Saturday, November 10, 2007

Finally the one about the school...

Originally, we were planning on home schooling the kids because our public school system has been taken over by the state and lost it's accreditation. There are private and parochial options but we didn't want to do either of those for a couple of different reasons. Private schools that I would want to have my kids in run about $12,000 a year per child. Even if we got a free ride, we still wouldn't have sent them. Chowder and I have worked hard to give our children an understanding of the abundance in which we live. While we may not have a lot, we have plenty. We have chosen to surround our family in a neighborhood and community where materialism is not so much an issue because we all have pretty much nothing. But....plenty. If our kids were to go to one of these private schools, they would be the poor kids. Instead of living a life feeling you have everything you could ever need, my kids would always be made to feel like they didn't have enough. Does that make sense to anyone but Chowder and I?

When we first moved into our neighborhood everyone told us we had to get our kids into "Greatest School" Montessori Preschool. We looked into "Greatest School" Montessori Preschool and saw the tuition and said, "YIKES!" but wow, what a great place. A school that was warm and safe and challenging and looked like my neighborhood. Oh well.

Then last Spring, Chowder got a call from the director of "Greatest School" Montessori Preschool, and asked about the possibility of renting space in the church's basement where a Head Start Program used to be held. They had a few meetings and told Chowder about their dream of becoming a Charter fully Montessori Elementary School. Well, God's hand stirred things around a little bit and now we have "Greatest School" Montessori right across the street from our house and next year it will be free.

Right now they have two rooms, a 3-6 yr old room and a 6-9 yr old room. There are two Master teachers in each room with a maximum of 12 students per room. Eventually, they will add a 9-12 yr old room.

We were a little concerned about the transition because none of them had ever gone to school or daycare, but there was no need to worry. One of the cool things about this set up is that 2 out of every 3 years, all three of the kids will be in the same room. I love that! So, now they are in the 3-6 yr old room and go 4 mornings a week from 8:30-11:30a.

I have heard a lot of the criticisms about Montessori education and have not run into any of the issues that they talk about. On the contrary, my kids are doing extremely well in this environment. It has something for each of them. For Meatball it has the mastering specific tasks, for Porkchop it fills his need for productive, hands-on work, for Jellybean it gives her a chance to explore a large range of activities and to reinforce her knowledge by letting her "teach" the younger ones in the room.

I am amazed at how much they have grown-up in the last two months. Porkchop is really gaining a new confidence and individuality that is so fun to see. Meatball and Jellybean are reading first and second grade books! When they started school in September we had just begun Phonics Pathways at home. Is it because they are exceptionally bright or the teacher is exceptionally wonderful? I don't think so. I think the Montessori Method allows children to develop when they are ready. Meatball and Jellybean were ready to learn how to read and they were in an environment that let them run with it. If they were at the Preschool Skaterboy went to, they would still be in the ABCs phase and they would have to stay at the same level as everyone else, perhaps missing that prime time when they were really open to the concept.

For those, who think Montessori elementary is a lonely solitary thing, I can only show these pictures of a 6-9 year old room. Yes, there are desks off in quiet areas where children can choose to go to do their work, but much of the strength of this environment is the communal learning from each other.

We are so thankful that God led this school to us and that we have been given to them to help support and champion them. I knew I'd get along well with the parents when they held one of the school fundraisers at a neighborhood pub! These are people I can hang with! And they care so much about their kids' educations and about the school. It just feels so good when you know your family is in the right place.


Valerie said...

I love your ratios. Sarah's school has 24 per classroom (8 kids/age), one Montessori-certified teacher and one non-certified assistant. It's pretty big, with 5 Casa classes, 2 Elementary, 1 Senior Elementary and one Adolescent (only 4 kids in the latter). I'm not sure we'll keep her in that long, but it's a great school, so we'll see how it goes. Glad you found a good one.

Asha said...

I've been wondering about the school post! It really does sound like a wonderful school. I'm so happy this worked out for your family.

Melanie said...

Sounds like a wonderful scenario for your family!

Anonymous said...

Wow, aren't you super blessed! Sounds amazing. I was an assistant at a Montessori school for a year or so and did half of the course. Tertia did a quarter cos of her attention span or lack thereof.
I want to do a post about home schooling sometime. The Lordy folk in SA love it but I could never do it personally.