13 thoughts on “From Montessori to Unschooling and Back

  1. Wow, thanks so much for sharing. I am fascinated by Montessori methods but sadly don’t have access to alternative education choices here in this rural part of Ireland. I have followed an unschooling path with my five year old, but my middle child, at 3yrs4 months has just asked to be enrolled in “nursery school” and it’s with a great deal of sadness that I am letting her start on Monday. I so wish we had access to such a great environment.

  2. Pilar, thank you. This post will help us become better guides. I am glad to know Zach is happy at Le Port. May I share this post?

  3. I only know you through your posts,Pilar, but I so admire your keen observational skills and willingness to take a parallel, but necessary, side path with your son. Maria would have been proud. You “followed the child”. So glad you were ultimately able to find a good Montessori fit for your son. With your permission, I will be sharing with my primary directress daughter.

    1. Dear Jo Ann, thank you for such lovely and supportive words. It was a difficult decision, as I really loved the school and the staff and wanted to make it work. Thank you for sharing this with your daughter, that was the goal in writing this – for everyone to learn and grow from our experience.

  4. I understand the issues of your son’s transitions as I have provided a primary program since 1983 and included a toddler class from 1986 to 2006. And many elements of your story have arisen in my practice. I recall various experiences in transition including how boys who became eldest in Toddler approaching age 3 could become out of place in that class. I had the option of inviting them to an activity like art work in the primary class as a transitional phase until a move was possible. For that I would let the parents know what we could do and then proceed.

    In the last few years I have also participated in our State QRIS and in advocacy for Montessori quality. I have found elements of the QRIS which are a benefit to Montessori educators. This year I am preparing for our rerating in 2016 with greater awareness including family engagement.

    I have known from my own early growth and that of other teachers that talking with parents and including parental requests is a difficult part to develop in our work. Even now I always have some challenges but include the teachers in developing options that define our capacity.

    Continuing professional development is needed for all Montessori teachers to enhance our practice and improve our schools. I wish you well and appreciate your candor. I would reflect that your son has learned a lot about himself and his family that prepare him to become more effective in his school community. Dee Hirsch Seattle


    1. Thank you, Dee! There’s never a perfect solution, is there? I love the idea of a slow and gradual transition, and I agree that the Toddler environment was not necessarily the best place for him given his level of development. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone, and I do wish that more training was offered to teachers to support this type of transition.

  5. Thank you for posting this, Pilar! It is hard, even discouraging, to read about what happens when we fail to follow the child. Your diligence in observing, and applying what you know is admirable! Having followed so many of your adventures, I can truly empathize with your difficult decision – and I am so happy that it turned out well so Zach can have a wonderful Montessori experience. Kudos to you for your loving perseverance!

  6. Thank-you so much for sharing your story, it certainly gave me time to think and ponder the continuing responsibility we have to all children who are entrusted to us. I am so pleased that you have found the ‘perfect’ fit for your young Zackery.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this! My daughter, who is now 3 and sounds remarkably like your son in temperament (“strong-willed and very sensitive” are the descriptors that fit her best!), was in a similar sounding montessori program this spring. the teacher there was new – just opening her own school at home after completing her certification and internship – AND she was 7-9 months pregnant (which I didn’t know when I signed my daughter up for the program). While I couldn’t observe the class, I did witness countless incidents like you described – becoming authoritarian, stern looks, strong words, the desire to have a perfect classroom, the intolerance of toddler/transition mistakes like toileting issues, spills etc. My daughter reacted just as you described – screaming, withdrawing, saying that she didn’t like her friends and didn’t want to go to school, crying at drop off, refusing to do work, crying at pick up…the works. I am ashamed to admit that my reaction was not great. I was in my first trimester of my next pregnancy and exhausted and even though my gut told me to pull her from the school, I didn’t listen. Well, summer came around and the program ended and I was left with an emotional wreck of a daughter who is still recovering. She’s in a wonderful school now, with a lot more support and experienced teachers and we are working through the issues as they come up. But it’s been hard! I’m not an educator, and our only other experience with Montessori (at an infant program in her first year) was nothing short of miraculous so I didn’t realize how much it could impact her! I’m filled with regrets both for keeping her in the school and for not recognizing what was going on earlier so I could react better myself. It’s been a hard year and your post gives me hope that the damage to her self-confidence is not permanent.

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