I'm on a journey to find health and happiness through a more holistic and green lifestyle.

I find the world to be abrasive. =) That is to say, I feel the need to armor myself, physically and emotionally, in order to face life. Don't we all? Maybe. For whatever reason, it has become a priority in my life to rid my immediate environment of irritating things. And I'm sensitive! So there is much work to be done. But. I have thought for a long time that the things I come in contact with every day, and the stuff used to clean and maintain these things, need to be gentle and non-toxic. I have had eczema my entire life. For a long time I just dealt with it, and accepted that sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's not, and that it will fluctuate a lot. Gradually over time I have come to find that certain things, fabrics, cleansers, materials, are more irritating to my skin than others. Stress can exacerbate it. In more recent times, I have realized that every aspect of my life improves when I improve conditions for my skin. Hah! What a concept! Thus my (long time) interest in going green, and my more recent desire to live a more holistic lifestyle. (I think I've felt a desire for a long time to live in a harmonious way with myself, my surroundings, and nature, but didn't have a name for it.) Anyhow, this blog is a journal of my trials and errors, and basic crooked path to find a balanced and peaceful existence for myself and my family. Thanks for your interest! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Montessori School - Update

This morning I visited our local Montessori school. Here are my impressions.

The first thing I have to comment on is that the environment in both classrooms that I visited was very, very calm. The students and the teachers were both quietly going about their business. It was quiet, and calm.

I arrived and went to the door of the "Children's House," (ages 3 and 4) and found the door to be locked. I rang the bell. Through the door I could see kids sitting in a circle, just inside. I wondered if I had gone to the wrong entrance. Right away a woman came to the door, and introduced herself. I was in the right place. She would be my tour guide. We walked into the room, right into the middle of the classroom. Around us were children engaged in all sorts of activities. I was told that the younger kids can choose whatever activity they want to work on. Everything is laid out on shelves so that everything can be seen from any point in the room.

The set-up in the Early Elementary room (this year, grades K-2, next year grades 1-3) is the same. In this room, the kids are also allowed to work on whatever they choose, though there is more attention paid to the kids visiting different academic areas; math, science, language arts... If I understood this right, the older group has a daily "plan" that he/she is involved in. The teacher and student come up with areas that the child plans to visit on a given day. Each child progresses at his/her own pace. I observed the kids sitting around the room working on various academic pursuits. Some had workbooks and worked on writing. One had a math workbook. One had his "clipboard" with his plan for the day. And so forth. But all were busy working on something. Occasionally, a child or two would get up, go to a specific table, and have something to eat. The children are allowed to do so when they want to. They are expected to take out what they need, and clean up when they are through. And they do.

I asked if they felt the students keep up academically with each subject. They replied that not only do they keep up, but are sometimes quite advanced at the finish of their Montessori education, compared with kids in the public schools. And the students have been encouraged to be self-guided and independent all along, and thus should be able to adjust to any educational environment. There is no homework at any point in the Montessori school system. The kids, apparently, are so engaged in their hands-on studies during the day that no homework is necessary. And, I was told, the type of work they do at school would be difficult to bring home. Children, of course, can further their studies at home if they wish.

Both groups go out for recess each day. The play area is small. Compared to DD's current school, it is tiny. I am told the kids go out most days, skipping recess only if it is very, very cold outside. Apparently the children go out in the rain if it's not too heavy, as they can walk under covered areas. Otherwise, the kids are in one largish room for the day. Oh, and the children change their shoes each morning, from outside shoes to inside shoes. Not slippers. Just different shoes.

There are parent/teacher conferences in the fall and in the spring. There are no tests. At the start of the year, only some materials are in the classroom, and as the year goes on, more are brought out. The idea is that some of the materials need instruction, and the children will receive this instruction as time goes on. Each month there is a theme. (Currently in the Children's House: Rocks and minerals. In the Early Elementary school: Amphibians.) Each academic subject will revolve around the monthly theme.

It was difficult, in some ways, for me to wrap my head around what I was seeing and being told. I was raised, after the age of 5, in the conventional school system, and know how that works. (I attended a Montessori school from age 2 1/2-5) Science class teaches science concepts. In math, you do math. How the teachers can oversee the progress of all of these students in an environment where each does, mostly, what he or she wants at any given moment, is hard to comprehend. They do have some "classes," such as music, Spanish and art. But the rest is incorporated. Hm.

I love the calm. I love that the kids are given so much self-guidance, which is great for confidence and self-reliance. I like that the day is done when the day is done, no expectation that the child will spend his/her evening doing more work. It just almost seems too good to be true. How do the kids learn about history? Geography? How can a teacher spend time with one who wants to learn about that, when there are many others who need help elsewhere? I don't get it. But people say the kids come out advanced. They learn in the area they are interested in and are ready to learn in, so they learn it better. And faster?

I told hubby that comparing this school with DD's current school is sort of like comparing apples with oranges. They are so different. Perhaps the calm environment of Montessori is what will help DD grow through some of her anxieties and gain more confidence. Should that be the primary goal? Won't that help her to learn and grow more successfully?

Information sent to me from our local Montessori school. Double click the photos to enlarge.


My Daily Checklist: (to be updated throughout the day)

Drink water - yes! Lots. 
Name a "happy" moment - My daughter was in a pleasant mood after school today. Her happy/calm mood made me feel good.  
Exercise - Wii yoga 15 minutes
Enjoy peace - I noticed the sun when it broke through the clouds today. 
Time alone - Evening break, 45 min. Drive to and from Montessori visit.
Good sleep/rest - 8.5 hours of good sleep
Eat well - So-so. Lots of pasta, and pizza for dinner. Also salad, rice, cereal. 
Do something for purge plan - I finally started...nothing out of the house yet, but several items slated to go. Hubby helping to select items to go.
Leisure activity - Blogging

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