Why We Chose Montessori

Why We Chose a Montessori Education for our son with ADHD and Autism

I am the mother of a moment maker. I use to grumble at this title. I was constantly giving up moments to his teachers for various issues he had during the day. I never thought that I would one day accept my moment maker for what he is – perfect.

Through the years, my moment maker has been called a spirited child, inquisitive, a non-traditional learner, disruptive, clumsy, and the list goes on. He has been tested, retested, and refused testing. He is probably the most documented kid in the entire town. He is also the sweetest, most polite, kindest, and one of the smartest kids I have ever met.

My moment maker is now 11 years old; he has been to four schools since kindergarten. These school changes were not a result of our family relocating to a new city, or state. We have lived in the same house for all of his 11 years.

Why four schools? There must be an issue. There is, my son has ADHD and Autism. He was diagnosed with ADHD when was 4 ½ years old, not by our family doctor, but by a Behavioral Neurological Pediatrician. We also had him tested privately, which confirmed the diagnosis, by a doctor that is trained in elementary education, child development, school and clinical neuropsychology. No stone has been left unturned for our moment maker. At the age of 10 a Harvard Educated Psychologist diagnosed him with Autism. We feel confident his team of physicians have gotten the diagnosis correct.

Two of the schools he attended were private and one was a public school. We have run the gauntlet of options. He has had a few great teachers and some not so great teachers. The common element in these schools, they were all traditional learning environments of varying degrees.

Children sat at assigned desks, or tables in kindergarten. The teachers stood in front of the class and regurgitated information according to an established curriculum. There was an interaction and discussion between the teacher and the child, but it was an authoritarian relationship. The teacher dictated when, what, and how the child will learn. The class worked as a unit, together on tasks. Slower students pulled the class behind, while more advanced students were held back. Misbehavior was not permitted and recess was taken away as a punishment on a regular basis. It was the veiled threat that lingered unspoken all day, every day. Not much has changed since I went to school (both private and public) 30 years ago. Why is that? Why after 30 years are schools still doing the same thing?

The other common element between our moment maker and these three schools was he hated them all. He was miserable. Upon pickup from school everyday I would hear stories about how stupid he thought he was (he’s not his IQ is above average), or how he had his recess taken away again, how he had to sit out of gym for misbehavior, or how he failed his spelling/math/reading test. His last private school was better than the ones before it and he spent 2 ½ years there. But in the end he was still unhappy. If you’re child is in second grade and doesn’t like school, there is nowhere to go but down from there. Let’s face it as children graduate from one grade to the next the class work gets more regimented, the difficulty increases exponentially, and breaks decrease. The minor struggles they have in second grade become major issues as they progress through the system.

My husband and I knew we had to do something. We needed to engage him. We needed to find a way to tap into all of that hidden knowledge and love of facts he has. We kept telling him, “Read it will unlock the world.” But he wouldn’t. We would take him to museums and watch documentaries with him, you could see the excitement and zest for knowledge he had. However, we were unable to transition that love of learning into his everyday school environment. We were growing frustrated, and he was too. Every morning we would tell us, “I Hate, Hate, Hate going to school!” We had to do something, and we did. We made the best decision of our parenting life. We pulled him with one-month left of 2nd grade and put him in a Montessori school.

I picked my moment maker up the first morning at his new Montessori school and tentatively asked him, “So how was it?” He replied with the most excitement I have ever heard from him, “Mom it was awesome! We learned how to do Math the fun way!” I almost ran into the curb with my car, I was so caught off guard. Huh, math the fun way? What is math the fun way? Because I can tell you out of 18 years of schooling, I was not aware of any fun way to do math. He proceeded to tell me all about these beads, how he was allowed to touch them (!), use them to count in groups, and it was so easy to see and understand. He was excited to learn. He.Was.Excited.To.Learn.

Montessori puts the child first and provides a place that will foster exploration. He moves at his own pace, being ahead in some areas and behind in others. He is learning leadership and responsibility. No one is telling him to sit at his desk and now take out his book. There are only a few desks. It is hard for me to explain, and at times difficult to understand. But I see the transformation my child has made from the shy sad little boy that couldn’t find his place in the world to the kind excited child that loves books and learning.

