Category: Parenting

Some Thoughts on Montessori Schools

We have been happy with our Montessori school in Berks County PA. We plan to keep our kids there through 8th grade, which is as far as this particular school goes.

All Montessori Schools are a little different, so make sure you check out the particular school you are looking at. We’ve seen some that are too preppy and focused on grades (which aren’t even a Montessori thing), or just really small and quiet/depressing.

One of the main benefits is individualized learning. Each student goes at their own pace in each subject area. Smarter kids are given higher level work as they are ready for it. Kids struggling with particular subjects are given more time to get through it.

The individualized learning is also useful if you travel a lot during the school year. We can take our kids out for 1-4 weeks at any time, and when they come back, they just pick up where they left off. They haven’t missed Chapter 12 and won’t fall behind in their classes.

I think Montessori is particularly good for younger, pre-school aged children. They really teach a level of independence that other schools don’t. Montessori kids are using scissors, and getting their own food, and helping to clean up, and all of that kind of stuff a lot earlier than non-Montessori kids.

Depending on the school, children are in classrooms with older and younger kids. Our school has two pre-K/K classrooms, one 1-3 classroom, and 4-8 classroom. They also might have the same teachers year after year, which is good as the staff really gets to know your particular kids and their needs.

Some of the benefits taper off as the kids age. You probably want a PHD teaching your kids Physics in a more college-like setting. At the same time, Montessori is good for addressing the emotional needs of pre-teens and teenagers. It’s a relatively safer environment than typical public schools. I’ve found the Montessori staff more open to address the emotional growth of our children along with the academic growth.

If you are comparing a private Montessori school vs a public school, there is also just a huge difference when you are paying a private school. You are a customer and they will listen to you and generally do more for you to keep you as a customer. What might take an independent education plan (IEP) and 6 months of back and forth meetings in a public school, is usually just one meeting with a private school.

I Will Be Able to Break The Habits I’m Teaching Isaac Now

Next in my series on the naive things I believe as a first time parent: I believe that I will be able to break the habits I’m teaching Isaac now.

It’s easiest to explain this by example. So for instance, I’m trying to teach Isaac to suck his thumb… because Isaac’s thumb will always be around him and thumb sucking is something he can do on his own to calm himself down.

Nice enough. However, if Isaac continues to suck his thumb through grade school, he could develop mouth/tooth problems. My niece is actually wearing a brace to correct an overbite (under bite?) that is probably a result of thumb sucking.

So I naively believe that I will be able to do a better job at “breaking” Isaac of his habit of thumb sucking than my brother was with his daughter. How do I plan to do that? Well, Isaac will put his thumb/hand in his mouth for two main reasons: (1) to calm himself down… when he’s upset or tired and (2) cause he’s teething. He won’t be teething forever, and as for #1 it will be my job to teach Isaac 3-year-old ways to calm himself down: count to ten, draw, read a book, play a game, talk with someone, etc, etc.

I’m sure my brother would laugh at that. Cause I know he tried his hardest to get his daughter to stop sucking hers. We’ll see how I do.
I’m doing a lot of things that members of my family would call “spoiling” or otherwise creating bad habits for us and Isaac. But Isaac is just a 4-month old. So I shouldn’t worry too much yet about how he’s going to be when he’s 4 or 5-years old. Sure, crying for “no reason” and being held could be a bad thing for a 4-year old to do. But a 4-month old doesn’t know any better. For Isaac now, it’s important to teach him that his parents are there for him when he needs them… that’s all he understands.
I know that Isaac is going to get older, smarter, and more mature. And as he does, I will be able to teach him how to be patient, control his emotions, go to bed on his own, and all the things he’ll need to do.

I’ll teach him about patience when he understands what patience means. I’ll teach him about discipline when he can understand what discipline means. I’ll teach him about respect when he can understand what respect means. In the meantime, I’ll teach him about love and happiness and curiosity. Those seem to be the things he understands now.

Babies Don’t Sleep All the Time

Babies do not sleep all the time. And even when they do, you’re not going to be able to get much done. That is one of the lessons I’ve learned so far as a new dad.

Before Kim and I decided to have a baby, we did an exercise where at various times throughout the day we would ask ourselves “What would we be doing right now if we had a baby?” To a lot of these questions, we’d answer “The same thing. The baby would just be sleeping in the corner/on the couch/in his crib while we worked/ate/watched tv.” Not really.

I’ve read that newborns can sleep as much as 16-18 hours a day. Isaac is almost 3 months old. I’d say he sleeps 12-14 hours a day.

If we are lucky, Isaac will sleep 4-6 hours straight at night… and he’ll have a 3-4 hour nap in the middle of the day. The other x hours of sleep comes in 30min or 1-2 hour chunks. Worst of all, you can never tell how long one of these naps is going to be. So you’ll find you can do some dishes or a little bit of house work, but don’t think about getting into that long, involved work project while you’re “on shift”.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture of things or focus on the negative. After a couple months, Kim and I have figured out how to take care of Isaac and still get work done and take care of the house and have a bit of time alone or together. Family helps. However, I did underestimate how much attention a sleeping baby takes.

[edit: I’ll have to make sure to post some more upbeat stories.]

I’m told “it gets better” as he gets older. I think that instead of Isaac becoming better at “entertaining himself”, we’ll become better at getting things done in less time. I’ve already trimmed a bunch of wasted activity out of my daily routine.(Kim will tell you there is more to trim and she might be right.)

Babies require your attention even when they are sleeping. Get “things” done when you can.
So that’s lesson #1 I suppose. Before I learn any more lessons, I’ll be posting how I think things are going to go over the next 10-12 months. And then we’ll see how I fare.

On the fatblogging side of things: 237 pounds. 2775 calories. I tried to go out for a run to burn the extra 275 calories, but couldn’t make it. I’ll have to make it up tomorrow. I’ve been doing okay, but do get hungry between dinner and bedtime. When I’m hungry, I’m losing weight.

I’m back? Fat blogging. Parenting.

I’m going to try blogging a bit more regularly here, which is a crazy plan with the schedule I’m keeping these days. Typical bla bla bla.

Couple things I will focus on:

(1) Fatblogging. I’m counting calories again. This morning I weighed 239. I ate 2500 calories. I’m going to keep track of those two values every day… maybe chart them on the site.

(2) I also want to write posts about my preconceived notions of what parenting is going to be like, my plans for certain aspects of raising a child. It will be interesting to look back on this and see how I was right and wrong. I’m expecting an even mix of both.