Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Vision for Sean

I recently attended a meeting with some school district folks and the teachers and principal of Sean's school.
I won't go into the whole thing here, as it would be boring for most people who have no connection to a public school. However, I was there to speak, and pretty much shared a very brief version of the Montessori journey that we've had up to now. I made clear my commitment to giving Sean a Montessori education.
At the end of that, and I was the last speaker, I said I had made a list of what I want for Sean. I believe Montessori will provide these things for him, and I then read the list. One of the district people asked for a copy of it, and then I heard feedback from some parents and teachers about it, so I decided to share it here with anyone who might be reading this blog.

Things I want for Sean:
CHOICE. Empowerment.  Peace. Love of learning. Freedom. Ownership.
A feeling of responsibility for his own education.
Excitement for each thing in his environment and each thing he is learning. Awareness of the world around him, feeling connected to every living thing.
A sense of awe of the universe.
Pride in his ability and work ethic that is intrinsic and not from outside of himself.
A focus on the effort, not the test score or the grade on a paper or report card.
The ability to adapt to different situations and people.
Basic manners, and respect.
How to recognize emotions and deal with them in a constructive and healthy way.
Respect for adults, but not dependence on their ideas and opinions.
Respect for peers, no matter what their challenges may be.
The ability to look at a challenge in his life and figure out a way to meet it, and tackle it.
Know how to work with a team and also work alone, and know when to rely on another person.
Philanthropy, or at least how to recognize injustice and need, and go about formulating a plan to help others.
A sense of contentment for who he is, not striving to be someone he is not.
A hunger for knowledge, and a desire to be a lifelong learner.

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions
 in which they can learn. – Einstein

Friday, November 5, 2010


I've become very involved with Sean's public Montessori school. I'm serving as the chair of the site council, maintaing almost daily contact with his teacher, and meeting quite a few parents.
It really is like another job, but I believe it is even more important than a job. I'm on the inside, helping to steer the direction of the school. It is a new challenge for me, and not something I imagined I would be doing when we made the decision to enroll.

We're facing challenges. The rooms are filled with Neinhuis materials for Children's House and classrooms for first and second graders. Next year the second graders will become third graders and remain in the same rooms as they welcome the new first graders into the classrooms.
My hesitation in the beginning had to do with whether they were using true Montessori materials and hiring Montessori teachers. I feared it was either some Montessori materials, or all materials, but public instruction.

I think some parents are there because it is the neighborhood school. Some chose it for their children because they heard it was a Montessori school. Then there are a few like me who have had their children in a Montessori school and this one is free.

I'm probably the most experienced parent. I was involved with the private school at a small level, basically volunteering and hoping to soak up as much information as possible during observation days, conferences and parent ed nights.
Last year I homeschooled, so I had to try to stay one step ahead. I learned more than I thought possible and mostly by staying connected to other homeschooling parents through a yahoo group. I don't know everything, and I'm not Montessori trained.

What I know is what I want for my child. And I know that is a Montessori education.
What I know I don't want is some watered down version of it that is morphed into something that will meet state standards and be used to teach to a test so the district can "measure" the success of the school.
I know that just because a sign says Montessori doesn't mean the children inside that building are getting a true Montessori education. There are debates even within Montessori circles about what it means to be a Montessori school.

For me it means allowing the child to develop and learn at his or her own pace, respecting them where they are in their development and not trying to force information into their heads, or expect them to "perform."

I plan to start asking some questions of the higher ups within the district very soon. Questions like, "What made you decide to open a public Montessori school and what did you hope to achieve?" "Why Montessori?" and "What is it about Montessori that you believe works?"
These should be easy to answer, so I hope I get answers that align with Montessori philosophy.