Fast Times at Montessori School

Archer, pre-preschool. 8:23am

"I'm going to sneak away, now" I whispered to Archer's teacher, just as Archer was making himself comfortable with the other boys and girls at the snack table.

"Sneaking out is a bad idea," she said. "Then he'll think you left him. Tell him goodbye, instead. Tell him that you'll see him in a few hours."

"But he'll cry!"

"Yeah, I know. They always do. But after a while he'll be fine. And pretty soon he won't cry at all. You'll see."

I crouched down next to Archer who was enjoying drinking his water from a Dixie cup.

"Archer? I have to go now but I'll pick you up in a few hours, okay? Have fun at school! Bye-bye!"

"Bye-bye," Archer said, as I scurried away.

Don't look back. Don't look back. Don't look back...

But of course... Because I couldn't help it, I looked back. A frown was forming on his face and I knew any second he would cry. I pushed through the front door just in time to miss hearing his wails.

His preschool was the one and only school we looked at, a little Montessori school up the road. I didn't even know what Montessori meant, to be honest. I still don't really. I just liked the teachers and the children and had a feeling it was a keeper. I liked that the school was painted red and the schoolyard had an area of dirt for the kids to roll around in. I liked that the children were from all backgrounds. I liked that classes didn't believe in parent-carpooling for fieldtrips, instead taking the children to and fro by way of the Metro bus. I liked that there was nothing neurotic or phony about the place. It was laid back. As preschool should be, me thinks.

I never bought into the whole preschool hysteria. Maybe I missed the gene, but I just don't get it at all. Reminds me of waiting in line for an hour outside the "cool club" which is only "cool" because Jared Leto's band played there once or something. In my experience the "coolest" clubs usually suck. But hype is powerful and parents want to do the right thing for their kids at all costs and sometimes that means visualizing the emperor's robes. (I'm not discounting the probability that I too will compliment the emperor on his invisible platinum jock-strap. I've most definitely done it before. )

After leaving Archer, I sat outside the school in my car for several minutes, waiting for the teacher to come get me but she didn't come. So I drove to the gym and worked out. I went home and took a long shower. Wrote some emails. Did some errands. Had a quiet afternoon to myself, checking the clock only sixty-seven (thousand) times. Not bad.

When I went to pick Archer up he didn't see me right away so I stood in the back of the class and watched him. He was eating his lunch quietly, surrounded by the other children. He was smiling and humming and pointing. He was happy as I've ever seen him.

"Archer. You're mommy is here," one of the little girls in Archer's class screamed.

All the children waved. "Hi, Archer's mommy!"

(Last month Archer and I visited the school two days a week to get him acclimated, which was why all the kids knew be my name. And by name I mean "Archer's Mommy")

Archer looked up from his lunch and smiled at me.

"Mommmmmy!!!" he shrieked, running to me. He put his little head on my shoulder and looked up at me again. "Aw, Mommy yuv."

Then he proceeded to drag me around the room, pointing out a puzzle and a peg board and showing me the rug he sat on for storytime, before waving to his teacher and the other children and saying, "bye, bye cuel!"

On the way home I asked him what he thought of preschool and he pointed out the window.

"Cuel! Cuel! Cuel!" he shrieked. "Cuel!"

He was beaming with pride and so was I. We both made it out relatively unscathed. Some tears shed on both sides of the school-door but that was to be expected.

"Gimme five!" I said.

Already one-step-ahead of the game, Archer held out both hands and gave me ten.

that wasn't so bad after all!

40 comments:

verybadcat | 5:26 AM

Wahoo. :)

Anonymous | 6:34 AM

i always just lurk but i want to tell you that this post made me feel brave enough to pick up the phone and set up a preschool appointment. it's time. thank you for helping me see that it will be ok.

Don Mills Diva | 7:10 AM

Awww - so great. I'm go happy he is enjoying himself!

Kendra | 7:23 AM

Greetings GGC - I have been reading your posts for a while now. My youngest started in preschool a month before he turned 3. My husband and I had the SAME laments you and Hal did....."he's just a baby!"....He's only 2!"..."Preschool? Already?" Our son has a visual impairment - not bad - but he qualified to start an "ECI" preschool. Our oldest son didn't set foot in a preschool unitl he was the ripe old age of 4, so....this was a bit of a shock to us.
From reading your posts, and I think you have stated this before, you like Archer to "go at his own pace", be his own person. From what I know about Montessori (family friends have had all 5 of their children in Montessori schools at some point), this is the perfect place for him. This from Wikipedia: The method is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed activity on the part of the child and clinical observation on the part of the teacher (often called a "director", "directress", or "guide"). It stresses the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing academic concepts and practical skills.
So....I was not suprised when I read you latest post. It was more of "Montessori? Well Of course!"

GOod Luck and have fun!

GoMommy | 7:37 AM

Yea Archer! And Yea Archer's Mommy!

