Tuesday, December 02, 2008

tang would not be on the menu

Today, I am going to observe Elizabeth's classroom.

I want to see how she is interacting at school and what progress she has made. But mostly, I want to take mental notes on how they run things, because I am really thinking that I want to teach them at home.

The school is too far away. We spend almost two hours a day doing the drop off and pick up. We go through a tank of gas every week just transporting the children to and fro.

I don't like that I am away from the children for six hours a day. Well, sometimes I like that, but usually, I don't. It definitely defeats the purpose of me working part-time when my children are in school full-time.

I don't like that they are changing so rapidly and learning new things and I don't feel like I am getting to see those changes, growth and development first hand. And although I know this will happen throughout their life, I'm not ready to be removed from their progress when they are this young.

I don't like that whenever we have asked to come participate in the classroom or volunteer for different events, we have been turned away because they fill up to quickly.

I don't like the bags of candy and treats that the children come home with, consistently. This is an example of a goody bag Carolyn came home with last week.

This is almost identical to a bag that William brought home (substitute Hannah Montana with The Incredible Hulk) and a bag that Elizabeth came home with yesterday. Maybe it won't kill them, but I don't like that they are coming home with it several times a week.

I do like that they are learning new things everyday. Everyone is either writing their name, or close to writing their names. Everyone is learning to read and although I should probably take some of the credit because I read to the children every day and they have enough books to pave the neighborhood, I find it hard to believe that I am teaching them something so important.

They know all of their continents, shapes, planets, and how to solve for e.

I do like that the teachers are so kind and patient.

I do like that they are making new friends.

I do like that when I picked the children up at school yesterday they were singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in Chinese.

But then there is the tuition. And although I want to finish something I have committed to, for the amount of money we are spending every month, I could take the children to China.

Last night I was up until the wee hours, checking out a Montessori supply website. And today, I'm thinking of pulling the trigger and purchasing the "kit" that covers our children through Kindergarten. We could have our very own Pink Tower, Knobless Cylinders, Brown Stairs and a host of other common Montessori supplies.

Glory Be The Wonders of The Internet!!

It turns out I could also purchase all of the supplies necessary to build a rocket to launch myself in to space, but just because you can buy the supplies doesn't mean you are equipped to own and operate them. I really wonder if I have the patience, organization and structure to teach my children at home. I am totally filled with doubt at my ability to do this. Successfully.

Seriously. I think I'd have a better chance of re-entering the atmosphere than figuring out how a red ball and a black triangle (edit: it's a PYRAMID) teaches a child about nouns and verbs.


  1. Check out Chasing Cheerios, Montessori Freefall and The Wonder Years. You could easily do this if you wanted. Also look at Our Montessori Journey where a few families have come together to school their children through kindergarten. There are courses in the USA where you learn it all at high speed over 6 weeks ( I think - I am in the UK and did the course part time over a year). The question is not can you, but whether it is really what you and the children want and need. How exciting!!

  2. Okay, I have never posted, but am an avid reader.

    What are you waiting for???? Get them out of there now!! HANNAH MONTANA??? And you are paying $$$ for this place. You and your family would be better served to find a school closer to home (especially since this school seems to be kindof wacko).

    You have been batting this around in your head for a while, and to be honest I have yet to read why you like this place? Besides the fact that it is "Montessori".

    Get them out...save the $$$...save your mind.

    This is a prime example of how as parents we can kindof fall victim to our own best intentions for our kids. It seems like all this work and sacrifice and $$ you are putting in for them is really for something that isn't good, and from reading, could be bad.

    You can do it!! Just pull them out. No harm, no foul!

  3. Wow that is some treat bag! lol. I think you need to pull them and find an inexpensive 1 or 2 day a week preschool close by. You can teach them but you also need the 4-6 hour a week break to get things done and regain your mental status. My twins go to preschool 4 hours a week and it's just enough time for me to run errands. I consider anything they learn to be a plus but they do learn alot.

  4. When my kids were younger I did a preschool with some friends. I wasn't so much concerned with the academic part but wanted my kids to be able to interact with other kids. If you did that, you could still have that little break once in a while.
    Good luck with whichever way you go.

