2 Year old + Montessori
November 3, 2014 4:28 PM   Subscribe

First-time parents of 13-month-old son who will be 2-years in fall of 2015. We currently have a nanny share and are looking looking into programs of daycare for social and educational enrichment.

We came across a Montessori option that takes 2-year-olds. We like the general Montessori philosophy and are about to visit the school while it's in session visit.

Other details: The price is right. It's not as close as we'd like but can be done. There is a place in our neighborhood that may be more expensive and starts at 3-years-old.

? Opinions on starting at age 2 versus age 3?

? Advice on how to assess the quality of Montessori program through a scheduled visit.

? We think he'd really take to this type of learning, but could see it being difficult for some children who need more structure. Thoughts or suggestions assessing your child's learning or personality type?

?Looking way ahead, we may not continue Montessori forever and could enroll him into public school at some point, possibly K or 1st grade. Any thoughts on this type of transition?

Thank you MeFi
posted by demonstartivepapadonous to Education (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Our daughter started at a Montessori school this fall, at 29 months old. We're really, really loving it so far. She's thrilled to go every morning, and we often have to remind her to say good-bye to us because she's in such a hurry to start her next art project.

If you can afford it, I would start just about any child in preschool at age 2. It seems to me that this kind of social interaction, variety of activities, and structure can't be replicated at home, even by the best caretaker. If you're concerned about a tough transition, you may want to investigate part-time options -- we go for 3 half-days a week, and most schools offer varying schedules. There are a couple of kids younger than our daughter and many kids older than her, and everyone seems pretty unconcerned about the differences. The teachers adjust what they're doing for the kid they're helping, and the younger kids learn from the older ones.

I find this program far more structured than most of the play-based stuff out there, which seems pretty boring to me after awhile. Here, she's learning a lot of self-reliance -- how to put on her own coat, pick up toys after playing with them, decide when she wants to go outside, wait her turn, etc. -- and she seems to be proud of what she can accomplish already. "Circle time" at our school seems to be much more successful -- more thoughtful teaching, more attentive kids -- than elsewhere. This school has an interesting curriculum that she is absorbing a tiny bit of now and will be fully understandable to her by the time she heads off to kindergarten. Nothing is forced or required, other than basic manners, but the kids are encouraged to take on as much as they're ready for. But there's a big variety, even between Montessori schools! Sit in on some class time and see what you think.

I suspect you know whether your child enjoys sitting still and learning (as opposed to running and throwing things), and as you tour preschools, it can be helpful to watch other kids to see how yours compares. By watching how the teachers interact with the kids, and how the day is planned, you'll probably get a sense of where your kid would fit best. I'd recommend touring at least 3 different schools to get a sense of their different approaches.

Our school only offers preschool. While I can't speak to the transition myself, I know from other parents that their kids have transitioned easily into other environments. The only concern I've heard is that kindergarten seems a bit easy for their kids after attending Montessori preschool...but that's given them a chance to relax and adapt to the social aspects and other new parts of K.

Best of luck! Hope you find a good spot for your kiddo.
posted by equipoise at 4:52 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have much experience on 2 vs 3--my daughter was three and a half when she started Montessori preschool, but she was more than ready. I would say during your scheduled visit, try to imagine your child doing the things the students are doing and ask yourself if he could handle what is expected of him. Pay close attention to the younger kids and how the teachers interact with them.

On assessing the program itself, read as much as you can about the Montessori method before the meeting. A well functioning Montessori classroom will have children who are busy and calm, going about their tasks without a whole lot of direct supervision. One of the things I liked most about the program my daughter was in was the teachers seemed to really like the kids and respected them as individuals and worked with strengths and weaknesses--and it was apparent that was the vibe as soon as I walked into the classroom for my first visit. Talk to the teachers about what milestones a 2 YO will have to have met in order to participate fully.

My kid went to public school kindergarten after two years of Montessori preK. The school she attended was a "self-directed learning magnet" so the Montessori program was perfect. Others' experiences will probably depend as much on the level of structure as the amount of academic rigor.
posted by chaoticgood at 6:57 PM on November 3, 2014

My brother and I both started Montessori at 2.5ish. We both were fine with it at that age and enjoyed it. If I recall correctly, we were there for half-days (mornings?). We both transitioned to public school later; I went to kindergarten, and my parents felt that I was bored or not learning anything new that year, so they worked to get my brother straight into first grade. (I don't remember kindergarten much so can't comment on what my experience was like.) He was a January baby, so they were able to get him into first grade at the same time as he would traditionally have started kindergarten. The transition was overall okay for both of us, and we both did well academically in elementary school and on through university (we are now both in our 20s). I don't know if the kindergarten vs. no kindergarten thing made a difference at all, in the long term.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:17 PM on November 3, 2014

Our school starts kids as early as 12 months - we started our boys at the same time, when they were 14 months and 3 years. The younger one adjusted much easier. It has been a universally positive experience.
posted by bq at 8:58 PM on November 3, 2014

Dissenting voice here: I believe 2 (and even 3) may be too young, and that you may traumatize your child as I was traumatized. I first attended Montessori school at 2 1/2. My first memory is of being taken there and having my mother be on the other side of a divider and not knowing how to get back to her. I felt totally abandoned and terrified and that memory has stuck with me for going on 40 years.

The staff members told my parents my being upset was "normal". Well, yes, it's also normal for people to effing scream if they are being physically assaulted. That doesn't mean that physical assault is ok.