Liam's Mom - Gina | 8:02 AM

I love reading your adventures. So glad things went smoothly!

ME | 8:05 AM

Hurrah!

Anonymous | 8:06 AM

Yes, that is what Montessori specializes in - each kid at own pace. Also, it is great fit for the creative types I believe. Just a little fyi, the two guys who began Google totally credit their adult success to their Montessori preschool!!! They wrote about it in their book. So proud of you and Archer, too!!!! And just a little warning, my girl had a harder time the second day as she thought school was a one-day deal! : ) He is going to blossom even further at this school - I can feel it. - Missy

foodiemama | 8:22 AM

i'm glad it went well. i think i would be a complete basket case leaving gus, haha. we'll probably wait to do preschool if at all until gus is almost in kindegarten and we are considering montessori. can't wait to hear your experiences on it.

The Mommy | 8:25 AM

Thank you. Hearing the success you just had gives me hope for success in the fall. Go Archer! Go GGC!

Chag | 8:31 AM

Glad to hear his first day of preschool went so well! It's always harder on us than it is on them.

Agatha | 8:51 AM

Phew. I'm glad it went well. WEll done you for surviving it xxx

Jaci | 8:52 AM

I'm so proud of you both...one small step for Archer, one giant leap for mom!

Fraulein | 9:07 AM

It's so cool how much fun they have, isn't it? I am still amazed that my kid has these little friends! I drop her off and they say, "Do you want to play with us?" and off they all go...just this morning when I dropped off my Peanut, two of her best friends in the class, one girl and one boy, grabbed her hands and they did a little impromptu "ring around the rosey." I stood and watched and it was so amazing: suddenly she has her own little social life! It's a truly wonderful thing.

Wendy | 9:21 AM

Congrats to both you and Archer on the first day of school.

I am sure both of you will be fine.

mamalang | 9:31 AM

Preschool/daycare was a necessity for my family, but when you find the right fit, it's a good thing. The one thing I have learned (after 3 kids and 11 years of daycare/preschool/afterschool programs) is that sometimes, peer pressure is a good thing. I believe in allowing kids to learn at their own pace, but sometimes, we need that little push to get us in the right direction. I'm glad the teacher made sure he knew you were leaving...it truly is better that way. And know that sometime down the road, he may suddenly develop that fear of you leaving, and cry and cling. And you will feel bad for leaving him. And he will be fine 15 minutes after you walk out the door, while you sit at the gym or work or wherever, feeling guilty. It does get better with time though :)

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 9:48 AM

You guys are awesome and Mamalang, your comment? It pinged to my phone at the precise time I was stuck in traffic feeling TOTALLY guilty because today, even though in the car on the way he was shouting "CUEL! CUEL! YAY!" as soon as we got there he clung to me for dear life, hysterical. It sucked. It's been well over 15 minutes so I'm thinking he's probably fine by now. Thank you.

Thank all of you. You guys are totally awesome. High tens all around.

Trysha | 10:05 AM

This is sooo awesome!!! WTG Archer and even bigger WTG GGC!!!

I felt horrible when Brandon would stay crying for the first week and I was fully prepared for hysterics when we went back on Monday, but instead he was pushing me out the door "I said BYE, Momma!"

mothergoosemouse | 10:35 AM

The pre-school hysteria that sucks is the "if he doesn't go to this school, then he's totally blown his shot at Harvard" hysteria.

We're still having tough drop-offs here, and CJ's been in school at least part-time since she was a year old. It kills me, but I know it's good for her (and the wailing only lasts a few minutes).

merseydotes | 11:36 AM

Yeah, you have to be upbeat and say "Have a great day, goodbye!" and leave as if you've just done him the biggest favor ever. You can't let them see fear! 8-)

Also, sneaking in and watching at the end of the day (my daughter is in a full-time preschool) is one of my favorite things. It's damn near impossible to do, though, because all the other kids do what your other kids did: Scream, 'Petunia, your mommy is here!' But now Petunia knows that sometimes I sneak in and watch, so she will often ask on the way home, 'Mama, what did you see me doing today?' which is SO adorable.

clueless but hopeful mama | 1:00 PM

YAY! So glad it went well. I read your previous post and was feeling so with you; I felt the same way when Zoe started part time daycare at 17 months. There were tears during the transition (me more than her, of course) but she loves it now and I'm so glad to know that she is okay on her own, even if not everyone can understand her babbles at the moment she utters them.

mfk | 1:08 PM

YAYYYY!!! Go Archer and Bec :). I went to Montessori school for pre-K and kindergarten, and still actually have quite fond memories, so hopefully Archer will too. Congrats on surviving the first day :)

Domestic Chicky | 2:18 PM

Not sure whether I got more choked up on yesterday's post or today's...High tens to both of you!!!

Mom101 | 2:47 PM

You just made me cry. I'm so happy for you all about cuel. And you just got me a little more excited about Thalia starting in the Fall.

