8.11.2007

Play-based/Montessori Preschool - Kids gone wild!!


The new trend in preschool is (apparently) 'play-based/child-based', montessori "free play". I believe that kids learn alot via creative play and experimentation....but these new-age schools take it to an entirely different level. My daughter is a very intelligent, wide-eyed, out-going, lively spirit (putting it nicely). She has this preference for 'experimentation' rather than 'observation' (which is obviously, not always a good thing....and at age 4, it's *usually* not a good thing).

Anyway, when we started our tireless search for the perfect pre-pre-school at age 18 months, we realized that this was *serious business.* As we started investigating the various 'teaching techniques' and 'theories'....we came to the conclusion that...

1) preschools, and preschool teachers, take themselves *way* too seriously; and 2) no one just offered *regular* school anymore. You know....regular. Where the kids sit in little desks, and raise their hand to go to the bathroom. Where the good kids get stars on their work...but only when they did good work!! Where everyone participated in the same activity, at the same time, and learned to *play together.*

It's amazing that *regular* preschool is so hard to come by. My kid has been in 5 pre-schools, and she's not even 5 yet. Let me tell you a couple of stories along our journey.

The Practical, Hood School - (TPHS)
At 18 months, we chose a preschool. Near the house, good hours, and reasonable price. All the things that matter most (especially to busy parents, one who's in an ER residency). I figured anything she learned would be more than she knew - even if it's how to socialize. As long as she was safe.....actually, I didn't care if she didn't learn a damn thing. The 'teacher' was an unemployed mom. It was a day-care center, but their standards weren't that high. But this teacher was absolutely wonderful. She was a mom with two school aged kids....and was looking to get back in the work force. She had a way with kids....and my daughter learned her entire alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, and her speech developed wonderfully while under the care of this 'regular lady.' But, because the school was in the hood....there was an incident....and we had to withdraw....

....what do you expect to get for a resident's salary?

The Montessori School - TMS
The next school, I think we overcompensated a bit. My mom actually had to pitch in and help us afford this new Montessori school. There was an interview, and an entrance exam. You know...one of those schools. "I guess we'll have to go get her a little black skirt-suit for her interview" I joked as the DIRECTOR poured over the admissions process, the requirements, and recommendations. Needless to say, she didn't find my sarcasm the least bit funny.

This school was over $1000/mo. My kid was 2. That's insane. But, this school was beautiful. And all the rich kids went there. We jumped thru the hoops, got baby girl in, and were feeling good about ourselves.

After a couple of months, we realized that she wasn't 'doing new things' as frequently as before. When she was a TPHS student, she had new tricks all the time. A new letter/number...a new song. She'd come home knowing things (good things, educational things) that we didn't teach her (maybe she learned it from all the videos we sat her in front of...but I think it was the school). That was a great feeling....afterall, isn't that what school is supposed to be?

At TMS, she just kinda floated. She'd come home with her clothes on backwards, socks missing, bare foot. One time, after complaining that her "vagina hurt" (we use proper words for our body parts, thank you), I noticed she had no panties on under her shorts. Apparently she decided (*she decided*) she didn't want to wear them, and the teacher allowed her to disregard them. Now, I can be a free spirit, but a 2 year-old toddler playing in the sandbox with shorts on....*needs panties on*. When I discussed this matter with the DIRECTOR, she assured me that they'll make a greater effort to "suggest to my daughter that Mommy prefers she wears panties."

Suggest to her??? Mommy prefers???

Then, since I have a genius baby, they wanted to put her into a class with 3-6 year-olds. For the life of me, I can see no common interests between a 2.5 yo and a 6 yo. But, these 'preschool experts' assured me that this was 'the thing to do', good for my kid...good for the big kid, etc. We agreed, and my daughter hated it. She was always the youngest. She did not have a peer group. And asked (she actually asked in 2 year old speak) to be demoted. She said that she was only 2, and she wanted to be with other 2 year olds. (told you she's a genius).

Finally, at the year's end, she knew all about frog eggs, and volcano dust...but she still couldn't write a lower-case T. I know, I know, it's my responsibility to teach her...fill in the gaps, etc. But...I pay them (great money) to do school, to teach her at least the ABCs. If not that, than what? Certainly ABCs will serve her better in life than knowing the life cycle of a frog.

The third school was in Venice. Famous people took their kids to this school. A great school...came highly recommended. Was a free-for-all like all the rest, but at least they acknowledged that (just maybe) there are multiple "right ways" to teach children. Unfortunately, the left-winged liberal, schools sometimes (many times) were more intolerant of difference in thought than the republicans they accuse of being closed minded. This school, wasn't like that...the parents were, but the school director/teachers, were not. Of note, the teachers weren't 'experts' or 'degreed', just people who care, and loved kids.

