Thursday, March 08, 2007

Open mouth insert foot - communicable disease or trait of the physicist?

A nuclear physicist friend of mine stopped by my office today to check on my status (as did seriously everyone else who has access to my building). He has a daughter who is about 6 months older than Leif and so after he finds out that yes, I am still here, we of course talk about kids. His daughter is enrolled in preschool a few days a week and I asked how that was going.

"It's going well," he tells me, "E is just so smart. I know a lot of people whose kids are enrolled in that Montessori school and she is just so much smarter than all of them, and they are older than her!"

Which reminds me of while I was on maternity leave and I remember seeing Dr. Phil roll his eyes and say, "everyone thinks their kid is the next Einstein".

I remind my friend that Leif is actually enrolled in that school.

That should serve as a hint not to go bashing the program. But no. My friend delved into the "depths" of his interpretation of the fundamental problems with the Montessori program. Funny though, how none of these complaints were things I have ever heard before, nor would even characterize as part of the Montessori program. Statements like "well I just think that kids can't possibly learn from play" (most people I know bend the opposite way and say they can't enroll their kids in Montessori because they need to play and be kids) and "if you give a child a choice between playing a game or sitting and learning a fact, they will always play".

I just didn't have anything to say. I made a few very slight attempts at correcting his misconceptions, and then decided forget it. They want a preschool program that his daughter can go to for 2.5 hours a day and he has made it clear that having a teacher standing at a chalkboard in a classroom is important to him and that he believes that the Montessori kids inevitably fall behind. (Seriously contemplating sending him the October article from Science magazine...)

I guess I just wasn't in the mood to defend my choices. And maybe part of it is that right now I feel as though I am so engulfed in the choices surrounding my son's eventual transition to preschool that I just didn't have the energy for it.

See we are right now getting ready for the kids to move up to "primary", the real Montessori preschool/kindergarten program since what the kids are in now is a modified Montessori toddler program. In our school we, as parents, get a choice of a number of rooms that all offer different things.

My brain is flooded. It wouldn't be so bad if we were talking about one year. But no, we are talking about one room for the next three years. Two years of preschool and then one year of kindergarten (should we keep Leif there for kindergarten over public school). Given that, it seems like such a huge decision. Add in the fact that all the rooms are different, it is inevitable that you hear stories about the rooms, and the teachers... and our heads are spinning.

We have, at present, narrowed the selection down to two rooms. Of course tomorrow could complicate our decision as upon advisement from Leif's current teacher, we have opted to look at yet another classroom she thinks he would like. Leaving out the possibility of the third room complicating the decision this is where we stand:

Room number 1 (named so because we saw it first this morning) - Has a focus on animals. They do lots of nature walks and a variety of field trips each year. The teacher has been there for 12 years and is a very grandmotherly sort. They also have a close relationship with a local nursing home and visit every other month. Leif has been wandering in that room since he started at the school. He is enamored with the animals and the teacher has always shown a fondness for him. She stopped us on the way out and expressed her gratitude in us taking the time to come in and visit. The downside is that I have "heard" that there are a couple "difficult" children in this classroom right now.

Room number 2 - They teach Spanish, they have a few animals in the room (will be getting a hamster, they have a fish bowl and a walking stick insect). It is said to be one of the warmer rooms (wrt to the teachers) and we saw this, children were routinely given hugs. They study particular topics (right now it is Africa) and do activities associated with those topics. We got great vibes from the teachers and at the end of the day when I picked up Leif (we visited in the morning) one of the teachers came by and talked and met Leif.

If it were a one year program, we would choose room #1 without a doubt. Let Leif get his animal fill of the animals and then move him to a more learning oriented room. (Strictly my impression.) If we were choosing a room based solely off what Leif would want and love, we would choose room #1. He whines most afternoons to go in and see the animals on his way out.

But if we are choosing the rooms based off what we think is "best" for Leif, it will be room #2.

I suppose I hope that room #3 will clarify things for us. But the only way it can is if we walk in and are wow'd. Somehow I don't see that happening and at best I can add a room #3 conundrum to my mix.

I swore when I had Leif that I wouldn't get caught up in all the parent madness and obsessiveness. Kids are versatile, they are resilient, they aren't perfect and they really need very little. But here I am, neurosing about which class to enroll my son in, in what I believe and hear to be one of the top preschools in the area. Obsessiveness has set in.

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