I can’t believe summer is over and all my kids are old enough to be in school. Aden is in third grade, Mona is in first, and my little baby boy is a K3.
They go to a public Montessori school, so the classes are
mixed age (grades 1, 2 and 3 together, grades 4, 5, and 6 together, and
kindergarten is a mix of K3, K4 there for half day and K5 for full
day). When Aden was in Head Start at age three, her teacher recommended
that she would do well in a Montessori school, so we looked into it,
and so far it’s worked out nicely.
In Milwaukee you can apply to go to
any school and there are so many choices it can be overwhelming. There
are charter schools and language immersion schools and schools that
focus on art or science…. I even toured a traditional public school
very close to home that offered ballet and it was so charming that if we
hadn’t gotten our first choice I’m sure that would have worked out fine
as well. We’re fortunate that there are a few Montessori schools to
choose from within the public system, and one of them is only a mile and
a half from our house.
When we applied to get Aden enrolled there as a
K4 she was on a long waiting list and I agonized a great deal about
exactly what to do. It was hard, because Ian was on his first
deployment, and I had to make the decisions about school alone, which
didn’t feel right. I was very conscious about setting into motion a
path that would determine most of Aden’s friends and the people we would
be involved with for many years to come. Those kinds of long term
consequences to choices tend to put me in a slightly panicked mode, but
I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older not to be become paralyzed by them.
Experience has taught me that when faced with good choices it’s better
to assume you can’t mess it up and just move on.
The nice thing now, is having made the choice years ago for Aden, we
don’t have to agonize about schools again until she’s ready for ninth
grade. Sibling preference rules means Mona and Quinn had no trouble
getting into the same school as their sister, and I haven’t had to
repeat that same struggle.
The thing I like about Montessori is that
the kids are self-directed and the teacher teaches to the individual
instead of the group, which means it doesn’t matter if, for example,
other kids in Quinn’s class aren’t ready to start reading and he is,
he’ll still get to learn what he’s ready to learn. I remember being
frustrated when Aden was in Head Start that her class spent the whole
year learning the alphabet when she walked in knowing how to write that
out on the first day. We’d really only signed her up for the social
experience anyway, since she wanted friends and Mona was too little at
the time to make much of a playmate yet, so we figured it didn’t matter,
but I’m glad for Mona and Quinn that they had a situation lined up
that’s both fun and challenging from the start.
Aden loves her teacher and is glad to be back in her class again.
She was worried about whatever she thought the responsibilities of a
third grader might be, but as soon as Aden was reunited with her friends
she was very happy to be back in school. I like the long term
relationship we’ve had with her teacher. She knows what to expect from
Aden by now having had her in the classroom for the past two years, and
on the first day had her working with a partner on a writing project and
she’s excited about it. I think Aden’s going to have a good year.
Mona spent the last three years in the same kindergarten room, so
moving up to first grade is a big deal. On the first day her old
teacher called her over on the way to her new room to show her
something. The last day of school back in June, Mona gave her a picture
of the two of them in a frame she’d decorated herself, and her
kindergarten teacher has it on display above the fireplace. I think
Mona was pleased to see that she is a part of her old room even as she’s
moving on to a new one. She’s nervous, but her classroom this year is
right next to her sister’s and I think that helps. Her new teacher
seems very nice and I’m sure Mona will do fine. I can’t wait to see
what she does this year! Mona, however, becomes laconic when you ask
her about school. I don’t know why she doesn’t want to talk about any
of the fun things she does there, but she simply doesn’t. If I want to
know anything aside from what she had for snack I usually have to get my
information from other sources.
he will be fine. (He doesn’t get confused around 15 and 16 when
counting to 20, and he spends a lot of time on his magnadoodle
perfecting his letters and drawing what he calls ‘alphabet puzzles.’ He
asked me the other day when working on his numbers why they don’t come
in upper and lower case versions like letters do. I’m still not sure
why letters need upper and lower cases so I thought that was an
I can’t picture yet what the social impact for
Quinn will be. Either having spent every day of his life with his
sisters around will have prepared him well or it won’t. We’ll find out
soon enough. He’s a very sweet little guy, and his classroom looks like
an environment where his gentle nature will serve him well, so I’m
hopeful that he will be happy there. Now I have to keep myself from
falling apart when I drop him off in the morning.
Luckily we have a sort of ‘breaking in’ period right now. They
stagger the start date for the different levels of kindergarteners so
Quinn doesn’t really start attending class until after Labor Day, but he
did get to go to an orientation for an hour on the first day. He
seemed reluctant initially to let me go when I dropped him off until I
told him I’d be right back after a meeting for grown ups, and then he
said, “Okay,” took his teacher’s hand, and went off to his new room.
It’s his first room that’s his and not mine, too. He’ll have friends I
don’t know and discoveries I won’t see…. Ugh this is hard. But it’s
good. I still get to teach my kids whatever I want to teach them, but
they deserve the right to be out in the world and learn things they
wouldn’t learn from me or their dad, and to have relationships where I’m
not involved. I understand the appeal of homeschooling for those who
do it, but I know for Mona in particular that having a classroom apart
from her siblings and her parents has made an enormous difference for
the positive in her life.
Anyway, Quinn told us more about that one hour he spent in school
than Mona probably told me about everything all last year. As we drove
around as a little family of three doing errands while his sisters were
still in class, Quinn told us he did a puzzle of a person and that it
was easy, something else involving letters but that he couldn’t finish
it because then the teacher told him to sit on the wooden part of the
floor and they all had a snack, and that he ate a long carrot and some
celery and that he really likes celery now and that another child near
him didn’t like tomatoes.
Seems like a good start to a new adventure. I
can’t wait to hear more when he starts for real next week, but in the
meantime I’m glad I get to keep him to ourselves for a little longer.