People gave us grief about switching him to a 4th school. Why would we do that? He needs to learn that life is not easy. He needs to learn that he should do what he is told. We ignored those people and recognized that he is a child, and he should love school and not just make the best of it. He should look at knowledge as powerful and be excited to learn. He should realize there are options in life and he needs to work at things until he finds a solution that is best for him. Because there are solutions, some are just easier to find than others. I think we have finally found ours.

He is now in 5th grade at his Montessori school and loves it (as much as an 11 year old boy could). He has learned how to read and has confessed to me, “Mom, don’t tell anyone but I really like to read now!” I smile and nod my head, holding back the tears stinging my eyes. My moment maker has finally coming into his own. One time I overheard him agree with his friend from his old school when he said he didn’t like school. Later I prodded him and asked him if that was true. He sheepishly looked at me and whispered, “No, I was just saying that cause he says it. I love school Mom.”

My moment maker is no longer making moments to be upset about, but moments I am proud to witness and be a part of. And they are wonderful just like him.

 

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  1. My 6th grade son has been in a Montessori school since he was two years old. We have to move him next year into the public school system and I am terrified. Montessori has been such a gift for my son, who is extremely intelligent, (tested in the genius range), but has dyslexia and a written expression disorder. Thanks to the Montessori method, multi-age classrooms, and being able to follow his passions, my son has always known that he’s smart. The other kids describe him as smart and funny. The fact that the learning specialist meets with him once a week (and he has a tutor outside of school), is just something he does. Not who he is.

    My daughter (now in college) also attended the same Montessori school for her elementary education. She was an average learner with no learning or behavioral issues. She received the gifts of a focus on community and social justice, along with the ability to know herself and how to access resources to achieve her dreams from this school.

    Can you tell I’m a huge fan? I wish all children had the opportunity to benefit from a Montessori education. I feel so lucky that my children have.

    • I agree 100% – all kids should have the gift of Montessori. I have seen my two children grow so much since being a part of the school. They no longer think just about themselves, but of the entire world. They realize the impact of their actions. And YES to social justice and community!

  2. So thrilled that you guys found the right learning environment for your son! I applaud your tenacity to keep searching until you found this solution. It’s agonizing when your kid doesn’t want to go someplace that they’re supposed to spend about 6 or 7 hours a day! So happy he loves his school now!

  3. I love this post and everything it entails. My education is in Early Childhood Education and when I discovered Montessori I was like where was this all my life. There is a free charter Montessori school in our area and I elected through school choice to enroll my daughter there. She has taken after me in a lot of ways, learning disabilities wise…She was held back, however , I don’t get the same feelings. She tells me. It is just how my brain works. This is how my brain understands things. No one looks twice that she is way below level in math and way above level in reading. This is normal and perfectly fine. It is just the way her brain works. What I would have given for someone to tell me that when I was in third grade.

  4. I was a public school teacher and our children go to a Montessori school. I couldn’t love it any more if I tried. The girls are in 2nd & 1st grades and pre-k. Unfortunately our school only goes to the 4th grade. I’ll be so sad when we have to leave it and have no idea where we’ll send the girls. It’s almost sad that not every child learns in this way.

    • Our school had only gone to 1 – 6th and so we had hesitated to enroll Jake when for that reason. Then when we were at his last school they added K-8. It’s been wonderful. However, now we worry about high school. Guess we just both take it one day at a time with our Montessori blessing.

  5. We seriously considered Montessori for Miles, and with all the BS he’s dealing with this year, and the general amount of BS in our school district in general, I wish we had. I think it would better suit his
    personality and learning style. I’m glad that Jake is happy at his school and doing well. Go Jake!

    • It wasn’t an easy decision and took us awhile to finally come to it but it has been a huge blessing. I hope things take a turn for the better for your district, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  6. Hayley says:

    But how do you afford the huge tuition for a Montessori school? I had to homeschool my 6 year old and there is no way he can do a public school. I do not want to homeschool anymore. It is way too conservative of a community for me. I’m at a loss of what to do.

    • Our school believes strongly in the tenants of Maria Montessori, and as a result offer tuition assistance ranging from 50% to full scholarships for children who are in need. I would check and see if your local private school’s offer tuition assistance.

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