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.