  5. They say - whoever they are - that if kids had no "schooling" - other than playing, being loved and cared for by their parents - but no formal training till they were 9 they would catch up in 6 weeks - you are a great mom! whatever you do with your kids - they will turn out to be great kids!

  6. Check eBay as well they have nice montessori stuff too.

  7. I think you should follow your heart. If you don't feel this is right, then pull them out. Soon enough all 4 will be gone all day and you will be glad you had that time. My youngest is in first grade and I do miss her but she is reading chapter books and doing wonderfully. School is magic for her. She went to preschool 2 mornings at 3, and 3 mornings at 4. Half day Kindgarten. It was enough and she learned AND it was under $150 a month. If you follow your heart, you will never be sorry. Good luck!

  8. Oh God, I think I'm going to puke all over my computer that they are sending them home with that crap.

    BLECH!!!! I just puked.

    Do you know what Austin had at his preschool party last week? Meat and cheese. Fruit and vegetable. Curry basmati rice. The Indian Mom brought the rice. I actually took a picture of it with my phone to email it to you. There wasn't a SINGLE junkie thing served.

    There is something wrong with that school and I don't like it.

  9. I would take them out too. It's too far. Isn't there a neighborhood nursery school that will do 2 mornings per week? That will give them the chance to be with other kids and get the basic "routine" of learning down. You can add Montessori at home.

    One thing you might consider that you have been reluctant to pursue - is a 4 hour per week babysitter. My kids are 2, 2, and 4. I have always had a sitter 4 hours per week. It's glorious. I can get alot done, take care of my own appointments, and the kids love it.

    On the weeks I don't have a sitter I am alot less patient and focused. Just 4 hours a week is all I need.

    I am thinking of homeschooling as well. But I will always need that time away during the week to organize my thoughts.

  10. Is it possible that there is a school closer to home that would be more suited to your needs and desires?

    Maybe the answer isn't taking them out of school all together, it's just finding a school that better fits your needs. (And your budget!) :-)

  11. Okay.

    I NEED to know how that triangle thing teaches that. Because now it it bugging me that my kids and I don't know that. Someone?

    But even though they might learn the noun/verb thing, I hink you can have a mix of preschool, homeschooling and babysitter for a lot less money, a lot less stress, and a lot more satisfaction!

  12. Maybe "Alison" could identify nouns and verbs in a sentence, when she learns how to SPELL "sentence?" Am I the only one who caught that? Hee hee.

    Also, I was curious, is the trips school an "Association Montessori Internationale" accredited school? http://www.montessori-ami.org/ I have a friend who is a Montessori teacher, and she says this is the only "real" deal. (She's very biased and opinionated, however) She says anyone can say they run a Montessori school, but there are few who have this distinction.

    I think you would do a great job teaching them yourself. Although I'm wrestling with the same questions. Good luck! (and yuck to the goody bags. Just yuck.)

  13. My four-year-old (and fourth child) is in the same local Lutheran preschool program that my other children attended. Not one of them could read when they started kindergarten. Not one of them could recognizably write their names. BUT, they ALL knew how to sit down and listen when the teacher talked, how to walk nicely in a line and how to wait their turn. We have had no problems when they started kindergarten. And, they're not bored in kindergarten because they are actually learning new skills. Just adding in my 2-cents worth!

  14. Why don't you pull your kids out? You are obviously terribly unhappy with the way the school is run. Isn't there a different school closer to you? 2 hours seems awfully much for a preschool commute.

  15. Anon @ 12:33: Why don't I pull them?? WHY??

    I really hope you come back to read this because I'll tell you why.

    I spent a lot of time researching schools. A LOT OF TIME. A lot of time that I could have spent doing other things.

    I thought I had made a good decision. I thought I had made a GREAT decision.

    I have spent a small fortune for tuition. As in, my parents bought their first HOUSE for less money than I have spent on this school.

    My children are in the program. They seem to LOVE it.

    I don't want for all of the time, money and effort I have spent on this program to be an exercise in futility.

    I am disappointed with the school. But there is SOME good too, or else I wouldn't have kept them in as long as I have.

    However, if (more likely WHEN) I pull them, I will NOT get back a lot of money. I will not get back the deposit for their equipment and supplies that were intended to last for the year.

    If I were to pull them and just "stick them in another school" I would need to RESEARCH schools. I would need to spend more TIME, ENERGY and RESOURCES finding another school. This causes me more stress than you could believe.