The next school was the Super Expensive School, (SES), but had an infant program that could also take my then infant son (so both kids are together). On a side note: infant care is a whole nother odeal. By this time, I'm out of residency...but still can't afford the school - so my mom continued to help us out. Can you believe that as an EM attending, I couldn't afford childcare for my kids? Anyway, this school was $24,000/yr for both kids. But it was only 'in session' for 9 months. And there was a month long 'winter break'. Again, I'll emphasize that I took/take my kids to preschool because I need someone to watch them, when both me and my husband are at work. So all this "time off" was very difficult, and actually proved to be very expensive. Having to hire supplemental help, or taking days off....disaster.

Anyway, all the teachers at SES prided themselves on having advanced degrees in child development (or whatever). That's all fine and well, but it doesn't take a PhD to teach a 3 year old to count to 10. Can I just get you to teach her something practical? On more than on occasion the preschool teacher attempted to undermine me with my own kid. We (like everyone) have certain things that we allow our kids to do, and other things we'd rather have them not do. Sometimes it's arbitrary, but it's our decision. I don't like my kid sucking her thumb all day and night. I don't think it's healthy, and I think it hinders her socially. Also, there are long term consequences to deal with (that I'll be dealing with) if she's allowed to hang her thumb out of her mouth all day. Additionally, this daughter of mine would exclude herself from activities by default in lieu of sucking her thumb. So...we purchased thumbguards. They worked to at least cut back on the behavior, but the entire time, this "granola eating -kids can do whatever the hell they want" preschool criticized me/us. Then, tried to turn our kid on us. "Don't you think what your parents are doing is restrictive?" They'd ask her.

News flash. My job is in todder-land is almost wholly restrictive.

I was so pissed. I pay you in excess of 24 thousand dollars a year, for you to judge me? To place your values on me? To undermine my decisions with regard to my child? I don't think so. So I sent a nice, saucy email, and had a face-to-face discussion with all the teachers. I preempted their "we have PhDs and we think..." bullshit with -

"Let's keep this in perspective, shall we? You all are frikin *preschool* teachers!! Please don't give me medical advice unless you're physicians. Please don't offer childrearing advice if you don't have any children. And please don't assume you know how to raise my particular child better than me. Get over yourselves already."

That didn't go over well...
...and now she's at her 5th school.
-it's no wonder we have no control over our kids in this country...


14 comments:

SueB said...

Dear MommyMD,
Have you reviewed your child development coursework? At the age of 2-3 years old many children are not physically ready to draw let alone WRITE their letters. They don't have the eye hand coordination to do such things yet. Many kids of that age are still drawing pictures of people as giant heads with eyes, an open mouth and no body. Your expectation that your 18 month old should be sitting at a desk "learning" is ludicris. You may have an MD but certainly you don't remember your child psych and development classes. Or didn't you take any?

Get off your High horse and stop thinking so highly of yourself for a second. Calling the pre-school teacher of your child an unemployed mother is an insult. First of all she has children so she has a full time job and second of all she is your child's teacher.. job number two.

Think what's best for your children. You complain several times about how expensive pre-school is and how little you get paid. Perhaps you or your husband need to quit your job and cut back on expenses to raise your own children. See if their attention span lasts more than 10 minutes at a desk without you running to the Electronic babysitter (i.e. TV) to bail you out.

Children need to be nurtured and enjoy what they are doing. Play based instruction, when done well, is a very effective strategy and Montessori teaching is a fantastic model. Of course I don't agree with teachers bad mouthing parents to their children but if the policy of the school is to not OSTRACISE a TODDLER for sucking her thumb then move on with your life and choose a different school.

Go to http://www.indiaparenting.com/newborn/data/art07_001.shtml for advice and information on thumb sucking. Medically, children tend to grow out of thumb sucking by age 4. After adult teeth start to come in (around age 6) sucking your thumb can cause problems with your teeth and jaw... Your child is 3. Mental abuse, being harrassed for using a coping mechanism of sucking her thumb, can cause lasting psychological damage and low self esteem to your child. So... behavior modification tells us to replace the unwanted soothing stimulus with a more appropriate one (that is if you are not patient and want to break the habit befor your child is actually ready to use other means of soothing herself when she is anxious).

There is a reason your child is sucking her thumb. It could be as simple as a habit, a soothing technique OR your GENIUS child has a sensory motor problem she will either grow out of or need intervention from a speech therapist for.

