Our amazing PAC co-chair, Allison Arato, agreed to answer some questions and open herself up by sharing her family’s journey and experience of Montessori. We welcome and encourage you to ask questions or add comments but please be kind when doing so.
Please introduce yourself and your family….
My name is Allison Arato and we have 2 children in the Maple Grove Montessori program, Grade 6 (Toby) and 1 (Harper). Our son came to this school when chosen by lottery in his Grade 1 year. We have been so fortunate to be part of this wonderful community of educators and parents.
Would you please share with us your family’s journey to Montessori?
I had been aware of Montessori as a preschool style since our oldest (11 now) was a baby. I did a little research into the preschools in the area and settled on Kerrisdale Montessori, based on a friend’s recommendation and just by how the classroom felt when visiting. It was calm and orderly but still warm and inviting.
Did you have expectations when you began? Have those expectations changed over time?
My expectations were for a peaceful yet active and engaged learning environment that was child-centered. And I would say my expectations were well met. Once elementary started those expectations shifted somewhat as academics have started to supplant the social, emotional and physical characteristics of a Montessori education.
What do you feel the strengths of the Montessori program are in the middle elementary grades?
That being said, as children reach middle elementary and social aspects of being at school start to become more complex, Montessori philosophy can have that strong influence on how children perceive themselves and their peers. The teacher we have had for the grade 4-6 years has put an emphasis on community, connection to the natural world and to each other as classmates and friends. I feel that my son has grown a strong sense of compassion and empathy from his time in Montessori classrooms.
As hormones start to take their place in kids of this age, it can be reassuring to know they have a teacher who is insisting they treat each other with respect. As a side benefit, my son (who is loathe to discuss sex-ed in any form) has been exposed to these topics in the classroom from the time he was in grade 4, as they were more directed to the older kids. So I am reassured that despite his best efforts to ignore me, the info he needs is in his head!
As your son gets closer to High School (two years away but…) do you have concerns about any transition pain points he might feel coming from Montessori and moving beyond it? Many parents worry about homework management, for example….
I would say I am concerned about the high school transition, but that is more to do with his lower level of maturity than Montessori itself. His class does get homework and managing that is part of the process. I think he will be prepared to think outside the box when needed, but maybe not as much for a more rigidly structured classroom. But overall, the transition pains will be the same for any child going from elementary to high school.
Are you experiencing things differently as your younger child moves through the program?
Things are different in the sense that they have very different learning needs and styles. My youngest is more self-motivated, independent and (dare I say) mature for her age than her brother. But she also struggles to accept criticism and peer relations can be a powerful force in her day. Overall I am confident that she will flourish in the classroom she is in now, and in Montessori in general.
Do you “Montessori” at home? If so, please share.
I must admit, I have let the philosophy slide within my own home. I used to take great pains to mimic much of the preschool space in their play environment at home, with “work stations” etc. These days it’s more about encouraging them to pursue interests and feeding their curiosity.
What do you value most about the Montessori philosophy? Any final thoughts?
I think my favorite aspect of Montessori is that there are no limits. It is both a space of structure and controlled chaos. This allows a child to expand their mind, master a subject and then share that knowledge with others. Fostering a love of learning is my greatest wish for my children, and one I hope they carry their entire lives.