Montessori Update

I have no idea if I posted this before, and there’s no search function on the app. Apologies if I’m repeating myself.

I asked the analyst if he thinks it’s a good idea to put Klara into a Montessori school. He said the following. The Montessori system in itself is great. If the entire education system was like it, that would be awesome.

But it isn’t.

The existing education system was created at the time when the industrial society was born and it aimed to socialize kids into the conveyor-belt, ‘be quiet and do what you are told’ mentality. It sucks but it’s what there is.

Once Montessori ends at the age of twelve, the kids have to go to a regular school. Or if you pay for a supremely expensive Waldorf school that’s similar to Montessori but for older kids, they eventually go to college. And these kids haven’t been socialized into the mainstream model. They start having anxiety. The analyst says he works with such kids a lot. So his advice on Montessori is absolutely don’t do it.

Again, Montessori is a great, probably even perfect, system that exists in an imperfect world. And people do best when they are socialized into the world as it exists and not into a beautiful fantasy.

24 thoughts on “Montessori Update

  1. My first daughter and my stepson attended schools similar to Waldorf and Montessori until ninth grade. Neither of them had a problem adjusting to the different format.


    1. I know a lady who smoked three packs a day and lived to be 90. Of course, there are individual differences. Klara is a single child of older parents. She’s already at risk of being a very special snowflake.


  2. Sorry. I cannot seem to enter my personal info properly on my tablet. The post about my daughter and stepson is from me, David Bellamy.


  3. To be fair, your analyst’s data has a built-in confirmation bias. He doesn’t end up seeing the kids who are doing fine in Montessori. I have no experience of Montessori one way or another, but I can’t see that the kids in my community who have gone to the Montessori school here are any more or less screwed up than the others (and my data pool is largely faculty brats, who tend to have older parents).

    in my experience of my own kids and their friends, any intelligent kid with a rich inner life and independent mind is, at some point, going to come up hard against the regimentation of non-Waldor-esque education. Issues (depression, anxiety) develop at different points and with a different constellation of triggers, depending on the kid. All you can do, really, is watch for it and take action when a series of “bad days” starts to look like a sign of something more pernicious and deeply-rooted.


    1. I need to see an upside to do it, though. Cost, risk of anxiety issues, possible problems with integrating into a mainstream system, more driving for me are the downsides. What are the upsides that would outweigh that?


  4. I thought you were frightened of no recess and shit tons of homework plus screens. Here and here

    Anxiety issues are a consideration but given the way public schools are run now I’m not sure you’d avoid them by avoiding Montessori. It is, I think a matter of degree. Listen to your analyst. Or don’t.

    I was standardized tested every single fucking year from 1st grade to 12th. It did wonderful things for my calm. I did not benefit from the school shooting drills though. πŸ™‚


    1. Hey, I had drills for what to do in case of a nuclear attack at school starting in first grade. And it’s not a problem I ever had to address in analysis, so I’m guessing it didn’t have much of an impact. πŸ™‚

      I don’t really get the problem with testing. Teachers complain but that’s what teachers do. We have standardized testing in our Spanish program but when students do poorly, we don’t blame the testing.


      1. It’s not so much the teachers complaining about being evaluated on test scores and teaching to the test as the effect on students.

        I loathed that shit in elementary and middle school because my mother took it as validation of her parenting and she’d go over it with me and my brother. He didn’t do as well on it, and she told him about it in my earshot. I can only imagine what it would’ve been like if we needed the tests to advance to the next grade. Blech.

        You were probably fine because everyone was matter of fact about it.


        1. A lot of the state-mandated testing is weird because the scores don’t matter at all to the individual student β€” absolutely nothing rides on it as far as any one student is concerned. But for the school and the district a LOT depends on the collective scores: funding, reputation. This puts a lot of pressure in some districts to teach very narrowly to the test.

          I remember my kid’s teacher freaking out to me one year because she had to miss a testing day and the teacher was counting on her to pull the average up. My kid was kind of mystified by the whole thing.


          1. I don’t expect any school to teach much but that’s ok because I can teach anything she needs myself.

            On MLK day, Klara’s school taught that MLK wanted everybody to be nice to each other. So I had to supplement the teaching. πŸ™‚


        2. I totally understand. I once got an equivalent of a B in Physical Training and had to listen to a 4-hour-long screaming rant about how I was going to die under a bridge because my whole life would go downhill from there. Parental dysfunction is a category all its own. But this I did discuss in analysis. πŸ™‚


    1. I was that kid who had extreme trouble fitting in at school because I wasn’t schooled until 7. Academically, I was a super star but that’s genes + family. The social aspect was extremely tough for me. I’m still traumatized. And the fact that I roamed outside unsupervised with a bunch of friends since 4 didn’t do anything to repair the situation. It was a different kind of fitting in that I needed. For one, it took me 15 times longer than other kids to get dressed for outside time or pack my bag. Because nobody ever rushed me before. And so on.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My vote is: she’ll be able to adjust to a different format. Just be sure she gets college prep curriculum content — it’s my unschooled, not my differently schooled people who have problems with college.

    But my standard answer is still, try the local public school because it’s the normal thing and it’s free. Look at alternatives if that turns out to be awful.


    1. I think this is very reasonable. I should come to my own conclusion about the public school. And I can only do that through experience.

      Unschooling, yes, and homeschooling, too. I recently met a bunch of kids who are homeschooled for religious reasons. Great kids but they are several years behind in basic socialization. Klara finally managed to play with the 7-year-old when she interacted with her as if she was two.


