Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lunchtime Lessons

Angelo will be 4 in about a month and a half!! So, the great school debate is in the forefront of my mind. Public school is just not for us, despite living in an area that has a reputation for having really great schools. I believe change starts at home and the way public schools focus more on test scores and managing children rather than truly educating them just won't work for us (this is a really great speech by a Valedictorian who feels like she wasn't truly educated, just was great at doing what she was told). I really like the Montessori philosophy and have an appointment tomorrow morning with the Mt. Lebanon Montessori school to see if it is a good fit for us. Being an Occupational Therapist, especially one who's worked in the school system, I really appreciate the focus Montessori puts on learning through the senses. As a Mom and artist who admires and appreciates individuality, the Montessori method of allowing each child to go from activity to activity at their own pace and showing profound respect for each child really speaks to me. Of course, budget is always something to consider, especially here.

I'm also still considering Unschooling, especially since there are such wonderful resources here, like PALS, a group that organizes outings, classes once a week and has a resource library for home schoolers without a religious focus or those who are open minded toward those who are not religious. There is also the Children's Museum, which we've been frequenting (and have a membership for) and is completely amazing, the Carnagie Museums, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (which we also have a membership to thanks to a great Groupon) and more, which all have programs for home schoolers. With all these great resources, most of which we will take advantage of regardless of whether he goes to the Montessori school, I'm wondering just how impressive this school will have to be ...

In "practicing" for home schooling (we really already do Unschooling and have semi-structured activities, but I wanted to add some more in preparation for ... the "real" thing), I've added some "Lunch Time Lessons". They have been fun and have kept him engaged enough to get through lunch a little more quickly. We'll do a step or two of the activity and then he takes a bite and repeat until he's finished. We've had some physics/grammer lessons involving Thomas the Train, and the pictures below are of some sorting activities we've done. These pom poms have really gone far. First, he scooped them from one bowl to another (for dexterity and coordination, spacial relations; this one he did all on his own), another time, we sorted by size and in these pictures, we sorted by color. If you can't tell, he really enjoyed it. :)

This picture shows Angelo in his "portable safe place". He found this hamper I used to transport laundry and it has become a really fun toy for him. He walks around, bounces around and sits around in it. I think it's especially cute since I used to clear out the lower cabinets and hang out in them at his age. :)

Oh, and I found this Flicker group (via Http://www.syko.typepad.com ) all on hand made crafts for boys and it is just adorable! Very inspiring, especially since I have a ton of sewing to do for Angelo's birthday and my sewing space isn't set up. I at least brought the serger down and have thread for it now! I'll keep looking at all this cute stuff to help me brave the cold in the attic and get the material and things already cut out. :)

I'll keep you posted on the great school debate! Please comment below if you have thoughts to share! :)


  1. FWIW... My experience with Montessori so far has been a bit mixed. The school we are at is lovely, and has an amazing reputation, the teacher (directress) in our room is considered the best in the school. Bella has learned a TON since starting. For her at least I do think she tends to learn new/difficult concepts better from someone else. Or I'm not a good teacher. (Or both!) So far I really love the approach to academics and she *loves* getting lessons and doing the work.

    Where I am still unsure how I feel is wrt social issues. Some of this is *definitely* unique to the teacher that we wound up with. I think she is kind of "old school" in her views on relationships among children. So she really does see the room as having "popular" kids, though she does not use that word. For example, when Bella befriended an older child I was told she was "aiming too high." Another example is that when she mentioned (at our recent conference) that she is now allowing them to choose a partner for lunch, she said... "Of course, the prime children are chosen first." WTF? Who describes kids that way?

    Gah. In other ways, she seems wonderful. Unless something totally crazy happens we will finish out the year there, but I definitely have mixed feelings about it. Bella seems to LOVE it overall or else I would have pulled her out long ago.

