Never in a million years did I think I would be sending my kids to [insert air quotes] private school. Never mind four kids. Never mind that I never thought I’d have more than two kids to begin with. And yet, it happened. The kids and the school. Quite by happenstance, as it turns out.
I have a vague recollection of the term ‘Montessori’ being tossed around when we lived in Montreal, though I had no idea what it meant. (For a history of the roots of Maria Montessori’s principles, click here.) At the time, a government-subsidized, bilingual daycare close to home for $7/day was groovy enough for us and our eldest daughter who was then only a year old. However, when we moved to Aurora, Ontario, the childcare situation was drastically different.
When I discovered I was pregnant with baby #2 we decided to look for a part-time daycare program that would give my daughter, then 2 1/2 years old, something that was just for her and at the same time allow me some time alone with the baby. Also, because she had already had the benefit of starting to learn French in Montreal, I was fixated on her getting that ‘early start’ and began frantically searching for French schools nearby.
To be honest, initially I began researching any and all daycare centres. Wow! Childcare is expensive here! Still, I would probably never have considered Montessori except that a neighbor recommended a bilingual Montessori school close by, La Maison Montessori House (LMMH), in Aurora. Upon further inspection, and after a comparison visit to another French preschool, several things became clear to me:
- the cost of daycare vs LMMH were comparable;
- I wanted the consistency of a five-day-a-week program;
- the quality of the teaching and the materials at the Montessori school vs the ‘other’ French preschool were far superior;
- call me crazy, but I would not entrust my daughter’s education to an individual whose French was not at least as good as, if not better than, mine;
- I would never leave my child somewhere where the children did not seem content;
- I couldn’t believe I was actually considering private school;
- gut feelings rule;
- we would never again have a family vacation.
Well, technically, that last point only became more apparent when Kids 3 and 4 came along because how could we, in good conscience, send Kids 1 and 2 to Montessori for this great educational start and not send them? Well, that was my argument, at least. Sorry, kids. No Disney till you’re 31!
My eldest son, almost 6, is in his third year of the French Casa program at LMMH. Next year he will transition into the public school system and join his big sister at the ‘big’ French school. It was always our intention that our kids would move on to the public school system beginning in grade one. Still leaves the twins to complete two more years of the Casa program. Sigh. But all it takes is for me to see some of the things they are learning at such an early age and how happy and proud they are (check out the video) to know it’s worth it.
It is here that I credit my husband because up until now I have pretty much taken the lead role in any decisions regarding our kids’ education. Left in his hands our children would not be Montessori kids. Not because the educational value isn’t there, but because the finances are not. They never really have been. I hope one day our children will understand that the sacrifices we have made and the vacations we have not had, nor will have for a long time, have all been for the investment in their future. So why gripe about debt and the kitchen reno that will never happen? Why continue to enroll them at La Maison Montessori House when that hard-earned money could clearly go elsewhere? Before you judge me, I’ll tell you.
It is because I believe in the values that Montessori instills in our children.
I believe that they are getting the best possible start in their education.
I believe that our children are capable of far greater things than we might assume.
I believe that they are building strength of character, learning to take pride in their accomplishments and becoming independent thinkers.
I believe that children need to develop at their own pace.
I believe that they need to be treated like persons, with respect.
I believe that children have strengths and weaknesses and also that those weaknesses can be turned into strengths.
I believe that given the right environment, the proper guidance and the right tools, any child can thrive.
I believe that if you teach a child that child will learn, if you guide a child that child will become a leader, if you show a child you care that child will show compassion.
I believe not all systems are perfect but for me, personally, I know…I feel, that when I walk into our Montessori school our children are embraced, loved and protected. We are made to feel as though their education and well-being are the most important things. And…well…we just can’t put a price on that.
Disclosure: My four children have attended the toddler and French CASA programs at La Maison Montessori House (LMMH) in Aurora since 2006. The opinions expressed herein are solely my own based on mine and my kids’ direct, personal experience at LMMH. If you wish to have more information about LMMH in Aurora please visit lmmh.ca.