Sunday, December 20, 2009
In these difficult economic times Kindergarten, or the Montessori third year, is facing competition from non-Montessori public kindergartens. My heart just breaks every time we lose a child for his or her last year. The beautiful foundational work the children have been doing is left unfinished without the outlet and materials for the child to flourish and move forward in his work. The children don't get to experience being the oldest, where they feel so competent and responsible because they can teach and help, thus reinforcing their own skills. They go from a child-centric situation to a teacher-centric situation, and lose the opportunity to self-govern. Their natural curiosity and creativity is contained by the need to teach to all, instead of each child progressing at his or her own pace. The give and take of their Montessori community, where they solve issues, negotiate problems, and choose activities is replaced by an environment where decisions are already made, and the natural movement of the children is restrained. The five to six year old is developing into a social learner and in a public kindergarten is negotiating this complex developmental change in an environment where he or she is the youngest, has a new set of friends, and a new teacher, instead of one year later, when it is developmentally appropriate to move on. I believe sometimes parents think we just want their children to stay because of the money. The money is not the point, the well-being of the child is the point. If money was the goal, we could run schools much differently. taking children at any time and for any amount of time, thus sacrificing the integrity of their community ties. We could make less of a commitment to our staff and reduce hours based on numbers of children who are sick or on vacation. There are plenty of ways to make more money. There is no way to regain the lost year of Kindergarten.