    A decision like this - keeping them in - or pulling them out, isn't one that I want to make as a knee jerk reaction.

    I want to at least know that I've looked at it from all the angles and am doing what I consider to be the best thing for our family.

    I have to mull over big decisions. Dwell on them. Talk about them, write about them and obsess over them for at least a month before a decision is made.

    That's just the way I roll.

  16. I am with the other readers, find them a preschool or preschool co-op that s close by and doens't have to be everyday. If you feel overwhelmed teaching them, think I would being their mother, maybe you could look into finding a retired teacher that would like a little extra cash and would come to your home or a teacher that just subs, I know there are some good ones out there, of course you would have to find them, plus you could be involved and really in control and see all the new thigs your kids are learning.

  17. hahah TANG the drink worthy of the astronauts! That's how that icky orange dry mixed with water tangy icky stuff was marketed in the 1970's

  18. There is a lot about what you've said about the school that makes me uncomfortable
    1. The food and treats policy is the opposite of Montessori philosophy.
    2. You as a parent have not had your concerns treated with respect.
    3. You are being charged and arm and a leg for equipment and supplies...... Montessori materials are expensive but they last forever - they aren't replaced more than every 20 years or so.
    4. The only other supplies are art things and they are not expensive, especially when bulk bought for a school.

    As a Montessorian I feel bad that you are not having the experience it is supposed to be, which should be a partnership betwen school and parents, not competition. As you specifically asked not to have your children given any more disgusting goody bags that's another minus point for the school.

    It will be interesting for you to see Elizabeth's class and how the teachers are. If you can, a sneaky way to find out what really happens is to get the lead teacher involved in conversation. Then watch to see what happens when the kids think she isn't looking at them. Also, note how (and if) they approach her to get her attention while she talks to you and what her reaction to them is. What you are looking for is whether they carry on regardless (good sign) or if chaos seems close to the surface(not so good). Also whether they say excuse me or just interrupt; and whether she answers politely or tells them off for interrupting or explains how they should have said excuse me. Little things like that are very telling and will let you know what the dynamic of the class is like when there are no observers.

  19. i'm really torn for you on this topic. have you identified what the overwhelming issue is for you? is it the lack of control that you have over what they are being exposed to? is it the philosophy of the school?
    i'd say that if you are satisfied with the curriculum and social development, leave them there (particularly if you will lose a hefty deposit). try to focus on the positive aspects of the situation and control what you can control: send in their snack, confiscate the goodie bags & refocus so that you are less unhappy about the negative than you are about the positive.
    my therapist has me do this frequently to avoid "catastrophizing" a situation: reframe & refocus the sitatuation.
    best to you.

  20. Jen,
    I completely understand all your concerns with their current school. My twins have been in 3 different schools in 1 year and I finally feel like I hit the jack pot with their current school (which happens to be a Montessori school). Their first school was fine just was a traditional preschool and was only for 2 days a week. They went their the entire school year. It was a great starter school for them. The next school was a complete miss all around and if I had to do it all over again I would have pull them out of it. It was only for summer and any longer it would have scarred them for life, I swear. We had planned on sending them back to their previous school when a couple of openings happened at the Montessori school. We viewed it and loved it, so did the kids. My kids jump out of the car and don't even say bye to me now. They have learned and developed so much and I am considering sending them all 5 days a week (we can choose 3, 4 or 5 days).

    My point is choosing a school for your kids takes time and trial and error. Not all schools are created equal and not all schools are right for your kids or your own ideas and requirements.

    If it were me, I keep them there until the end of the school year, as they are learning and they do like it and you have forked out the money, but would really start researching other schools closer to home for the summer or next year. Summer is a great time to try out other schools. It is short term and openings are more abundant. Worse things could be happening at school then goodie bags filled with crap, believe me I know from experience. The kids would tell you.

    Start observing schools now while they are in school so you can really assess them. It will be easier now, since you have more experience with preschool.

    Good luck. Preschool hunting is much harder then I ever imagined.

