Friday, July 5, 2013

A Montessori love story

The campus was idyllic and beautiful: big shady trees, picket fences, playgrounds, and gardens for the children to upkeep. But as we toured the Montessori school with its owner there was something about this serene scene that was bothering me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Then she asked: “Were there any complications with your pregnancy? And how did your childbirth go?”

Say what?!? What does this have to do with my son going to your school? Diplomatic ole’ me just answered her questions politely and then powwowed with my husband Brian afterward, only to find out we were thinking the same thing: let’s keep searching.

As I’ve mentioned before, we fell in love with the Montessori Method of education when Brian worked in marketing and development for a local Montessori school. While I was pregnant with Jake, the vision and plan was to incorporate Montessori aspects into his home environment (although it took some time for me to embrace this – after all, the crib is the traditional centerpiece one builds her dream nursery around) and then enroll him in the school’s toddler program at 18 months.

When Brian changed jobs several months ago, it was bittersweet. I was thrilled that a new and exciting door had opened for him, but it meant another door closed for Jake. We couldn’t logistically make it work now to send him to the school that made us fall in love with Montessori. So we placed him in daycare and vowed to go Montessori searching at around 18 months, the typical enrollment age, to find a school that would work for us.

Today, we are utterly enamored with a 19-month-old little boy who is already so curious, observant, charming, hands-on, independent, clever, confident and sponge-like. I’m more anxious than ever to find a Montessori environment that will fit for us because I think he would really thrive in it.

What has become obvious to me during our search is that there are varying degrees of the Method being employed in “Montessori schools” in the area. Some lean on the term in their marketing materials to attract families with no real substance behind the promise, while others operate mostly like a daycare but weave in bits and pieces of the Method.

Yet others, like one we visited today, come close to being on point but are a near-miss for being “true” Montessori. I could feel Brian internally cringing as we walked through the toddler room with bright plastic toys and (gasp!) a small television, which the guide assured us is used sparingly in a pinch. But the other rooms looked and felt like traditional Montessori to me. And, most importantly, there was a warmth and a heart to the place at first blush that makes a huge difference – and that was missing, I think, from the peaceful yet strange campus that seemingly followed the Method to a tee.

I don’t think any school is perfect. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the give and take you’re willing to live with – what’s most important to you, what you can and can’t sacrifice in an environment for your child. Once you answer those questions, I think you’re on track to finding a good fit.

I don’t know yet if we’ll find it, but we’ll keep looking. Everyone knows true love is hard to find.

Megan Brooks is a Senior Public Relations Specialist for Texas Health Resources who is also a Stepmom and Mom.

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