A Montessori mom and educator offers tips for preparing for your child’s early school days.
Montessori education instills in children the intrinsic value of helping others, fosters advanced reading skills and imparts important life lessons that will become evident in the years to come. Montessori children understand that life is a continuous journey comprised of choices, and they embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth. Their journey commences as they enter a Montessori classroom, where they’re encouraged to select materials, set goals and work independently.
I am privileged to witness countless moments of growth like these unfolding not only for my two children, but also among our students each day. When you find an authentic Montessori school, one that embodies the Montessori philosophy in more than just name, your primary responsibility is to trust your child’s dedicated, certified Montessori teacher fully. Your trust, especially during the initial month of your child’s school life, is of paramount importance. An AMI or AMS-certified Montessori lead teacher, supported by a teacher assistant, will guide your child through the process of adapting to school life, overcoming separation anxiety, fostering a love for learning, forming friendships and after three years, your child will grow up to be an independent, self-directed, small, but whole human being with an unending curiosity about the world and an inner interest in learning.
However, whether you choose a Montessori or non-Montessori school, as a parent, you need to engage in some essential mental preparation:
Fostering Trust Through a Positive Outlook/Positive Intent
The first weeks or months of your child’s school life can be emotionally tumultuous for parents. It’s normal to experience a mix of anxiety and apprehension. However, it’s crucial not to let these emotions show to your children. As an adult, your child relies on your calm and positive demeanor when embarking on this new chapter of their life. Express unwavering trust in your child’s school and their first teacher. This will significantly aid in their adjustment. Parents who exude positivity and trust before their children tend to witness quicker transitions, increased focus in the classroom, more laughter, improved eating and sleeping habits, and an overall smoother adjustment to their new school environment.
Select a school that you can genuinely trust. Trust doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to potential issues. If you notice any concerning signs within the first couple of months, it’s vital to engage in open communication and investigation. If your trust isn’t warranted, you should consider withdrawing your child from the school.
Building a Supportive Community
The emotions you experience when dropping your child off at his/her first school are entirely normal. However, the research has indicated that the foremost intervention for any distressed child is to ensure the well-being and mental health of their primary caregiver, typically the mother or father. Seek out peers in your community who are going through similar experiences. Whether it’s a longtime friend or a fellow parent from your child’s class, don’t hesitate to connect and share your feelings. Research conducted by resilience expert Suniya Luthar, as detailed by Harvard-educated journalist Jenny Wallace in her book “Never Enough,” highlights the immense benefits of a group of parents meeting for just an hour each week to discuss their parenting challenges. This support leads to significantly reduced stress levels, stronger connections with their children and a better balance between work and home life.
Love with the Goal of Independence
True love for your child means forging a partnership with the school to raise an independent, healthy achiever. It’s essential to recognize your child’s capabilities, even if it’s your first experience sending a child to school. As Maria Montessori wisely stated, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” This statement also implies that it’s time to refocus on yourself. Sending your child to school is not just their journey — it’s an opportunity for you to reclaim a part of yourself, which may have been temporarily lost during the early years of parenthood.
As you watch your child take their first steps into the classroom, know that, as a mother of two, I empathize with your emotions. From the depths of my heart, I extend my congratulations. You should be incredibly proud of yourself, as this is a small step for your child but a big one for you.
Spring Zhang is the founder and principal of the LiMai Montessori Academy’s three locations and the Montessori Western Teacher Education Center co-owner.