Final in the series. Former Mountain Shadows parent Paul Algreen (P ’15) shares his journey as a Montessori parent.
My final confession in this series is that despite all the clear advantages I’ve previously recounted, I continue to have slight lingering concern as to the whether or not a Montessori-based education will fully support my son’s ability to develop the life skills most necessary to succeed in the real world. Before our Montessori journey began, we read the books, talked to educators, toured schools, and practically stalked Montessori parents in order to gather facts about their experiences and their students’ outcomes. Through the journey, we have seen many of the key strengths of Montessori applied in a rigorous way (AMI) and have been truly amazed over and over again. Of course, there have also been some moments of doubt and questioning. As I’ve discussed in this blog, at the end of our experience, some of those concerns lay just below the surface of calm and pride that we feel as the parents of a Montessori sixth-year graduate. Going forward, how do we measure our son’s ability to succeed in life with his hard-earned Montessori foundation?
As I attempt to answer the above question, I will offer an additional confession: as I write this today, I must admit that this last post is being written a full two years on from 2015, when I was last a sixth-year Montessori dad. The past two years have provided quite a few observations for how Montessori has provided my son with a great many assets and also a glimpse for how he will leverage those capabilities as he now contemplates his high school journey. While the last two years couldn’t absolutely predict the arc of Casey’s life, I will share some of the highlights that really do give us confidence for his future.
But first, I’d like to start with a moment that gave us pause. As Casey transitioned from the second plane of development into the third, we assumed that his excellent preparation would give him advantage for making the adjustments to thrive in middle school. The reality is, it is just as hard as everyone says it is. Going from being the proverbial “big man on campus” to the bottom of the middle school food chain is just as shocking as one might expect. At every turn, Casey’s social and emotional intelligence have been challenged, tested, and twisted into a ball of confusing thoughts that required patience and faith. But again, I’m here to tell you that, through it all, Casey’s gifts of resilience, passion, and curiosity (which have been steadfastly nurtured through his Montessori education) have won the day. We recently had a parent teacher conference and nearly every single one of his teachers took the extra time to comment on Montessori-driven strengths that I’ve highlighted throughout this series. For example, it was really exciting to hear his art teacher talk about the way Casey brought a completely different style of thinking to a video project and led the entire class on an exciting journey that enhanced the learning experience for everyone —including the teacher! Furthermore, Casey’s healthy balance of empathy and kindness nurtured at Mountain Shadows, while in some of the more harsh social interactions a “liability”, have already started paying dividends in his quest for developing meaningful long-term relationships.
I’m happy to report that, by far, the most clear and tangible differences we’ve noticed between Casey and his non-Montessori peers is a profound sense of self, a willingness to stand on his own (despite the great peer pressures of middle school), and an insatiable appetite for adventure, which were all no doubt stoked by the countless experiences outside of the elementary classroom as well as the consistent in-classroom opportunity for discovery. We see so many of the specific Montessori lessons (and not-so-specific lessons) learned over the years reverberate in his daily, educational, and personal life in both positive and truly significant ways.
As Casey plans for his next chapter, high school, we are really excited to see his independence and character carry him through his next set of adventures. And what a gift, to think of school as an adventure, rather than an obligatory activity or banal means to an end. As the quote from Plutarch wisely advises us, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
Finally, I would like to thank Mountain Shadows Montessori School for supporting this blog and providing a creative outlet for my Montessori-dad musings. As well, our family cannot thank enough, the wonderful teachers and staff at Mountain Shadows for the great care and love they’ve shared with our son (and with us as parents) through the years. – Paul Algreen
Photo credits: Michele Algreen
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