Stepping Outside the Mainstream

Peter and his car

Today is the first day of school for our boys (I know, early right?!). It has been quite the journey leading to this day and I spent some time reflecting on it last night as I laid out clothes and carefully packed lunchboxes. As both a student and a teacher, the first day of school is one of my favorites. It signifies new beginnings and the opportunity to learn new and exciting things. I’ve always loved school in general and I hope my children will have a similar love of learning. That said, when our older son started kindergarten last year I did not expect it to be such an emotional roller coaster.

Instead of enjoying his first year of formal education, I felt like we barely survived it. He is a bright, energetic little boy who happens to have a July birthday. I had no idea what a disadvantage this would be for him. He did fine on the kindergarten admissions test, but he was the smallest kid in his class and he just did not have the emotional maturity that his teachers expected him to have. Over the course of the year we were bombarded with notes home about how he couldn’t sit still and focus on his tasks. Honestly, we felt that we received more negative comments than positive. We felt like complete failures as parents. We felt helpless.

Our public school district is one of the best in the region. This was one of the best primary schools in the county and his teacher was an award winning teacher, yet, it seemed like something was going terribly wrong. More and more, it felt like we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Despite all of this, our son never seemed to lose his enthusiasm for learning. One of our biggest fears was that he would learn to hate school. We knew that we would have to make a change.

Our family made the decision to pull out of the public school and switch to a Montessori school. Since students in the primary classroom starts at 3 years old, both of our boys will be going there. It was a long discernment process. I don’t think it is the right decision for every family(or even one that many have the luxury to make), but we feel like it is right for us. Montessori educational principles encourage creativity and independence. This is in contrast to what we experienced at the public school which felt very much like the “factory mindset” that Seth Goden speaks about (see his talk on education here). At the new school there is an emphasis on personal development and self-reliance, rather than on standards and tests. I feel like each student is treated as an individual rather than a member of a cohort.

It makes me a little sad that we are giving up on public education, but at the same time I think that it is important for us to step outside the mainstream. This is going to be an interesting year for us and I look forward to sharing some our experiences with our readers. Just another perspective among many 🙂

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