The Philosophy of an Elementary Montessori classroom – Part I

Having a strong aversion to public schooling, as well as a stronger aversion to the methods of education used in the public system, my two youngest daughters have been enrolled in a local Montessori school for the past three years. We were drawn to the Montessori method of teaching as it promised a proper development of early childhood education, working from concrete manifestations of mathematical and language concepts to enable the child to integrate from hands-on tangible materials to reach abstract understanding of the represented concepts. In the “primary” years (ages 3-5) this general technique was applied mostly consistently, and our children have excelled, reaching levels of reading and writing skill, and an understanding of simple arithmetic, far beyond average for their age.

As Elisabeth, the older of these two sisters, moved into the Lower Elementary classroom last year, however, we began to see signs of a change in the philosophy of the education approach. A “character education” component was added, nominally to develop inter-personal skills within the children, but we found it odd that this was being run by the Yoga instructor. Upon the tragic departure of the main teacher in this classroom, the teacher’s assistant (a former public school teacher with no Montessori training)became the main teacher, and the Yoga instructor (also with no Montessori training)was now the teacher’s assistant. A retired Montessori trainer was hiredpart time to assistin the structuing of the curriculum.

Then,after a few months passed, we started seeing a more bothersome injection into the classroom. This Yoga instructor (who is also an ordained minister)began to use the character educationcomponent as a forumfor introducing New Age ideas tothe elementary classroom.Elisabeth began speaking of “crystals” in our bodies which can be affected by music. She was told that her thoughts can physically affect other children. That a wound will feel better if she sends it “happy thoughts”, and that inanimate objects can be affected by her emotions. We confronted the school administration with this on a handful of occasions, and were told that the instructor had been told to curtail this material, and to separate her personal beliefs from what was taught in class. We accepted this, though with skepticism.

After these events at the end of last school year, we discussed our options during the summer. The possibility of having my wife (Kim) leave her career to home-school the children had become more of a viable option, both financially, and because of the stress of her work environment, and the concerns over the elementary curriculum. After allowing the school year to start, and Elisabeth now entering the second year of the elementary classroom, Kim finally decided to indeed leave her job. The actual trigger event for this final decision occured at work, with yet another run-in between Kim and her supervisor over taking a few hours off while I was on travel, to allow her to pick up and drop off the children from school (I should mention here for the general reader that my wife and I work for the same company). After another three weeks of wrestling with the decision, Kim resigned and began preparing for home schooling.

But the real point of relating this story is the final meeting we had with the administrator and the elementary teaching staff. This meeting was suggested by the administrator, and was meant to determine if the elementary curriculum had enough in common with our personal beliefs for the education of Elisabeth to continue. (The school was considering offering us a financial aid package to allow both Elisabeth and Victoria to continue at a rate we could afford now that Kim was no longer working). In the next posting, I will relate the amazing content of this discussion.

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1 thought on “The Philosophy of an Elementary Montessori classroom – Part I

  1. Debbie

    How are you? I want to thank you for sharing your story. I am now going through a very hard transition with Our daughter Gabriella in Public school, after attending a Montessori school in town. I am considering home schooling Gabriella (ready to pull her out now, but I am a firm believer in once you start something you must complete it,much like the montessori works)starting next school . I am hoping there will be a middle and high montessori school in town for future years.
    I am hoping everything worked out for your two girls.
    Thanks again for your story, it was very inspiring.

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