Why have you chosen Montessori education through the elementary years for your children?
We were not happy with our public school option, but the main reason we stayed was because we hoped that our children’s love of learning would continue to grow in the elementary program, and it has.
Is there a moment when you knew the Montessori elementary program was the right choice for your family?
There was not a specific moment when we knew a Montessori elementary education was the right choice for our family, but we have long recognized that Montessori is a good fit for each of our children for different reasons. M is a very physical child. Moving around in the classroom and being able to touch the materials is a huge benefit to him. For G, the social interaction with children of all ages helps foster her already nurturing spirit, and gives her an opportunity to lead. And the group work is a good fit for L who is very gregarious.
How do you think the Montessori elementary program affected your children’s development?
Our children are well-rounded thanks to their Montessori elementary education. We are most proud of our children’s empathy and willingness to help those in need – traits that are emphasized in a Montessori elementary program. The program also has encouraged our kids to be curious and has taught them that they are part of a much larger world. In addition, our children have learned to speak confidently and to articulate themselves clearly. They are also very independent.
Do you see any differences between your children and children attending non-Montessori programs?
We see many differences between our children and non-Montessori educated children. One of the biggest differences is that our children have a certain “grace” about them. They have a rambunctious side, like all children, but for the most part they are in control of their behavior and are able to self-moderate. Our children also love to read and write. They have very little screen time, but they don’t seem to miss it.
What does your children’s school day look like?
The children start their day with a work of their choice. When the work is completed, they record it in their journal and choose a second work. After they complete their second work and record it in their journal, it is usually time for cleanup. The kids then sit together and either sing or have class meetings. Next, they go to the park to play followed by lunch. After lunch, the children cleanup and read silently. They then work in the afternoon. At the end of the day, the teacher sometimes reads to the children, or the children present their finished works. Recently, several of the children presented plays they created based on some of their research projects.
Can you describe the work journal and how it is used?
Each day the children record their school day in a work journal, and at the end of each week, they review their journal entries with the teacher. When the children started in the elementary program, the work journal was an opportunity for them to practice their handwriting and to learn how to tell time and write the date. Now that the children are older, the work journals are a good record of what they accomplish each day as well as the work they have yet to complete. The work journal also serves as a reminder of the lessons the children have had and prompts them to practice the work or ask for a review, if necessary.
Have your children ever planned a going-out? To where?
G recently organized two going-outs to pick up trash in the neighborhood. She was studying endangered species and learned from her research that one local way to help endangered species is to keep your neighborhood clean. G created a signup list and led two different groups of children in cleaning the main street of our town and the park where the elementary kids go for recess.
What do your children talk about from school?
Our children mostly talk about the social aspects of school, including group projects in which they are involved. They are also excited to tell us about lessons the teacher has given them.
What do your children bring home from school?
At the end of most weeks, our children bring home a range of finished works, including fictional stories that they have written and illustrated, research projects, science experiments, artwork, and math and grammar projects.
Since there is no homework, what do you children do after school?
Our kids participate in some after-school activities, but we try to limit structured activities so that our kids have unstructured free time. Our children spend many hours each week after school at a playground with classmates or playing in our backyard. The kids also help with meal preparation, and most nights we read a chapter book together as a family.
Since there are no grades, how are your children evaluated?
Our children are evaluated on their self-motivation, effort and concentration that is all reflected in their finished works. They put significant effort into perfecting projects and they are proud to present them to their classmates and to us when they bring the works home. The teachers are also well aware of the Virginia standards of learning and the progress the children are making towards meeting those standards.
How do you feel the lack of technology in the classroom has impacted your children?
The absence of technology in the classroom has forced our kids to be creative and to develop their communication skills. They also are content that technology does not play a large role at home. They are drawn to books and have developed creative ways to have fun without screen time.
How do you feel the multi-age classroom has impacted your children?
For us, the multi-age aspect of the elementary program is one of the greatest benefits of a Montessori elementary education. Our children have had an opportunity to learn from the older children and to take on leadership roles with the younger children. Our children often help out in YCC and in the primary programs. It gives them great satisfaction to help others.
What else do you think someone considering Montessori education through the elementary years should know?
Parents considering a Montessori elementary education should understand that learning occurs in two three-year arcs: (1) first through third grade; and (2) fourth through sixth grade. As a result, a child in her second year of a Montessori elementary program may not have learned all the subjects typical for a second grader, but she is likely ahead in other areas. By the end of the three-year cycle, she will have learned all the subjects from first through third grade.