writing would shift to a discussion of how my Montessori sensibility would comingle with an excellent non-Montessori early childhood experience, or we would spend the next few years discussing the finer points of primary Montessori education from my triple-mirror perspective as parent, infant-toddler teacher, and primary administrator.
So, I went to visit the Neighborhood Catholic Montessori (hereafter referred to as NCM). I did not get what I wanted. What I wanted was for NCM to help me make the easiest possible choice, the choice to stay right where, happily, I was. I wanted NCM to be nice, but not too nice. Not nice enough to leave the co-op for. Not nice enough to be missed. No such luck.
Everything was picture perfect. Practical life was full of coordinated yellow trays topped with various vessels of green-dyed water for transferring activities, full of peacefully busy children. Children pouring, sponging, eating snack three at a time at the snack table, washing hands in a ceramic basin, hanging paintings on the wall, introducing themselves to me with direct gazes and outstretched hands, I was home.
Geography was populated with children punching and filling in maps of South America. Language housed a small child (maybe an older three or a young four?) surrounded by a bevy of five year old girls giving him sound lessons with a box of tiny objects. In math, someone was tracing the hundred board, and another child was doing coin work (a material my school did not have). As many Montessori teachers would expect for 11am, the sensorial area was a ghost town, but it was devoid of dust, and clearly all the materials had regular use.
I toured the elementary 1-3 class, which was equally delectable, taught by a sister of Saint Joseph who wore pants and a black turtleneck sweater, an arty sort of cross necklace, and a demeanor that indicated a lifelong devotion to doing just what she was doing--just then and there. If there were such a thing, she seemed like my kind of nun. In this class, no fewer than four children came to me, apparently unbidden, to introduce themselves, ask my name, and shake my hand with the same confidence with which they met my gaze. I raised my impressed eyebrows to their teacher , and she beamed and shrugged saying, "oh, they're the welcoming committee." Oh, let me tell you, I was sunk.
So, we are going to catholic Montessori school next year. Yes, there will be Hail Marys and Our Fathers to be sure, and there will be no celebrations of Diwali or Eid or Kwanzaa or Purim. I will miss those. But we will have the pink tower and the broad stair and the banker's game and the map cabinet. We will have sandpaper letters and the hundred board. And yes, Virginia, we will have line time and the birthday ritual and constructive triangles and knobbed cylinders, too.
As excited as I am, it is a wistful excitement. I love our preschool. Nuvy has been so tenderly loved and nurtured there this year. And though she may have only the faintest windswept memories of this place, I will remember. It's hard to leave the co-op, with all its parent control and home-made snacks. I felt a hitch in my breath at NCM when I saw the anonymous, ubiquitous animal crackers and juice provided for snack--easy self-service items for the snack table. I will miss my monthly co-op day, and everyone else's, too. It's a great community, and a great place for children, but having seen what I've always imagined I wanted for my child, I just can't let her miss it.