Why We Chose Montessori for Our Children

New Zealand families share why they chose to send their children to Montessori and how they believe Montessori is preparing their children for life.

Montessori has given our children a greater knowledge of the world while providing them with choices for their futures...

Michele Kelly and Grant McQuoid are the parents of Kayla, 8 and Aedan, 6. Kayla attends the Montessori primary (6-12) class at Moturoa Primary School, New Plymouth in New Zealand. Aedan went to New Plymouth Montessori School and has recently joined his older sister in the primary class.

We chose kindergarten for our first child, Kayla. We did not know enough about Montessori education then and I have to admit we did not even go to have a look at the Montessori preschool to compare the options. Kayla will forever ask why we did not send her to the Montessori preschool! For Aedan the options were again kindergarten and Montessori. This time the choice was undoubtedly Montessori.

What made us choose Montessori for our son? When we first visited the classroom I looked at Aedan and saw excitement on his face. As a parent I too was excited and secretly I wished I had gone to Montessori when I was a child!  I was impressed by how passionate the principal and the teachers were about education and their belief in Montessori philosophy.
I saw how focused the children were; children excited about arriving in the morning and reluctant to leave at the end of the day. I was relieved to see that children were eager to learn and to challenge themselves with harder activities when they were capable.

We moved Kayla from her state school to the Montessori primary class and she has just started her second year. Aedan has moved to Montessori primary after three years at Montessori preschool. We chose Montessori primary for our children since we believe our children will gain a more balanced type of education, be provided with opportunities to experience a far wider curriculum, be responsible for their own work ethics at an earlier age and have the flexibility to challenge themselves while having the security and support within the classroom.

Our children tell me that they enjoy these things at school: multiplication, reading with their teachers, choosing their own project work and researching the topic on the internet, cooking and being in charge of morning teas, teaching new things to younger children and completing their own work plans.  Kayla and Aedan both openly tell people that they do not want to leave school until they are 21! 

I want my children to be confident in making decisions for their futures, to be proud of themselves, love themselves and to never forget to laugh at themselves. 

I personally think our children are very prepared to take on new challenges in their own lives and will continue to do this throughout the rest of their schooling. Montessori has given our children a greater knowledge of the world and how it operates while providing them with choices for their futures.

Montessori Voices April 2008

Our Montessori school supports the value system we try to achieve at home; independence, respect, consideration for others and a love of learning...

Jennie Miller and Rod Tapp are the parents of Jed, 6 and Lenny, 4. Jed has started in the Montessori primary (6-12) class at Moturoa Primary and Lenny is at New Plymouth Montessori in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Their older brother Finn has just begun high school.

Nearly four years ago we moved to New Plymouth from Auckland. We had no friends or relatives to give us advice about the region, let alone pre-school options for Jed who was then 2 ½ years old. I went to the local Parents’ Centre, where I spoke to lots of people and learned as much as I could about what was on offer in the city.

New Plymouth Montessori School was actually the last place I visited. I had heard many negative comments about Montessori: the lack of creative play, the ‘pressure cooker’ approach to education, elitism, and the high cost of attending the school. The principal gave all my questions a very considered response. The passion and love for children was obvious everywhere. The spacious outdoor environment amazed me. The caring and respectful interactions between children and teachers were inspiring.

At first I thought it seemed very unusual, a little spooky, for children of three and four years to be so incredibly quiet and calm. But I got a very good feeling about the philosophy and decided to give it a go. The flexible hours helped in making the decision, and the family-inclusive values were a pleasant surprise. So were the fees – no more than any other pre-schools, and what resources!

I still had a few concerns about the lack of jumping around and crazy behaviour I was used to at home. I joined the school council so that I could understand Montessori and figured we could always change if my children were not getting the kind of introduction to the world I sought.

We have now been involved with the school for three years. Jed has just started Montessori primary school and I am still on the school council. I have come to the conclusion that Montessori is like the perfect home school but someone else does the teaching.

The decision to stay on at Montessori for primary was not an easy one to make. But my observation of our older son, Finn is that the state school system hasn’t really done him any favours. He is part of a group of teenagers identified to be part of a gifted and talented programme BUT I feel his view of himself in the world would be better if he had the benefit of a Montessori education. They call it ‘dumbing down’ when boys, especially, make an effort not to contribute and stand out. That is sad, when this world needs more people who are prepared to stand up and be counted.

I love the way the school gives my boys an approach to learning and supports the value system we try to achieve at home: independence, respect, consideration for others and a love of learning. I am aware that it’s also good for children to have a little bit of a crazy time, so we do that at home – bikes, loads of Lego and K’Nex, a huge box of dress-ups and much spraying of water in the summer months. I like it that way round.

I look forward to having sons who can think for themselves, won’t be led by the crowd, know very clearly right from wrong, respect others’ opinions and cultures, and will walk to the beat of their very own drums. I hope my boys will continue to love learning, and not be put off by their mistakes, because they know they will learn from them. They will know that they are part of a big wide world, but that they have a special part to play in that world. Hopefully, they will live the way they want the world to be.