  21. Just read your Twitter entry saying you're pulling the trigger...sounds like a good decision to me.

  22. Hey Jen, I saw your tweet that you'd made a choice and I was thinking. I've really managed to get through motherhood by (a) having great, supportive friends (you might want to find yourself a nice homeschooling group--check on yahoogroups), and (b) doing a lot of projects with the kids. I love all these kids' craft blogs that are out there (crafty crow is an stellar place to start & there are a number of others on my blogroll), and there are a number of really excellent blogs by folks who are doing Montessori home-pre-school with their kiddos (okay, maybe not triplets, but a place to start :). Chasing Cheerios is a great one, also A Bit of This (jojoebi.blogspot.com), and My Montessori Journey (mymontessorijourney.typepad.com). I'm so happy for you!
    We're planning to homeschool our kindergardner starting after the holidays ...I don't mind the school so much anymore (save the fact that they use m&ms as rewards and snack is sometimes marshmallows, and that there are cliques already) but I just hate shuttling everyone around to their own school, picking up .I just want it to be back how it used to be when we were all together and happy and didn't have to get dressed if it wasn't worth it :)

  23. I see you twittered that you pulled the trigger. I expect a full report, missy! :-)


  24. Could it be that the pyramid signifies a "person/place/thing" and the rolling ball signifies an "action word"?

    Just a wonderin' (?)


  25. I believe you already have the qualifications to teach your children. Sure, it won't always be easy but I reckon it'll be extremely rewarding.

    What's the worst case scenario if you decide to keep them at home (remembering that most of our generation didn't start school till 5 or 6 years old)? If you can deal with that, then go for it.

  26. My advice is - Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). You probably learnt it on a work course, we did.

    Get a piece of paper and both you and Charlie start filling it out. We do this for all big decisions. Write down relevant things in each area. The answer stares you in the face, plus you have given your feelings/fears a chance to show themselves and be heard. It really does work. Keep the paper until decision is no longer relevant (kids have moved to next stage of their life).

    The decision can only be made by you two. Use a management tool that is proven to help make important and difficult decisions. Then stick to it.

    You can actually do anything you want to do (including home schooling) - it's all a case of education, belief in yourself and desire.

    Good luck

  27. Yay Jen, you are following your heart and you can't go wrong that way. It is a shame that the school did not live up to your expectations but...in the long run it gave you the strength to follow your heart. So was it worth it? I would say yes. I say this with the presumption that you are chosing to homeschool but I guess you could have decided to try a new school. But whatever decision you and Charlie have made, you did so with the childrens interest as your priority so it can't be wrong. I think you two are awesome parents.
    Just remember that these little ones do not come with an instruction manual so don't beat yourself up when there is a bump in the road.
    I am anxious to hear how your observation went yesterday and I really need to organize my closets and drawers...hint...hint ;)

  28. Amatuer! No offense but what are you complaining about -- looks like a good Private stash to me!!

    Have you ever heard of taking candy from a baby?? I say forget the prozac - steal the junk food.
    ;-) (Remember my mothers hidden stash of Godiva chocolates?) Perhaps you should suggest a better choice of chocolates. ;-)

    Love, Marg.

  29. I just blogged about Nouns and Verbs - what a coincidence!

    I agree that you should follow your mommy instinct. However, remember that goody bags are a function of the teachers and not necessarily the school. Have you asked the teachers to tone down the sweets? Perhaps they are waiting for a proactive parent to supply them with non-teeth-rotting stuff.

    Homeschooling can be such an advantage to children... but it really depends on your personality and the children's. It will change your relationship with them. For the better? It can, but it can also make the children feel like they no longer have that soft place to fall like they did when they used to come home from school.

    Trust yourself. And don't equivocate afterwards. Whatever you decide will be the right choice.

  30. If you are uncomfortable with the school, you should pull them out. Even if I never say anything to them, your kids will probably sense you are less than thrilled with the school. This could put them in a very difficult situation in terms of divided loyalties - why should they be respectful of their teachers at school if they suspect you yourself don't respect them? I recognize that your feelings are more subtle and ambivalent, but four year olds may not be able to see that.