I don't have a PhD in Education but I do have a Masters in Special Education and I can tell you that your expectations of what an 18 month old and even a 3 year old should be doing in "Pre-School" are way off mark. Instead of teaching your children how supperior your family is why don't you do a little research on child development, gross motor, fine motor, social emotional, and cognative developmental stages and spend more time with your kids helping them learn things you deam imprtant and backing up/reinforcing what the PROFESSIONALS who are raising your children are teaching them. It's not the schools job to raise your children, no matter how much you pay them, it is YOUR job. You were the lucky sod who was blessed with two healthy typically developing children! You CHOSE to have children. Do right by them and show them you love them more than money and prestige.

Jenn said...

I actually understand what EM physician is saying. It is not being a bad parent to expect schools to teach children academics, socialization, etc. Actually, we should expect them to do that, and we needn't keep good students with caring parents at home in lieu of holding these institutions accountable. Home schooling every child is not a reasonable option. Expecting school to teach, is.

Studies and observations are helpful for the masses, but when considering a single individual child, studies don't really apply. What works for 100 kids, may not apply to any particular kid. So siting studies, although helpful, really aren't applicable to a particular parent. After all, we can find studies to support just about anything we think is right or correct.

Finally, some kids are ready to write and read earlier than the 'average'. If a parent is motivated to teach their child these skills, what's the problem with that? Every child is different, every situation is different. To pass judgement based on incomplete information makes your "advice" useless.

Because you have a MS in special ed makes you an expert with this mom, and this kid?

I've encountered many well-meaning people like sueb, who have quite of criticism without knowing the child. And are on their hi-horse (as they accuse you of being on yours) just because they either, don't agree, don't understand, or have incomplete information. These people usually have issues with their own sense of self, and misjudge their own self-worth and resort to telling highly trained women with pretigeous jobs to 'stay at home.' Would that make you feel better? Having no female highly trained professionals? Or should women just give up having kids if they decide to contribute to larger society and humankind in this way? Not sure what the point is, moms are too hard on each other. We're all just trying to do what's best for our children while fulfilling our purpose in this life. They are not mutually exclusive.

Instead of passing judgement, maybe a bit of understanding would result in better outcomes all around.

ER doctor said...

Thanks Jenn for your support.

sueb, in a village there are people who are good at different things. Should someone who isn't a great preschool teacher not have a child? Sure, there are certain parental responsibilities that are agreed upon by most. But being able to teach your kid to read, may not be on everyone's list. Being able to teach your child about the big wide world, may be out of the scope of ability for many/most people...so should they therefore not have children? Or maybe if you cannot make your child's clothing yourself, you shouldn't have them? Maybe if you can't breastfeed because of a history of breast cancer, you shouldn't be a mom? All ridiculous.

I believe that it's okay for people to rely on other's who know better than they. (afterall, don't you come to the doctor if you're not well?) I believe it's okay for parents to allow/expect school to teach their children to read and write. I do not think that a parent needs to be the sole educator to the child about the world. Actually, I don't think it's even possible.

So the fact that I seek great preschool teachers that work with me and my child...that meet my expectations (and it is important to have expectations), because I don't think I'm necessarily the best preschool teacher in California...is the best thing for my child. I would be doing my child a disservice by trying to do something so vital to her development, when I know there are others who'll do a better job. And to get a great dedicated person, you have to compensate them. Sure, there are a few people who'll work for free...but most smart/great teachers won't/don't. This is why I pay for school. Not because I'm "looking for someone else to raise my child." Actually, I'm doing what's best for my child by advocating for world resources that may benefit her...things that I may not be able to deliver alone. And...this is okay and constitutes responsible parenting.

I help many people as a doctor. I believe that female doctors are better for many people. I love our female pediatrician, and the fact that she's female makes her, her. I would hate for women to remove themselves from the work-force because others try to make them feel guilty when they recruit 'the village' for support. Society should support working moms.

As for my husband staying home, he has for 2 years. We have cut expenses...obviously. Residents get paid $40K year...and it's doesn't take much analysis to discover that we really sacrificed financially in an attempt to obtain the very best preschool teacher for our beloved child. You actually have no idea...

About the thumbsucking...
...experts don't agree, and it's quite alright for us to disagree. We have lots of thumbsuckers in our family (all adults now), and they universally agree that the "encouragement" of their loved ones was motivation to at least consider that it was a "bad habit." On the contrary, those few who had no one say anything, and ended up with major oral/facial problems constantly say how disappointed they are that no one warned them. At least they would have been able to make an informed decision...

