This time 2 years ago, we were preparing to transition Elena from Montessori to public school. For 6 years, all she had known was a Montessori classroom, and while we knew that it was time to make the change, we were still very nervous. As I wrote at the end of the school year last year, the transition couldn’t have gone any better. Still, worrier that I am, I wondered if we just got lucky and that the true struggle would come this year.
With one big transition under our belts, we prepared for another: moving from elementary school to intermediate school (in our school district, elementary is K-4, intermediate is 5-6, middle is 7-8, followed by high school).
With 3/4 of the school year behind us, I can report that this has been a slightly more difficult transition. Whatever coddling she enjoyed in 4th grade is gone, with progressively higher expectations for responsibility and effort with each term. The last 6 weeks were the most difficult, with Elena earning multiple signatures from her teachers for not being prepared (leaving materials in her locker or forgetting assignments). I have to say, though, that it’s been a valuable and age-appropriate lesson for her, learning the true meaning of preparation and personal responsibility.
Despite the difficulties, I continue to see so much value in the years of Montessori education she had before moving to public school. The very essence of Montessori is self-discipline, independance, and fostering a life-long love of learning based upon a child’s natural curiosity. I firmly believe that because Elena spent so much of her formative years in that environment, she is the student she is today.
She is independent. She packs her lunch the night before, or budgets her monthly allotment for school lunches. She gets up on her own (the bus comes at the ungodly hour of 6:56), makes her own breakfast, and gets dressed. She’s only missed the bus once in 2 years – the first day at her new bus stop this year, when we weren’t sure exactly what time it came.
She has tremendous self-discipline. She rarely has work to do at home, because she does much of it during study time or on the bus ride home. She’d rather spend her time at home relaxing and playing, so she uses her time wisely. If she has homework or other projects, we often find her tackling them on her own, without us having to nag her to do it.
She loves to learn and share what she’s learned with us. Math and science are her favorites. She’s in 2-year-advanced math, and loves to tell us what she’s working on. Mike knows exactly what she’s talking about, I sometimes haven’t the faintest idea. She’s doing things I struggled with in high school. Her interests are so varied, and I’d like to think that’s because she was allowed to explore so many different avenues in school and at home. She’s just as excited about art and music as she is about the properties of dry ice.
Looking back, I am so glad that we transitioned her when we did. She blossomed in her early elementary years in Montessori. She had one year of public elementary school where she was given more leniency to learn the ways of a different kind of learning environment and the expectations that come with it. Had we waited one more year (which we considered), I think the transition from the Montessori classroom to the intermediate school setting would’ve been rocky.
Each child, and each school is different, so I know that your experience will differ in some respects. Still, for those of you who are considering when and how to make the transition from Montessori to public school, I hope sharing what we’ve learned helps.
To further reinforce the idea that each child is different, we’ll be transitioning Eli from Montessori to public school kindergarten this fall. His is a totally different story and experience than Elena’s. I’ve had several people ask us about how and why we made that decision, so I’ll be happy to share that in another post next week.
If you ever have any questions about Montessori or our schooling experiences, I’m always happy to answer them. Feel free to leave them in the comments or email me at any time.