Montessori Voices April 2008

The more we see and learn about Montessori education the more we are encouraged to participate as a family...

Fiona and Steven Gray are parents of four children, Reuben, 11 Jane, 8 Aidan, 5 and William, 7 months. Their three older children have attended New Plymouth Montessori, New Zealand since they were three years old. Rueben and Jane are at the Montessori primary (6-12) class at Moturoa Primary and Aidan will move there toward the end of the year. William will start Montessori in 2010.

We discovered Montessori through a colleague whose partner was a Montessori teacher. When we first visited New Plymouth Montessori in 1999 we were immediately impressed with the layout of the classrooms and the fantastic outdoor environment. The teachers spoke with intelligence and knowledge about Montessori and why it was so successful.

Reuben and Jane started Montessori at three and have gone onto the Montessori primary class. The allowance for children to grow and develop at their own rate has been very effective, particularly for our oldest son when going through ‘growth spurts’. The development of a life- long love of learning has appealed greatly to us.  It is not that work in Montessori is not ‘hard’ at times; just that it is presented in a variety of ways, with the children being able to work through it at a pace that suits them, expressing their results in a variety of ways. The child is encouraged to enjoy the feeling of success in meeting a challenge that may have stretched them scholastically and sometimes emotionally. This has been very evident in the primary classroom and the idea of building on ever-more complex ideas using what is already familiar appeals to us. For example the geometric shapes introduced in preschool are revisited in primary when the child derives the geometric formulas to describe their shape.

Making the decision for Rueben and Jane to go to Montessori preschool and primary was straightforward. With Aidan, our son with Down’s syndrome, we had to scrutinise all those values again. Though many of the parents and teachers had initially been a little apprehensive about him joining the Montessori preschool class, Aidan has been very welcomed and included in the Montessori community. To be able to watch how he has blossomed in such a caring, nurturing environment has been a delight. He has gone from a boy who was not walking or talking, and needing constant supervision, to a child who is comfortable in his classroom,  responsible working with Montessori materials and able to communicate his desires. Our next step is preparing Aidan and the school for his transition to the primary class at the end of this year.

We admit to moments of doubt about whether we have chosen the right path for our children. Being ‘out on the fringe’ can be awkward at times and well-meaning comments and criticisms from others allow doubts to creep in. But when we look at the thoughtful, considerate, connected children we have the privilege to be bringing up, we know Montessori is giving them all every opportunity to discover and bring out the best they can be.

We have been very fortunate with the people with whom we have been involved and their commitment to Montessori in New Plymouth. The building of community is an aspect that needs to be encouraged for the development and expansion of a strong and stable Montessori education for children from birth right through to university age. The more we see and learn about Montessori education the more we are encouraged to participate as a family.

Montessori Voices April 2008

We would encourage all new parents to observe at Montessori school, look at all their options and then choose what is best or them and their child...

Stephen and Kaye-Maree Corkill are the parents of two daughters, Ashleigh, 11 and Shana, 6. Both girls have attended Montessori since they were three years old and are in the Montessori primary (6-12) class at Moturoa School in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

We heard about Montessori before our first daughter was born and enrolled her at New Plymouth Montessori when she was six months old.  In the beginning we had very little understanding of Montessori and its philosophy.  We were initially impressed with the Montessori classrooms and resources, the structure of environment and the obvious respect and love for the children. We decided to start Montessori and see how it suited Ashleigh.  Over the years it has been a journey of learning and understanding about the Montessori philosophy. We have continued to re-evaluate how well Montessori has suited our children.  Moving Ashleigh to the primary class was a huge decision where we considered all options available but decided that the staff, facilities and philosophy of the Montessori school would provide for a well- balanced education.

Both girls are now in the primary class and likely stay in a Montessori environment until they leave school.  The challenge for us at the moment is how we can stay in Taranaki and provide the girls with a Montessori-based high school education.  If not, there are options elsewhere in NZ or overseas.

We didn’t have much understanding of Montessori to start with but as our children have grown with Montessori so has our understanding of the philosophy. We had full access to the school’s library and read to learn more about Montessori education especially when we were deciding on a primary school. We have always been keen to make informed choices for our children and to be involved in their schooling. We did not want our children to attend a preschool if we didn’t have a sound knowledge of how it was run and governed, so attending an AGM and getting on the school council seemed a smart move.

One of the hardest things for us has been to leave traditional assessment measures such as test scores assessments behind and look more holistically at the child and how well they are performing rather than comparing them with other children.

Aspects of Montessori that we think are marvellous are the self-directed learning, the three- year age range that enables the child to learn from the older children and in turn become mentors/leaders themselves, and the freedom with responsibility.  We think our children have enjoyed and benefited from long-term relationships with their teachers, having the same teacher for three years, not a new one each year.

We would encourage all new parents to observe at Montessori school, look at all their options and then choose what is best or them and their child.

Montessori instills in children the sense of responsibility and self direction they will need at university and in their work environment.  State schools seem to take the development of this fundamental skill away from children, and replace it with routine and regimentation.  Why would we send our children into an environment that is not going to prepare them for their lives as adults?

Montessori Voices April 2008