So, if I did a study (one more relevant to me), I'd say that early intervention of thumbsucking is beneficial. Actually, in 10 years that may be the thinking of all child development experts. Things change....

...try reading freakonomics. That book actually states quite well what I feel about 'child experts.' They change, thinking changes, logic changes...and people who too strongly believe in a single "right" way, are often proven wrong. Sleep on the tummy, sleep on the back. Cry it out, cuddle. Spank vs. no-spank. Changes...seemingly with every generation...and with every self-proclaimed "expert."

I'm not going to freak myself out with trying to be a trendy mom. I have a great mom. I turned out well. If my daughter turns out like me, I'd consider myself successful as a parent. My daughter is getting the same great mothering my mom provided me with. I feel I'm a better measure than any expert as to my dedication, and parenting skills. I know my limitations, and am willing to solicit help in areas that I'm weaker in. And being a preschool teacher...doesn't suit me. Teachers teaching my child "school" doesn't constitute them "raising" her.

On a side note: The preschool teacher that was an 'unemployed mom'...was just that. And I loved her. She was volunteering at the preschool as a way to re-enter the work force. I'll give you that being a mom is job 1...but being a mom who stays at home is considered unemployed. A mom who stays home, but volunteers at a preschool...is considered unemployed. Maybe it's the language you're uncomfortable with. Perhaps, like instead of calling secretaries secretaries but rather 'administrative assistants' (as not to hurt their feelings), or like the janitors that they call some sort of engineer, we should call unemployed moms....ummm..."adults who receive no monetary compensation for work outside the home." Better? I don't think so either.

The reason I posted this is because of people like you. People who think they know what's best for every child based on studies not done on that particular child. The standard growth curve doesn't apply to my child. Developmental milestones are highly variable, and may not apply to my child. Actually, a stronger indicator of 'how my child is doing' is much more subjective. And cannot be determined by a book, an "expert" from afar, or by simple comparison with other kids.

You accuse me of being on a high horse...
....yes, I am - as should all parents strive for. This is my child, and I am her mother. Yes, I believe I'm doing a good job. I am constantly reevaluating my technique, and I am comfortable with my opinion. I have expectations, and if not met, I am critical. If that makes me confident, arrogant, and 'on a high horse,' so be it. Should I give my child less because people may disagree, or consider me arrogant? Would you? I didn't think so.

Finally, the name-calling never validates an argument...just makes you seem desperate and bitter. Might want to reconsider your "motivational technique." If your real interests include getting parents to understand parenting, and offering a POV to consider that is yours. Afterall, isn't that the point of you posting, or was it just to tell me how unworthy of healthy children you think I am? Providing a sound, constructive arguement would be much more effective, people will actually 'hear' you and consider your POV valid...or didn't they teach you that in your master's program??

Anonymous said...

Mommymd,
I feel your pain in trying to find the right preschool. Currently our 3 1/2 year old attends a Montessori 1/2 day program Mon-thurs and on Friday attends a 1/2 day Waldorf based school. We have found great comfort in having her exposed to 2 different environments. She is "advanced" (not by my nomination)but she is still a kid, with kid emotions.
As far as the thumb sucking thing...It is probably being used as a comfort tactic. Sometimes with constant change (5 preschools) it may be her coping mechanism for now,try not to worry to much!

AustralianMommy said...

I think your child is sucking her thumb because her mommy is a nightmare. Were you paying the 'unemployed mom'? Then she's employed. I hope you find a good school just so your daughter has someone else to raise her rather than just you. Yech.

Tracy said...

As a Montessori teacher, some of what you describe just seems inappropriate to any school. Not just Montessori. I don't know if you are aware, but "Montessori" isn't trademarked and there are schools calling themselves Montessori without a real understanding of the philosophy. One of them is freedom with LIMITS.

Children wear underwear. It's a Limit. Just like hitting. (Actually probably a licensing level complaint...) At the age of two your child is still "preoperational" (look up Piaget) she learns by doing and experimenting. When just transitioning to a new school she probably spent a certain amount of time observing, and not using the materials especially after coming from a more directed school. (Assuming the school was of some quality.) Keep in mind that your neighborhood school probably did a lot of songs and your child may have memorized a lot of "new things that you heard.

There is not true understanding when a child can sing the alphabet song or count to ten in a sing-song voice. The ability to actually count objects comes much later.

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Were all these 5 schools so bad that you really needed to change them? I think that it is a stress for a child to change schools so often. Clenbuterol

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I think that any school can be a good fit for your child as long as you are there to support them in their learning. Personally, I am into homeschooling. A great resource I have found at least to help teach your child how to read is learntoreadcenter.com

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