My Big Girl

by Love 6 Comments

 

A few weeks ago, Hubs and I made a great decision: to start our daughter in Montessori preschool. After touring the school, observing a class and meeting the staff, we felt so great about this place, we didn’t want Cassie to wait until fall to begin.
We were in luck! The school had been considering starting a new class this spring for kids who would enter in the fall, and Cassie’s enrollment sealed the deal. All the stars must have been aligned, that’s all I can say.
Why were we so anxious to get Cassie’s schooling underway? Well, let’s just say the year of 2 has been challenging. She’s a “spirited” child. Group settings didn’t appear to be her “thing” (e.g., storytime at the library and Saturday classes at the zoo could be an absolute nightmare). We had so much trouble getting her to behave herself in public places, even just during walks around the neighborhood (when she would frequently fling herself down on the pavement and throw a fit for no apparent reason), that sometimes going out at all seemed like too much work and we’d just stay home.
That’s no way to live! I saw how these Montessori kids — Cassie’s age and older — followed directions, worked independently, cooperated in groups, respected each other and their teachers, and generally acted like reasonable human beings. I wanted to live with a kid like that.
Cassie had her first day of school in early March. I was so nervous. How bad would she be? Would she be the worst kid in the school? Would she get kicked out for peeing her pants? (She’s still potty training, not quite at the “master” level yet.) Would they give me my money back and tell me to try home-schooling instead?
To my great relief, she did just fine. Well, she probably was the worst kid for the first few days. But her teacher, Miss Tess, was having none of it. We kept getting little notes (passed to our sitter Karen, who takes Cassie to and from school each morning) regarding Cassie’s behavior and what she was learning that day, such as sitting in a circle and speaking in an “inside voice.” Despite the major set of expectations laid upon her so quickly, Cassie was up for the challenge. She didn’t cry about going to school. She said she had fun and wanted to go again. Phew!
In just a few days, maybe a week, we already noticed major changes in our “spirited” girl. She listened better. She seemed calmer. She learned how to do little things, like pour water into a cup and drink out of it (a real cup, not a sippy) and hold her paper with one hand while coloring with the other. At library storytime — the first one I had braved in months — she was one of the best-behaved kids there, singing the songs, doing the moves, listening to the librarian. It was an early Easter miracle!
I even took her to the mall last week to buy some new shoes for her. No stroller, just she and I walking along, holding hands. Rather than try to break away from me, hurl herself down, or generally make a scene, she happily trotted along. At the shoe store, she waited patiently, conducted a cute conversation with the sales lady, and allowed her feet to be measured. Who was this child? I almost couldn’t believe it was the same Cassie.
This week is the school’s spring break. I’m glad she gets to loosen up a bit this week and have fun, but boy, I can’t wait to see how she blossoms with a few more months of school under her belt. My big girl is turning out to be quite a joy, and I couldn’t be prouder.

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Susan Wenner Jackson

Susan Wenner Jackson is the cofounder and editor of Working Moms Against Guilt. She lives in her hometown of West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, two children, and their dog.

6 Comments

  1. It’s wonderful when you see them start to “get it!” Part of it, I think, is just getting older – at 4, my little one has turned into such a helpful little angel. But Montessori also does wonders. I don’t know how they do it, since looking in from the outside it would seem the lack of structure would cause problems rather than solve them. But it’s a very orderly system, and having the freedom to choose activities and be respected for those choices as opposed to dictated to really seems to resonate with some kids. My daughter’s done very well in Montessori. Seems like it’s perfect for Cassie!!

  2. When we started our daughter at Montessori at age 3 1/2, we were also worried. Ours is much like the Kevin Henkes character of Lilly (as in, "Lilly has a mind of her own . . ."). Very independent and spirited. Didn't want to crush it but direct it. She'd never been in a school or structured setting so we started her at half days. We could not drag her out of there. By the third day, we switched her to full days. Best thing we ever did – she loved it and her personal growth was amazing. She really got all the stuff we had been aiming for at home – it was being reinforced at the school – respect of self, others and the environment, personal responsibility, the ebb and flow of the days and cause & effect. She's in a regular school in 1st grade now, but I wouldn't have changed the Montessori experience for anything – the 3 years of that has prepared her well. I'm so glad your daughter loves it – ours did.

  3. I have always heard such great things about Montessori schools. That is wonderful that your daughter is thriving there. I hope it continues to be a place that she is comfortable with. Have a fun Spring Break!

  4. So excited to see you so excited about it – what an adventure!

  5. I’ve had two of my own spirited children. The right school can really make a difference. I love the Montessori approach to teaching, but unfortunately when my girls were young, there was not a good Montessori school in our area.

  6. It is funny how their personality can change depending on if they’re dealing with you or a teacher. The other week our preschool teacher was praising how well-behaved my daughter is. I was trying to hold back the laughter–she’s a raging lunatic at home!

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