    As a parent of somewhat older triplets, I admire your desire to homeschool. I know that I could not have done it when they were this age. Since you have triplets, though, you may want to seriously think about making sure that they have the opportunity to have experiences independent of their siblings which can be tough if they are homeschooled. The only discipline issues my kids have ever had at school is when they are interacting with one of their siblings. As they advance further, it was also helpful to not have constant comparison with their siblings - even if the adults are careful to avoid it (which they sometimes aren't - in my parent-teacher conferences last week, one of the teachers said the three teachers had been speculating about which of the three scored highest on the standardized test and would we mind telling them), my triplets see it. One of my triplets was slower than his siblings to read - he just was not developmentally ready as early. Seeing his siblings read to me as part of their homework would reduce him to tears as he told me that he must not be as smart as they are. (He now reads as well as they do, but still is very sensitive on the subject.) It could be hard to give the kids the space to develop at their own pace if they are homeschooled together.

  31. I believe that you are the one who knows what is best for your children. You shouldn't need to justify your decisions. You obviously don't feel this is the best place for your kids, take them out! Bring them home with you and teach them as you see fit. You will be much happier in the long run. I made the decision to take my kids out of their middle school because I couldn't stand the stuff that went on there anymore. It has been a huge adjustment for all of us (they are now doing a cyber school) but I know it was the best thing.

  32. I feel for you as I am struggling with the same question for my NINE year old! I never thought I'd consider homeschooling... but here we are.

    I am glad to hear that you think highly enough of montessori to consider continuing it at home. That's an option I would consider for my son too. IF we lived close enough, IF it weren't crazy expensive.


  33. Go for it. And don't waste money on the Montessori stuff. Just have them do an art project everyday to focus on things like cutting, gluing, painting, and staying inside lines.

    Learn a new letter every few days and a bunch of words that start with that letter.

    Learn to count how many carrots are on the plate and how many cups of flour your pour in the bowl to make pancakes.

    Send them into the backyard to build snowmen and play tag.

    Let them write their own names on Thank You cards.

    That should get them plenty ready for Kindergarten.

    We sent the twins to preschool but only because our son was in early intervention for autism and they both ended up getting to go for free. Typically developing kids will be fine as long as their parents do some basic stuff with them everyday.

  34. Now that the decision has been made don't second guess yourself.

    I am also curious about the observation in Elizabeth's classroom.

    Also I'll be interested to see if this changes the poop issue at all.

  35. Jen,

    I am delurking to add my two cents to this subject. I linked to your blog from a family friend’s trips + 1 blog about a year ago, and have been hooked ever since. I apologize in advance for the length of this, but I hope it gives you some additional insight (if it's too long as a comment, feel free to pull it down). As a disclaimer, I’m a 29 y.o. female with no kids, so I make no claim to offer you ANY parenting advice. But what I do offer is a perspective from the other side. I’m the youngest of 5 kids and was homeschooled until I was 11. From what I can tell, you don’t have any commenters who themselves were homeschooled.

    Family dynamic went something like this:
    Dad-military officer with master’s degree
    Mom-nurse with master’s degree (ceased working outside the home after her first baby was born)

    #1 boy (1967)-traditional schooling from preschool to law school. Graduated with honors from university and law school. Now works as an attorney.

    #2 boy (1970)-hated school, very active (probably labeled “kinesthetic leaner”). He was so unhappy with structured schooling that my parents pulled him out for 7th and 8th grades, allowed him to “learn by doing” and exposed him to as many activities as possible, including going to live and work on a relative’s farm for a month + where he learned to weld, drive a tractor etc. He returned to parochial high school for one year, and then we moved to a different state. My parents supported his decision to go to high school part time (public) and work. When the school principal said #2 could not do part-time school, my parents stood up and were ready to walk out of the office and pull him completely. The principal caved. #2 ended up graduating with his class (making up several of the classes he had missed), went to community college for 1 year, and then graduated with honors from a state university. Not surprisingly, he is now self-employed and is constantly coming up with new plans and ideas, while having the ability to go mountain biking during the day or dash off to go kayaking at a moment’s notice.

    #3 girl (1973)-traditional public school from 1st grade to graduate degree. Graduated with honors. Worked as a public high school teacher, now home with a 3 ½ y.o. and 6 m.o.

    #4 boy (1975)-homeschooled until 9th grade. He was very active in sports and wanted to attend high school for the sports and social opportunities. Ended up graduating from public high school as a class valedictorian, graduated undergrad with honors, law school. Practicing as an attorney now.