Unless you absolutely have to do this because you essentially need babysitting services, I don't think it's a good idea and frankly it may not be a good idea at 3 either, depending on your child. I loved school when I was 4, not before, and I could have learned just as much during those 2 years by simply playing with other kids, exploring, and being taken care of by my mother and father.

I think there's a reason that school has traditionally started at 6. That's when kids are generally ready for it. Now adays everyone seems to have to prove how ultra bright their kids are, and give them every edge on life. Soon we will find a way to insert computerized games into the womb. (eye rolling icon goes here).
posted by mysterious_stranger at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not as close as we'd like but can be done.
Think about this hard before you commit. It can be done sounds like it is too far.
You will do this every day for the next 3 years or so and your child may eventually come to hate the commute. He is 13 months now and you can pretty much bundle him up and carry him off. But once he is just a bit older you will need him to cooperate in order to get out the door. Morning routines triple in time (at least). His sleep patterns will change as he grows older.

We did a 45 minute (one way) commute from age 3 to 5 and by about age 4 he hated the 45 minute (one way) commute so much I eventually changed him to a closer pre school by age 5 as I simply found it too draining to continue. In the mornings the pressure is very high to be on time (especially if they do the morning circle time), and evenings they are tired and cranky, possibly fall asleep, for a power nap and then don't want to go to bed until midnight. BTDT.

Another aspect of a long commute to child care is that the friends made there will then be far from your home. This will be an issue once birthday parties and afternoon visits become an issue.

? Opinions on starting at age 2 versus age 3?
I had planned to have him start at 2, and when the time came I simply could not bring myself to do it. Luckily our economic circumstances made it possible for me to remain home another year. I say: if you don't need to go back to work when he is 2, then let him start by age 3 (or later).
This emphasis on the need for early care outside the family is a fad. I know it is unpopular to say this and not at all pc, but honestly a 2-year old does not need many hours daily outside home and without parents in order to develop better.
However, if you chose to or have to do it - please don't feel I am judging you. I do not want to imply in the least that a mother who places her child in day care is not a good mom.
My point is: don't let societal pressure make you feel bad if you can afford to stay at home and actually prefer to have another year at home with your child.

Although we did not choose Montessori in the end, I looked into it at the time our son was 12 months and these are some of the things I wish I had been told:

Ask if they are a member of a local or national association of Montessori schools. Look on the net for a Montessori network in your area, ask there about the one you are interested in.
Where we live, anyone can use the name Montessori and there is no quality control. But there may well be one where you live. Ask about the qualification of the staff: what makes them Montessori teachers? Where and with whom did they train?
Is there an expecation that parenting at home follows Montessori-style?
Ask how the adjustment / transition phase is handled. They should have a plan over a course of 4 weeks, and be able to explain their strategy.
Try find parents whose children attend or have attended.

? Advice on how to assess the quality of Montessori program through a scheduled visit.
Read up on Montessori and her work - lots of books and online resources are available. Look for descriptions and photos of class rooms, they should have a particular room set up and specific learning aids.

? We think he'd really take to this type of learning, but could see it being difficult for some children who need more structure. Thoughts or suggestions assessing your child's learning or personality type?
Honestly I think 13 month is too early to assess this! So much will change even before he turns two, simply as his mobility increases 100 fold and as he begins to use words during the next months and can express himself so much more than now.

If you can, give yourselves and your child this additional year. I am so glad we had three years of living on our own daily schedule and our own holiday schedule and not having to be punctual every single day. It was sometimes hard, especially the pressure to conform but I have no regrets.
posted by 15L06 at 3:24 PM on November 4, 2014

We love our Montessori, and my two very different kids have each thrived there. We started my oldest at 22 months and my youngest at 18 months, they are 9 and almost-4 now.

I personally believe that our school/daycare has been great because:

1. The person who runs it runs it well. First and foremost, she is warm with the kids. She pays her staff well (which does make it pricier) and works to keep them - a number have been there more than a decade. The building is well kept and the materials are clean and in good shape. The communication with parents is clear and that and the rules are consistent. This is kind of basic stuff, but sometimes when people are attached to a method they look past them.

Questions that helped with this:
- how long has your longest teacher been with the school? How long have the staff been here on average?
- how would you handle a child who was acting out day after day? What is your discipline policy?
- what if a child wants to play make-believe with materials designed for 'work' (we wanted a Montessori school that was not crazy rigid)
- what makes you love your job? (her face lit up)

2. I have fallen in love with the Montessori method for a few reasons. I love how it takes play seriously, so that teachers don't intervene with a child's interests but aren't just hanging back, they are observing and stepping in. I love how it is based around children's natural rhythms -- if they want to obsess about one kind of thing for a while, they can. I love how it builds skills from the ground up, with tiny activities that build. I like that the kids are encouraged to learn from each other. I also like that they are permitted their own space to concentrate and not forced through endless periods of "everyone look at the letter!" But for me I will admit the feel of the school is more important.

My eldest transitioned to public school in grade one. It was not the smoothest transition. If I were doing it over I would enroll him in a very traditional camp the summer before so he would get used to being herded around every half hr. But at grade 4, we're fine with the results so far.

It's true that Montessori is not a trademarked name, so you want to look for them belonging to an association like AMI.

I don't think 2 year olds /need/ to be in school, but after an adjustment period my boys never minded having to get to school on time and so on. My eldest was a bit anxious and we had a gentle transition into school; if that is something that worries you talk to the school.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:48 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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