We are delighted to offer a guest post from Dan R.:
I'm a Montessori Dad
I'm really interested in language immersion opportunities for my daughter, and there's a new local private school that offers that. So the school held some potential appeal, but I couldn't get a straight answer about what makes education there "joyful and fun" as described on their website. What I personally observed was kids and teachers who didn't look all that happy. When I see kids sitting at desks and teachers standing in front of them droning on, saying repeat after me, doing rote memorization drills etc., it just seems that it can't possibly instill (or I should say maintain) a true love of learning. Eventually, and oddly very defensively, the school finally "admitted" to me that it's a very structured, teacher-centric, top-down, and somewhat strict environment.
But I really wanted to try to like this school and make sure I wasn't jumping to conclusions, so I thought of having my daughter do a class visit. But what quickly brought it all to an end for me was, unexpectedly, meeting with a current parent and her daughter at a park playground in preparation for a classroom visit. The purpose of meeting was to have my daughter meet this girl so that she would then see a familiar face in the class when she arrived for her visit. Two things about that get-together illuminated differences in parenting that reveal differences in views about how learning and teaching should be done as well:
1. My daughter saw a horizontally inclined tree and started ambling toward it away from the playground and said to me "I want to climb that tree". So I said fine and followed her to support her with a hand so she wouldn't fall. The other girl started to follow but her mother gruffly ordered her to stay on the playground.
2. My daughter saw the child seat on the mother's bike and said "I have a bicycle". The other girl never had a bicycle - she always rides on her mom's bike. I don't have a child seat - my daughter has always ridden her own bike.
I didn't like the mother's gruff manner and blank look when I asked about the teaching methods used at the school, but what was really a defining moment for me was the realization that her parenting method (top down, command and control, parent-centric) was probably totally consistent with that school's philosophy, and my method (support the child's natural curiosities, let her explore her capabilities, let her build her self-confidence and esteem, etc.) was totally consistent with Montessori. It made me very clear that I am a Montessori dad.