I planned to write a reflective post on Kale's first year of Montessori school, but I'm having a hard time pulling my eyes away from these pictures to focus on the words. The end of the school year has been far more emotional on me than I anticipated. Not only because it's a major milestone that signifies him growing up, but because I'll miss the routine, his teachers, his classmates, and the comfort of it all. We're changing schools next year and so it was more than just a "see you in September" farewell.
Kale, on the other hand, seemed ready for it to be over. In the last couple of weeks he'd ask to stay home from school, didn't seem to talk about his classmates as much, and lived for the weekends. We're not sure what was going on, since nothing had changed at home or school, and can only assume that he sensed the end was near and was just ready to move on.
It felt strange to end the school year this way, since for the most part, Kale loved it. He was always excited to go in the morning and most days it was nearly impossible to convince him to leave when the day was over. He thrived in the classroom, loved his teachers and classmates, and became an independent little person.
Here are the top five things we loved about having our toddler in a Montessori program this year:
1. An easy transition between school and home.
I've mentioned this before, but we have found that the principles of Montessori align very well with our parenting style, which makes the transition between school and home really smooth. We know how important consistency is for Kale and we've had to do very little to ensure that both environments mirror one another - in physical space, but also in the way he's treated, nurtured, and supported.
2. A supportive environment for gaining independence.
Letting Kale take the lead is important to us and something that his Montessori program supported. At school and at home, he's encouraged to pick his own work, make his own decisions, and do as much as possible by himself. As a result, he's impressively independent. I think most two year olds go through a "I do it myself!" stage, but that's ok, because Kale can do it himself.
3. The activities.
A perfect day for Kale would involve wiping down some tables, cleaning up a few spills, gluing some paper together, pouring something, and then running around like a maniac to some music. At his Montessori school, Kale pretty much got to do this everyday. I can't imagine him thriving in the same way in a more a structured, play-based environment.
4. The space.
Kale's school was small - his class was only 7 kids. Yet it was always neat and orderly and calm. I mean, there were days when there was spagetti all over the floor from lunch and the kids were all running around with shakers, singing and dancing along to to some music. And yet when I walked in the doors, I always felt calm.
I am easily overwhelmed by physical space. If I walk in somewhere that is cluttered, disorganized, or too bright, I instantly feel tense. I sense that Kale is the same way and that his surroundings have a profound impact on his mood, and so the space of his classroom was important to us. The natural wood, the neutral colours, the simplicity of it all - it was exactly what he needed to focus, to grow, and to learn.
5. His teachers. As much as Kale liked some of his classmates, he loved his teachers the most. I don't blame him - they are some of the warmest, gentlest, and patient people I have ever met. They loved him, supported and encouraged him, and helped him become confident and independent.
As a goodbye gift, I printed a bare tree with a quote below and the Director of the school helped me kick the teachers out so all the kids could put their thumbprint on a branch. When Kale gave it to his teachers on the last day, they both cried. I cried. The hardest part about leaving this school, is leaving them.
Kale will be starting a summer camp program at his school in another week and one of his teachers will be there (yay!). Then in September we will start a new Montessori school and a new adventure. However, I don't think I'll ever forget this year. The first year. The start of many more years.