In the Montessori Elementary, children have many of the same freedoms they had in the Primary. They're allowed to choose what to work on and when, they're able to move freely around the classroom and garden, rather than having desks in rows like traditional schools, and, just as in the Primary, children follow their internal motivation. So when considering Montessori Elementary, the question you need to ask is: How motivated is my child?
My own mother is trained at the Primary and Elementary levels in Montessori. She has taught for over 30 years and currently runs her own school. My brother, who went on to get an Ivy League masters degree and currently lives and works in New York, went to Montessori Elementary. When left to his own devices, he was a kid who got to work. He was curious, he was interested in doing things. He wanted to learn. Those qualities made him a really good fit for the Montessori Elementary. I, on the other hand, did not go to Montessori Elementary. I went to Catholic School! Yes, I was very smart and really didn't have to try at all to get good grades, but I was not motivated in the same way my brother was. When left to my own devices, I preferred to daydream or socialize. I was an avid reader, curious and loved writing, but I lacked the industrious motivation my brother had. That made me a poor candidate for the Montessori Elementary. I did much better with imposed deadlines and intimidation and fear. I still do! That's not to say that I don't get things done, or that I'm a bad worker, because I'm not. It's just the distinction between industrious motivation and the art of doing nothing. My brother naturally bends toward the former and I'm an expert at the latter. Both of us possess considerable joie de vivre and are very social and have lots of friends. It's just this difference in inclination when left to our own devices.
Aside from your own child's motivation, it's important to observe in the prospective school. How is the program organized and how do the teachers keep the children accountable? When you're in preschool and kindergarten, it's all just gravy. Not in Elementary school; there are things you have to learn. While none of us advocate for teaching to the test and removing all creativity and innovation from the learning process, it is necessary to cover all the bases. So visit and get a feel for what they've got going on there and imagine your child fitting into it.
Other considerations are social group, proximity of peers and demographics. Montessori Elementary classrooms tend to be smaller and offer fewer choices in peers. At the same time, they tend to come from a pretty homogenous group and don't offer a lot of diversity in terms of race and income differences. One concern for many parents is all the driving it creates, both to and from school and to play dates. When your child is in public school, their friends are right in the neighborhood and they may even be able to walk to school. Are team sports or band a priority? Most Montessori programs do not offer these types of extracurriculars.
Montessori Elementary is amazing. It gives children a learning environment that responds to their stage of development, allows for inquiry and discovery and hands-on learning. It can produce phenomenal results. If your child's teacher has suggested your child for the elementary, chances are very good that your child will blow you away with what they can do in there!
What else plays into your decision making for your child's education? What have you chosen for your child? Please chime in in the comments below! xo
Also, Choosing a Montessori School in case you missed it.
(Photo via Hellenica World)