Charlotte | 3:29 PM

CUEL! YAY!

High ten to Archer and to his brave mommy. Now enjoy your time working out and relaxing a bit.

And Montessori? Rocks. So does Waldorf pedagogy, BTW. Something to check out if you're into the holistic approach to education (I was a Waldorf teacher myself for a while--5th and 12th grade).

Shannon | 4:27 PM

you just re-confirmed my excitement for preschool. only 6 months to go!

kittenpie | 5:08 PM

They really do so well, it's amazing. Adn the teacher is right - make it a quick, cheerful goodbye, and show him your confidence in his having a good day. It works wonders. You're both going to love school!

Lynn | 5:36 PM

Smiling and crying at the same time reading your post. Glad you both had a good first day!!

the end of motherhood | 7:42 PM

Isn't that the greatest feeling? Seeing your child out in the big pre-school world and happy, happy, happy?

KateCT | 8:54 PM

This is the second year my four-year-old is in preschool and the first year was TOUGH - it was two mornings a week. Too many tears on both sides. Even this year, at a different school b/c they had a progam at our local school for this age, it was tough to start again. Not sure if this would work with a boy, or if it is too "girly" but our new thing is when I leave (after walking her down the hall and often waiting for her to take her coat off and find her name and spot) I give her one last hug and kiss her palms -- she saves the kiss if she needs it later in the day. This seems to help her -- hope its not to corny!! Good Luck to you and Archer.
The funny thing w/ mine is she talks a blue streak at home but is very quiet at school. However she is now getting speech help too b/c of some of her pronounciation.
And her class is partly kids with developmnental delays and partly "modelling" kids -- they all help each other learn in so many ways!!

BookMomma | 5:48 AM

So glad it went well that day! Sounds like he (and you) had a great time.
Don't let your defenses down just yet however. My kid had the strange reaction to what he thought was a one-day deal. On day 3 he had the one and only meltdown, and I wasn't expecting that. After he got it out of his system and began to understand this was for realsies he settled in just fine. Just didn't want you to think it was back-tracking if it happened to Archer.
Sounds like a great school too!

Carmen | 5:10 PM

Hey, just wondering if you saw this blog post from LeahPeah...she had lunch with Diablo Cody...who did she sleep with for that??? :)

http://leahpeah.com/blog/posts/2008/01/1098

the weirdgirl | 12:03 AM

Rock on Archer! Sounds like you both did great. And don't worry about the tears... they'll come and go, but overall he'll have a blast at school. My son still will have bouts of clinging and crying occasionally, which ends the minute I'm out the door, and he started almost six months ago! But he also misses school terribly when he can't go, and he's gotten so much out of it. Putting him in early was the best decision we made!

Anonymous | 7:42 PM

wish i had read the other post yesterday so i could've consoled you!! congrats on making it through the first day of school!! if his teachers are as awesome as i am (i am a really great preschool teacher!) then things will be just fine!! he may even cry when you bring him back- sometimes the next few days are the worst because now he knows you are leaving and letting him stay for a while. it's alright. just ride it out. my daughter is right next door to my class and still cries (she's 4!) but it's over in 2.4 seconds and she plays happily for the rest of the day.

and us teachers are well versed in all sorts of languages, hand motions, eye movement and slight nods of the head. don't worry, they will know what he wants.

wish i could hug you. i am so filled with emotion for you right now- what a HUGE step in all of your lives. amazing.

Anonymous | 7:42 PM

~jjlibra

Sara | 3:40 PM

Hooray! My daughter is in Montessori and we love it for all of the reasons you mentioned. She's really blossomed there and is always proud of the work she does. Also, she's learned to do so many things on her own, which rocks. Her school has a nice balance of work and play, too, which is something Montessori is sometimes dissed for.
Best of luck!

Hannah | 3:55 PM

Oh, Becca, Montessori is super rad. My mom used to work with a teacher training program for Montessori schools in Mexico called Phoenix Project, and the director was one of the coolest people I met when I was younger. It sounds like Archer was really cool about it, and his pictures made me smile on this slushy, gross day up here.

Meems | 12:54 AM

This post brought tears to my eyes. It's so hard to let go. I can't imagine dropping my shorter than average son at Junior High next year. I don't want him to go!

Both of my kids have been in Montessori since preschool and I love it. I like that they get their chart and are responsible for getting their stuff done at their own pace. If it's not done, there are consequences of course, like staying in from recess. But they love it. I wish I could find a good Montessori Jr High school, but I'm so glad they got the start they did. I really like that the teachers are required to have that extra certification on top of their regular teaching certifications.

metaDAD | 12:32 PM

Don't look back. Don't look back. Don't look back...Never look back...

Great post, unfortunately I have an Echo and The Bunnymen song stuck in my head now, gee thanks.

The Flying Enchilada | 6:17 PM

Too damn cute! I can't wait for my baby to love me like that.