Will my child thrive in Montessori preschool?

A Montessori preschool class is a place of beauty: 24 preschool-aged children, each engaged in meaningful activity, forming a community of individuals.  Look around and you’ll discover faces in deep concentration, or smiling delightedly at a task well done, or conversing warmly with friends. Here a boy reads in a quiet voice to a younger classmate; there, a girl stands respectfully, hands behind her back, observing a lesson the Montessori preschool teacher gives to a slightly older student. In the back of the class, an older boy is showing a friend how to scrub a table, carefully demonstrating the use of the scrubber, the sponge, showing the proper way to pour water from a big pitcher into a bucket.

“Wow”, the visiting mother thinks to herself, as she observes the Montessori preschool environment. And, reflecting on her daily life with her own preschool-aged child: “My child couldn’t possibly do this!”

Are the children you see in a Montessori school special? Do they have super-parents who have somehow helped them mature more quickly than other children? Or can any child attain this level of independence?

Dr. Montessori believed that children need a certain type of environment to thrive, one that enables them to be self-sufficient. Children need to be offered specific types of activity that engage hand and mind and lend themselves to be perfected by repeated practice. Writes Dr. Montessori: “The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.”

Decades of practice in Montessori preschools around the world clearly demonstrate that preschool children can do much more than we normally give them credit for. They can act mature beyond their age, focusing intently on a task for long stretches, helping each other kindly, following their teacher’s guidance eagerly, and displaying a wonderful benevolence toward each other. They can enjoy the profound pleasure and self-esteem of work well done.

As Montessori educators, we are convinced that the prepared environment is the key piece of the developmental puzzle.  Children need a carefully –designed learning environment for their cognitive and personal growth as much as they need nutritious, regular meals for their physical growth. As Dr. Montessori put it:

Children need to work at an interesting occupation: they should not be helped unnecessarily, nor interrupted, once they have begun to do something intelligent. Sweetness, severity, medicine do not help if the child is mentally hungry. If a man is starving for lack of food, we do not call him a fool, nor give him a beating, nor do we appeal to his better feelings. He needs a meal, and nothing else will do. The same thing applies here. Neither kindness nor severity will solve the problem. Man is an intelligent being, and needs mental food almost more than physical food.

All of this probably sounds rather abstract, and you may not be not sure if it would actually be a good fit for your child. So what should you do? Should you take a leap of faith and just enroll your child in a Montessori preschool?

Choosing a preschool is a big decision. If you find the Montessori philosophy compelling, but aren’t fully convinced, use this summer as an opportunity to learn more. Let your child try out Montessori by enrolling him in preschool summer camp.

Montessori preschool summer camp is a great way to test the waters. It allows your child to attend a toddler or preschool Montessori program for a few weeks. And at a good Montessori school, it ensures that your child’s first taste of preschool is positive:

  • Expert preschool teachers. In an established Montessori summer program, experienced Montessori preschool teachers lead camp classes. They understand children, and have much more training than a typical summer camp counselor.
  • A real Montessori preschool community. Many of the children attending Montessori summer camp are students who also attend during the school year program. This means that summer camp classes have a great mix of ages and backgrounds. Seasoned Montessori preschool peers delight in helping new summer camp students get settled into class!
  • A normal Montessori preschool day. Summer camp is Montessori preschool: summer camp children have the opportunity to freely explore the Montessori materials, with extended work periods in the morning and afternoon. By enrolling her in summer camp for several weeks, you enable your toddler or preschool child to adjust to the Montessori preschool routine, and you may be surprised how much she can develop in a month or two!
  • Added summer camp activities. To make summer special for children, we apply Montessori preschool principles to typical camp activities. Bi-weekly themed projects enable students to explore the world with all their senses, as they discover the wonders of rainforests, learn about the desert environment and relate to these themes with arts and crafts activities especially developed for summer camp. “Montessori in Motion”, LePort’s unique summer program, offers bi-weekly sports activities: camp students learn the vocabulary and key skills for kickball and soccer, baseball and square dancing. It’s like attending a summer sports camp without having to leave!
  • Summer camp water play, in-house field trips and pizza Fridays. A visit from reptilian friends, a bubble show, a full aquarium of marine creatures coming to class: summer camp in-house field trips add safe, educational fun. Splash Fridays: children + water—need we say more?!

If you decide you like Montessori summer camp, and want to stay for the school year program, your child will have a leg up. He’ll return to a familiar Montessori preschool environment. If he isn’t fully toilet trained yet, a summer camp experience in the Montessori toddler room may just be what he needs to become fully toilet independent and ready for the Montessori preschool class.

And, importantly, summer camp enables you to see your child at school, to observe how he adjusts, and to get a feel for the Montessori preschool community your family may later join full time.

What do you have to lose? Just give it a try: you can download the summer camp applications and a detailed summer camp calendar right here!

Heike Larson

*Please note that summer camp enrollment does not guarantee immediate enrollment for the fall school year program. Many LePort preschool campuses have waitlists for fall enrollment. If you are considering enrolling your child for preschool, please inquire with the campus you are interested in about future program availability.