  6. My gut feeling is that while the Montessori method might be great… I’m not sure if that’s the peer group you want for Klara…. professional managerial class all the way. I’m terrible, I know.


  7. I am bothered by the notion of making a bad choice now because you will eventually have to make it in the future. While there is life, there is hope. One solution might be to put Klara in Montessori now with the understanding that she will eventually go to a conventional school. Talk to her about what she will eventually have to do and even let her visit a conventional classroom.


    1. \ Talk to her about what she will eventually have to do and even let her visit a conventional classroom.

      I do not think talking about it will contribute to Klara understanding anything. Not because of her age, even adults cannot gain experience via listening to descriptions of “this is what a married life is like” kind.

      Also, such talks (and even w/o them) send the message that conventional school is defective and going their is, if not a tragedy, a thing to be pitied. It can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy as those M-kids who go to Clarissa’s analyst can attest.


  8. Another aspect nobody mentioned here is Klara’s kindergarten friends. To which schools will they go? Would she not like to continue going to the same school with them?

    Personally, I enjoyed conventional schooling and do not think I missed anything from not going to some alternative school. Of course, studying in special grades for gifted students may have something to do with that. (My high school class – 10-12 grades – was selected from 9th graders with average 85+. In grades 1-3 in Ukraine children had to pass a test to go to that special class.)

    I think choosing a good school with many strong students is a must. For a normal child, being stuck with many problematic students is horrible. However, I do not share the prejudice against conventional schooling and do not think a good usual school is worse than other options.


  9. If Klara is a social butterfly, which it seems like she is based on your posts, she will do great in a conventional school. All my kids went to public schools and the afterschool program, and the social aspect is irreplaceable. I highly recommend the afterschool program; my kids’ best friends from elementary school are all from afterschool, because it’s the same kids for years (in contrast to class composition that changes each year) and they have a lot of unstructured playtime together. I would say based on one kid in college, one in middle school, and one in elementary, is that elementary school is generally good (esp up to 3rd or 4th grade), middle school is pretty awful (kids are basically warehoused until they hormonal storm blows over), but high school is quite good and prepares them well for college. Eldest had so much advanced placement (AP) math in high school that being a molecular bio + music double major he won’t have any math in college; he also took AP music theory, world history, and a few others, I forget now. His highschool chem honors class was, he said, no less difficult than his college freshman chemistry. So there is plenty of opportunity, especially in a decently sized school, to explore interests and get advanced-level material. I was quite impressed by the electives when I first surveyed highschool electives for Eldest. See here:

    Someone mentioned faculty brats. I know kids of several of my faculty colleagues. I will say the following based on the small sample, and I know I will sound like a douche but this is true to my observation: my handful of female colleagues in STEM seem to be overbearing mothers; their kids are a bit scary in how insecure and socially maladjusted they are. The moms butt way too much into every aspect of their kid’s lives to the point that it’s hard to listen to their tales (examples: one of them expects her high-school daughter, who still has a 7 pm bedtime, to come back to lunch AT HOME every day, instead, you know, to eat it with her friends as she probably wants to because that’s what all the kids want to; several other kids not allowed to have cell phones for years after most of their friends do, making them social pariahs, because there is a point where kids start to schedule their own get-togethers and you as a parent are out and should leave them be etc.). At one point my Eldest and his same-aged peer who’s the son of a colleague of mine sat side by side and attempted to converse; the contrast was stark and disturbing. I will say that the kids of male faculty (with “civilian” mothers) seem generally well adjusted (which all goes along Clarissa’s thesis that women run families and set the social agenda for everyone). In comparison to these overparented kids, all my kids seem like underachievers and I think the female colleagues pity me. But I don’t force my kids into activities they don’t want (they’re involved in sports and/or arts and not just math/Legos/robot building) and they generally have things like their peers. You need to just let the kids be as much as possible. They are their own people. That doesn’t mean tolerating bad grades or behavior, but IME you can actually reason with older kids, convince them why things are important and drop those things that you can clearly not convince them are. Persuasion is the only thing that works with Middle Boy, who’s extremely strong-willed, as well as socially gifted (he’s one of the popular kids). Eldest and Smurf (youngest) are care more about pleasing those in the position of authority, so I can see how their spirits could get totally crushed with overbearing parents or teachers, and it breaks my heart.

    Sorry, got on a tangent. Public schools are a good place for learning how the world works and making friends, and it is a decent place to learn stuff. Quality varies by state and community, so yours might be great. Smaller communities around here all rally around the single middle or high school, so these establishments have excellent facilities and pay a lot of attention to the quality of instruction. I think Klara will do great.


    1. Absolutely. This is really spot-on. I do have to fight my inner tendency to be omnipresent but I know I have to fight it. So at least I’m lucid enough to realize there’s an issue. Yesterday, for instance, we are at a birthday party at the trampoline park and I realized that I was the only idiot mommy who kept running along the side of the trampoline after Klara. So I forced myself to stop. And she clearly had a lot more fun once I calmed down and made myself scarce.

      I’m also seeing this in a colleague with grown kids. The two oldest were in after school programs and she was too busy with her career to helicopter them. They are now both very successful and well-adjusted. But the youngest, who had mommy always there, helicoptering away, is really struggling. We do this out of a misplaced sense of guilt but kids really need to be with their peers, running around and doing their own thing.

      So it’s definitely my over-protectiveness that’s a problem and I have to fight against it. I even noticed that my sister’s kids are a lot more independent because she just lets them be.

      I’m working on it, though, so I’m not hopeless.


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