    #5 girl (me-1979)-homeschooled with my brother. When my #4 brother wanted to start school, I chose to go also because I didn't want to be home without any sibs. Public school from 6th through 12th grades. Graduated with honors from university.

    From my perspective, I had the best of both worlds. My parents always gave us the choice of whether we wanted to go to school or stay home, and I loved it both ways. From a practical note, we had a very unstructured schooling environment (I believe the term these days is “unschooling,” but at the time, it was just the way we did it). The main structure that we had was we always had math workbooks (textbooks as my brother got into algebra), and my mother ALWAYS read to us. She read us books that we would not be able to read ourselves, so I remember listening to her reading us ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘1984’ among many, many others (and using many of those books to launch discussions or further learning on the subjects). But so much of our learning was just by living. Everything can be a teachable moment, not in a forced sense, but just with a natural sense of curiosity. Watching a mother who was eager to learn more about that worm that spun a cocoon outside our window, or the civil war battlefield we would be driving by did more to encourage our love of learning than anything else. I learned fractions by baking with my mom (1/3 cup of this, ½ teaspoon of that) and addition and subtraction by setting the table (How many people are in our family? How many extra people do we have tonight? Who is missing?). We were so busy DOING that we didn’t even realize we were LEARNING! All of this was during the 80s, long before the internet. My mom always comments about how much more could be done at home today with internet resources. But she did a pretty great job with our World Book Encyclopedias, the public library, and our local homeschooling groups. Because we were involved in sports and outside activities, we never experienced the dreaded social isolation that so many people fear for homeschooled children, and certainly learned to follow rules and behave in group activities.

    My other comment would be to say that remember all of these choices can be revisited as circumstances change. Your kids can go to school one year and not the next. Some can stay home and some can go to school. There are no hard and fast rules. Also, just because they are in school does not mean they have to be there all day, every day. I know some school districts do have attendance policies, but ours did not. As long as we kept up with our work, my parents always allowed us to take days off, or pulled us out to go do activities that came up. Don’t be afraid to take off on those crazy 3 week cross-country trips because your kids will miss kindergarten (or 3rd grade or 7th). The trips you take will have a much greater impact on your kids than the school they missed. My #4 brother had a great quote that has gone down in family lore. When his AP teacher questioned my parents permission in letting him miss a week of school to attend an international sports competition his senior year of high school, he said with the utmost respect and sincerity, “Mrs. XXX, my mom kept me out of school for 9 years, I don’t think she’s going to care about one more week.”

    The biggest thing we all learned was that learning was fun, and that our parents respected each of our differences and supported the decisions that were the best for each of us. We all traveled a different path to ultimately become successful adults. I know this will be a different experience with triplets than it was with 5 singletons, but I hope I might have added some insight from the other side of the homeschooling/traditional schooling conundrum. Hang in there, follow your heart, and your kids will respond to your own enthusiasm!!

    Missy in VA

  36. Whatever decision you make, I'm sure it'll be the best one for your babies.

    Remember - Montessori is a fantasic method, sure... but it's NOT the only method for early learning. If you'd like some resources or to bounce any ideas off me, you can (wonderworrier@gmail.com). I've done Early Childhood Education Courses and am now in Teacher's College and have spent A TON of time working in Kindergarten classrooms, as well as in a very well-run childcare centre. I'd be willing to offer you ideas and support if you need it.

    Children don't need fancy, abstract methods to learn things. Exposure in their every day life will do. As it was already said, meaningful playtime is incredibly important during this age. They also just need to practice their fine motor skills (via colouring, cutting and pasting activities), letter and number recognition, and their letter and number writing skills. Read alouds, songs and attention are all children need for learning. There are LOTS of learning opportunities in a child's every day life, no need to spend TONS of money for preschool learning. :-)

    As I said, if you'd like to bounce ideas off of me feel free to email. :-)

  37. Wow Missy that was awesome! I saw on twitter you have made a decision! I still regret putting my child in preschool for the two years before kindergarten! My mother was a lot like Missy's but no so much with us last three of nine. Anyhow it really is a personal decision which is what I really liked about Missy's comment. If you want check out my sista's struggles with school with her baby! Its the long long post. http://nobodycalledtoday.blogspot.com/

  38. That would be the "I love everybody" post!

  39. You drive me crazy when you DON'T BLOG. I hate it. Would you just blog already????