    The other thing, in the school we are in, is that I am not real crazy about the art and music program. It's a pretty small program and the thing that bugs me about the art is that the kids are strongly encouraged to do whatever project they are working on in exactly the same way. This drives me crazy! Art is only once a week for a half hour or so, too.

    All that and the school runs around $750 a month. =:O I cannot believe how expensive it is, though it is right at average with the other Montessori schools in the area.

    I think unschooling could be amazing, but it seems like it could be even more work than just flat out homeschooling! I don't know if I would ever have the stamina. Really I only signed Bella up for school this year because she needed the *social* interaction so much, so I have been a bit reticent about this school from the getgo. (Only other options I could find were either full-time daycares or religious preschools. Boo!)

    Sorry for the mixed review! Academically I think it is a really cool approach to learning. Socially I think so much will depend on your teacher so I would ask a ton of probing questions about that if it is important to you. Montessori philosophy is for kids to do things themselves and that *includes* social interaction... at least here, the teachers wait before stepping in.

    Gotta go, let me know if you have any specific questions!

  2. PS, did you see this? The little green witch made me think of you, it is so cute. She does these with playdough bases but there has to be a way to make these awesome playsets out of something more durable. Also, she has that super awesome amazing set of star wars peg dolls.

  3. Hey you! I miss you!!

    The Montessori school sounds promising, and it sounds like a good fit for you.

    However, I am probably a bad person to comment on this issue because 1.) I have no children, 2.) I believe strongly in public education, and 3.) both my parents are retired public school teachers.

    I went from K-12 in a public school, and I think I turned out OK, for the most part. =) I learned stuff, was challenged, was encouraged, had the opportunity to try out different clubs, classes, sports, etc. For example, I played field hockey, was in the art club, worked on the yearbook, was on the student council. My little brother was in the marching band and the jazz band, and Jesse, who also went to public school, was in the drama club, chorus, and was on the basketball team.

    My school offered quite a variety of courses - I was able to take classes like Ecology & Conservation as well as Advanced Poetry... I also took a Sociology class that I loved, and a Psych class, and a Nutrition class, in addition to all the art classes I could ever hope for, as well as the usual math, science, lit, etc.

    The exposure to people from a wide range of economic and religious backgrounds as well as ethnicities was definitely good for me, too. Public school allowed me to interact with kids that my parents would probably not have introduced me to - and I hung out with some kids whose parents probably felt the same way about me!

    Anyway... I guess my point is that while my public school had many flaws, I'm grateful for my experiences there. Public school allowed me the freedom to pick my own friends, my own classes, my own clubs and sports, etc., and it helped me figure out what I wanted to do with myself after I graduated. It exposed me to things that my parents would never have been able (or perhaps willing!) to expose me to. I guess public school kind of let me do my own thing, even though at the time it felt like my parents were always up in my business, ha ha.

    My two cents, anyway! =) Good luck with the decision!

  4. JoAnna, wow, I agree, those are some pretty weird comments regarding the "prime choice" children. UCK! Thanks for your feedback. I'm going to see if there are Moms who have experience with this specific Montessori. Hopefully that will help me make the final decision before Wednesday... eek! Oh, and that play set is so cool!! I love that the green witch made you think of me. I was thinking recently that we should re-use those costumes this year since the hood on Angelo's was so big, I'm sure at least that part will fit. I made it big... hopefully long enough so he won't be a flying monkey waiting for a flood. ;)

    Katie! I miss you too!! I can see that you had a good experience with public school and yes, you definitely turned out wonderfully! :) Unfortunately, this is the first time I've ever heard anyone say they enjoyed public school this much. There are a ton of opportunities and resources here in Pittsburgh and even in our particular neighborhood, so I know Angelo will not be missing out on anything. Besides, if he _wants_ to be a part of a school play or a particular class, I believe he's still allowed to take part since we pay taxes. It is that way in Morgantown. We even live in one of the best public school districts in the city, but I feel like with the way public schools are structured and knowing how my child operates, I don't think public school is a good choice for us.

    Ugh. Still not an easy decision in any case.