We narrowed our choice of schools for first grade down to two – our public school or the up-to-8th-grade Montessori school in town. We’re huge Montessori fans, finding that it provides a beautiful trellis for RR to send her shoots up and wind her roots around. While I’m not deeply knowledgeable about Montessori in the elementary years, I know my child, at least right now, and, for now, the method fits her.
But. I’m a tremendous fan of public schools and public school teachers and, after all, there is no tuition for public school. So off we went for a tour.
Depending on the angle, I could probably list dozens of pros and cons for RR about the public elementary. This is one of those touchy things, right? Like how you choose to diaper and feed an infant. The reasonable folks live and let live (or at least keep their gentle judging to themselves) but the important part is that it’s right for your family. After the tour and a lot of soul searching on our end it just isn’t right. Except the cost. The cost is right. I love my paycheck. I wish we could see each other more often.
Here’s what I think RR will take from continuing in Montessori. She will be able to continuing learning the way she has begun. Her pace will be individual to her. She will work in a garden or feed the chickens as part of her day. She will learn to be a mediator. She will have an art studio and music studio. As she gets older, she and her peers will plan their own field trips related to their work, make their own reservations, arrange their own transportation. She will bake and deliver food to retirement communities, do community service, participate in city council meetings.
I thought it would be the chickens that won me over. It wasn’t. It was the capable children running a store, tending a row, baking bread. It was the first grade classroom learning geometry and building complex paper boxes. It was the little girl who muttered to herself I want to draw now… what will I draw? and then thumbed through a tremendous pile of how to books. It was the Head of School saying we let them learn the hard lessons…we don’t step in to save them. It was the little boy who was having a moment and when the only visible adult briefly removed him to gather his composure it was inconsequential to the rest of the room. No one stopped working. No one paid any attention. No one leaned over to giggle and point with another child.
That’s where I’m sending my paycheck. You know those fairy tales where the price is always your first born child? Well, turns out in a way that’s true. It also turns out it’s a price we’re willing to pay.