Friday, January 09, 2009

The Graduate

She's three now. This means she's outgrown my Assistants to Infancy training and poised for primary. Now we have a decision to make.

Right now, Nuvy's enjoying our neighborhood co-op nursery school, which is sweet and lovely, very play-centered and child-centered, and lots of parent involvement (with the co-op thing and all). She is there because she was too young this year for the area Montessori primary programs, and I didn't find an infant-toddler Montessori program within half an hour's drive. It was an easy choice. It's very well thought of in our area, and with good reason.

The next choice, however, is not so easy. We love our preschool, but it is not a Montessori program. The philosophy combines some traditional elements, some Montessori-appropriate elements, lots of Waldorf-appropriate elements, and a lot of attention to detail, which makes for a really lovely preschool. However, I'm wondering if I will be able to square my Montessorian educational philosophy with this approach. No Montessori handwashing, no beautiful lunch, no long chains, no practical life, no work mats, no birthday ritual, no gardening, these are the elements of the Montessori Curriculum that made me fall in love.

On the other hand, she's happy. It's very close to home, so the community is made up of our neighbors. It feeds some very nice elementary schools. The nearest Montessori program that is like the ones I'm used to is half an hour's commute away (but it's fantastic!). The nearer program is well reputed, but it's a religious school, which I'm not sure is what we're looking for. (we had our ups and downs as non-catholics in a catholic school as kids. If we're doing religion, I think I want it on my own terms.) There are a few other "Montessori" schools nearby, but none has passed my sniff test. (One "lost its accreditation and is working toward restoring it"

So now I'm torn. Do I take a chance and move her to the local catholic-infused Montessori school (yes, I know Montessori was a catholic--but she was not running a Catholic School.)? Do I haul her out to the main line every day to attend the grande dame Montessori in town? If I leave her where she is, will I squander her absorbent mind? Will it just be absorbent, and get all the good stuff regardless? Can I fill in the practical life at home? Will I make her teachers hate me with all my Montessori crap? Could I ever forgive myself (no matter what I decide) if she has trouble in high school?

The re-enrollment form is due at the end of January. So I have a few weeks to think about it. Oh, wouldn't you rather just talk about Van's infant-toddler development?


My Child's Diary said...

Oh I identify so much with your hesitations! I think that what matters after all is what happens at your home. No school, no matter how good would it be, will substitute your relations with your daughter and what your educational philosophy with her. You can always do Montessori works with her at home. Maybe you should ask Nuvy where she would like to go. How did she feel in this Montessori school in town? I wouldn't send her to the catholic school - it might be a little confusing for her, if you are not doing religion at home, don't you think? No matter what your decision is, do whatever make you feel comfortable. And yes, I am sure you would learn to forgive yourself for the mistakes you make while deciding for Nuvy. I bet that making mistakes and forgiving yourself are among other things you would like to teach her. Good luck!

NOLA mom said...

It's wonderful you have so many great choices! I am trying to figure out school for my 4 yr old as well, but am considerably stressed out about it, because we have limited choices and so many complications...

So I like pondering your situation better. ;)

Did you look at the Catholic Montessori school? I live in a very Catholic education city, and there is a lot of variety in how the schools operate. Some are very old school, traditional Catholic school environments, much like the kind I was educated in (no thanks), but a few of the more expensive, in-demand independent Catholic schools are very progressive.

Also, one of the schools I looked at was Episcopalian, which isn't my religion, but I fell in love with it. Surprisingly, one of things I liked best was their religion class, which focused on things like community, respect and conflict resolution, and didn't just drill bible lessons. Anyway, you never know unless you check it out, right?

My philosophy so far is to find the best fit for the child. I live in a town where people plan which private high school their children will attend from the cradle and then just enroll in all the feeder schools. The child is meant to fit the school rather than the other way around. It sounds like Nuvy would be successful in any number of educational settings (what a blessing!) so this may not narrow your choice much, but you've spent her entire life carefully observing her and documenting your observations and reflections, so no one knows her better. I'll bet you know the answer.

PS what do you think of Waldorf?

thesecretofchildhood said...

I would go with Montessori - a half hour drive is really not that much. Think about Nuvy's whole education that lies before her. Which part do you think is the most important? The beginning or the later stages. The early years not only lay the foundation for all other learning, but they are also the period in which the child develops their basic attitude towards learning and school. My parents sent me to Montessori preschool (2-6) and then to a regular school (there was no Montessori elementary school). My mother still claims - to anyone who'll listen - that Montessori set me up for a school career of academic ease and success. I agree with her. You can never regain those lost years. Obviously Montessori done badly is worse than any other option, as all it does is create a child who develops neither academically nor socially. So go with the best Montessori school you can find. If there is none that you are entirely happy with - I would suggest that you use your current little preschool once or twice a week for some social time, and then spend the rest at home. You set up such a wonderful infant environment for Nuvy when she was born. I'm sure that you can do the same for her now.