Sorry, Did You Say Montessori?

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Back in the 90’s, my parents sent me to a Montessori preschool. I remember singing lots of songs and being proud of this avenue of education that my parents chose for me.

Proud that my parents took the time to consider an alternative educational experience for me. Proud that I was given the opportunity as a child to be creative and move at my own pace.

Proud that I was a Montessori kid.

For most of my childhood, I forgot about that pride. I simply lived the same life as my peers who didn’t attend Montessori preschools. I went to college with other students who never experienced the prepared environment of that Montessori classroom.

And guess what. Turns out, I was no better than any of my peers. I was simply me, and all that my life (nature and nurture) had molded together to make me.

And I was proud of myself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a mother, I have learned that there is no “right” way to educate our children.

Both of my boys are at a public Montessori school in downtown Charleston, which we absolutely adore. I can’t imagine being at a different school.

But I will never think that their school, or even the Montessori program, is the one and only way for a child to learn. It works for our boys and our lifestyle but isn’t so special for others and that’s okay.

Let me take a step back and go through the basic Montessori ideas for anyone who might be interested.

What is Montessori education?

First off, when you step into a Montessori environment, it looks completely different than that of a traditional classroom here in the United States. The furniture is all light wood, the shelves are neatly organized with manipulatives or works, and the age of the students is diverse.

Yep, I said it right. The age range of students in a single class covers a three-year span. For instance, my youngest son (four years old) is in a classroom with 3, 4, and 5-year-olds. And it goes up from there (1st, 2nd, 3rd grade, etc.). The children are encouraged to help one another with their work, building social skills and allowing children to learn from one another.

The classroom is arranged with wooden shelves throughout the room and a few small desks or tables for the students to work at. Each student has their own mat that they use when they work on the floor with their manipulatives.

And let me tell you, watching a two-year-old roll up a mat ever so gently might be the cutest thing out there.

One of the super cool areas of the Montessori classroom is Practical Life, which has made MY life as a mom so much easier. Practical Life skills involve things like pouring water, carrying a glass cup, buttoning or tieing, and cleaning up. True story – they teach the kids the proper way to clean up.

Okay, time to be honest. My kids don’t clean up. They may know how, but executing that skill at home is a whole entirely different thing.

There is SO much information about the Montessori way, I can’t possibly explain it all in this short article, but I encourage you to do your research if you are interested.

I will leave you with one little bit of Montessori teaching that has encouraged me to continue sending my kids to school to learn this way, and that is the Peace Rose.

If you have kids that are anything like mine, they fight. They argue. And they don’t always get along with every person they meet. Normal, yes.

The Peace Rose is an actual flower in the Montessori classroom where two students who may be disagreeing about something can come together and talk. Peacefully. The teacher will instruct them how to speak to each other while at the Peace Rose, and conflicts in the classroom can be resolved between the two students. GENIUS!

Okay, same as the cleaning thing – this doesn’t always work at home. But just having this form of conflict resolution at such a young age makes me hopeful for how my children and their peers will mentally handle conflict when they grow up.

Back to the point of this article which is this: If you are interested in Montessori schools, I completely encourage and support you!

In that same breath, I know that my children are not any better than yours because they are in a Montessori school. There are pros and cons to both traditional and Montessori programs, and choosing what is best for your family is my ultimate suggestion.

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Amber Weakley grew up in Charleston and is happily raising her 2 boys in this beautiful city. She is the Outreach Coordinator for Postpartum Support Charleston where helping other mothers is her life’s mission. After the birth of both of her boys, she struggled with Postpartum Depression and Bipolar 2. Amber is currently in school to become a Licensed Counselor to specialize in Maternal Mental Health. She has been married for 10 years to her high school sweetheart, and fills her cup by doing yoga, journaling, and going on adventures with her family.

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