No matter how old or young we are, it seems as if the month of September is dramatically affected by “back-to-school” scheduling; this phenomenon is certainly evident at Gloucester Montessori School, as well as in other educational environments all around us! For some families, the external structure of a school day is welcome. For others, a strict schedule feels like some kind of punishment. Why can’t summer last all year?
Children have their own challenges as the school year begins. Whether your child is riding a bus to public school or getting dropped off in a carpool line, they are switching agendas, and entering into a fresh environment when they leave their home setting and arrive at school. For some children, this transition can be incredibly stressful. Others hop out of the car happily, waving goodbye as they bounce toward the classroom (it wasn’t until my third child that I witnessed this particular phenomenon from one of my own children—I thought that was only other people’s kids!).
After several years of prying my children out of their car seats and depositing them into the arms of the waiting Montessori staff members, I’ve spent plenty of time wondering how I might make this transition easier for them. It turns out that there is at least one, simple-but-not-always-easy thing you can do: get your kids to school on time.
When my oldest child began first grade at Gloucester Montessori School, it wasn’t easy. He’d been a student at GMS since his third birthday, but the elementary classroom was new, the teacher was unfamiliar, and my son was a wreck. We tried everything (we thought): encouraging him to talk with us, talking to the teacher, but nothing seemed to help. Finally, with the help of a therapist, we were able to identify some things which helped him to feel more in control of his day. One thing was: “Mom, could we not be late every day?” I didn’t love hearing that. And it didn’t feel any better coming from my stressed-out seven-year-old in front of a therapist. But it helped me to understand that being on time is an important part of my child’s happiness and success at school.
When I talk with people in the community about Montessori education, a common perception seems to be that, at Montessori “the kids get to do what they want.” It seems reasonable that people might assume that a flexible arrival time is inherent in such child[jj1] -centered setting. Here’s the catch: in Montessori education, kids DO get to do what they want. Within limits. The limits of their age, physical and social development, and all the other factors which make our children special and unique. Because each child is so different, there are elements of the Montessori environment critical to making success attainable for everyone. A specific, consistent starting time to the day is one of them. Who knew?
For the youngest children, the simple consistency of a set arrival time and ritual is immensely comforting. For the oldest, it also gives the child a sense of independence and control. Montessori education is centered around making children as independent as they can safely and appropriately be—and when your child comes in late, they need extra help getting their day started. It doesn’t feel good to them.
We are not all, always on time. It’s impossible. There are traffic delays, lunch snafus, lost socks, and unseen scheduling disasters. It’s okay. No child was ever physically damaged by being late! But. There is an undeniable benefit for your child when they arrive at school on time and the teachers at GMS have all kinds of little tricks to help parents get their children to school more peacefully, purposefully, and even happily. It’s a great environment to learn how to be successful; let’s face it, some days, arriving at school on time is a huge success in itself! Celebrate that! And have a great school year!