My thoughts on Montessori, and how to pick out a duff

Montessori stole my heart.

Look at how it is done in this classroom.

How did Montessori win me over?

Having read Montessori from the start during the latter stages of my pregnancy with Nat, I was instantly sold on the respectful and child centered manner in which the methods have been built on.  All the theories spoke to a mother’s innate wisdom, and sounded incredibly sensible, almost like it was simply the natural thing to do.

I was subsequently about to discover the RIE parenting method and the legend of Janet Lansbury, but more about that later.

A few Montessori things 0-4 month old Nat really loved:

  • His best friend in the mirror
  • Us asking him for permission to change his diapers, pick him up etc, and doing it from the front rather than swooping from the back.
  • Playing an observer role and noticing when he is concentrating on something and not interrupting him.

I am aware of other educational theories such as Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, Multiple Intelligences, and such.  But my mind works in straight lines.  Anything that takes more than a paragraph to describe, and I’m lost.

By that point, I don’t see the difference between those theories and a good old general preschool, one I went to and had many a happy memory at.


Which Montessori?

Pulling from my weighted scored spreadsheet, Montessori for Children (Newton) came out almost tops.  I’m a purist, and so are they.  (Since then you will see that Homeschooling blew the fish out the water in my Spreadsheet, but more about that in another post)

I had done my reading and I certainly knew what I wanted in a true Montessori.  None of that diluted stuff, with “all rounded” additions of music and play which by the way a skilled directress should already be able to fit into their cultural studies.  Many “modern Montessoris” have evolved due to parents’ pressures to teach a k2 curriculum in fear their child won’t fit in.  Those are not the Montessoris I’m looking for.

Montessori when done well, will result in children who thrive far beyond their primary one syllabus and provide more longer lasting love for learning!

How to pick out a duff Montessori?

Work cycles
A montessori isn’t a montessori when it doesn’t adhere to 2-3h work cycles, as flow is developed during this time.  Real work is deep, immersive, and children generally get into the hum halfway in.

Montessori materials
Not just the display of it, but directresses who are able to prime a child well in using them, and be able to recognise their need to linger and master a certain set of apparatus, or to encourage when they’re ready to move onto more challenging work sets.

The materials were created based on the belief that we need sensory input to be able to truly understand a concept.  To be able to touch 5 beads and have a clear mental and sensory memory of what the number 5 really stands for.

What better time to go back to Montessori and sensorial methods, as our modern world’s default is a skew towards the overuse of media and screen time.  This results in sensory processing issues in our young ones, leading to learning difficulties.

Life skills
They should allow children to practice their life skills as part of their chosen activity (snack preparation, setting the table, cleaning the floor, picking up dead leaves in the garden) as Montessori promotes independence of the person.

Mixed age classrooms
It is a challenge for teachers to manage mixed age classrooms, yet this is not negotiable in the Montessori philosophy.   This is where kids interact and develop social skills and virtues such as patience, assertiveness, cooperation, sharing from others.

In the real world, we are all mixed in ages anyway!

Older kids also gain a tonne of confidence from being able to teach the younger ones, and what greater evidence of true mastery when one can teach others!

AMI trained staff
Having staff that are AMI/AMS trained is a bonus, but the culture of the school is just as important.   If you put an AMI trained directress in a fake montessori, you’re going to get a fake montessori experience.

MFC, or the Casa dei Bambini at Newton and Broadrick Road, adheres closely with the methods, without any additional “enrichments”.

Other authentic Montessoris worth a mention:

  • First bridge (Bishan, passionate founder)
  • Green Tree (Yishun,  Great space with lots of nature!)
  • Little Hands (Paterson road, expat oriented, mandarin taught in separate lessons not a bilingual classroom)
  • Little woods (Newton, yet to visit)
  • P and J montessori (Thomson)
  • Brainy child (Orchard, opportunity for Japanese lessons, no outdoor space but enough field trips.  Yet to visit)

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