Charlotte started Montessori Pre-School last week. We lasted one week! It was my most emotionally challenging week of parenthood to date (giving birth was easy in comparison!). She was to attend five morning’s a week (which was a huge ask, considering she’s spent the past three years at home). The school and teachers were lovely, but it was too much too soon for Charlotte.
She has only just turned three and isn’t used to be around a large group of children in a confined space. She has only ever been around a few children at a time, in ‘play-date’ situations. In her school she had to choose what to do, from a vast array of overwhelming activities, and also cope with new social situations, which she was very ill equipped to handle.
All the activities were on little trays, which on completion had to be returned to the place they had originated from. This was fine, but Charlotte soon became so in awe of the ‘experiments on trays’ (as she called them), and the delicate nature in which they were handled, that she soon became too scared to handle anything. It didn’t help that the other children were constantly telling her what she could and couldn’t do, leaving her in a bewildered state of confusion. I watched as she walked around the room, looking lost, sad and without direction.
It was as though, overnight, she’d been abandoned in a different country, where everyone spoke a different language.
What’s more, all the activities had very precise learning goals and there was no freedom for creative expression. For example, there were several trays with a pair of scissors on each and paper with different lines to cut along. Okay, the aim was to learn to cut precisely, but surely there could have been some ‘lee way’ for creativity too! At home Charlotte makes the most amazing creations with a pair of scissors, paper and glue. For instance, Charlotte recently created a ‘star catcher’ (the whole concept was of her own thinking) and she gave me instructions on how to use it to catch stars.
She is also an outdoor girl and at school she had no free rein to play outdoors when she wanted, which frustrated the hell out of her (I could empathise totally and remember the anguish I used to feel when confined in an office for an ‘all day meeting’ – ugh!).
By Friday she was really not willing to be at school and I left her sobbing in the arms of a teacher. She was given some ‘space’ to calm down, by way of a bucket of water and paintbrush, with which to paint the step outside the classroom. From the car park I watched her clutching her beloved Baldy Bear and crying and saying, ‘Charli SO sad, Charli not like it in school.’ It totally broke my heart.
By the weekend my glands were swollen and I was an emotional wreck.
Why did I sign her up for this so young? What was I thinking?! To be honest, I was hoping for a ‘quick fix’. I thought that I couldn’t provide the level of stimulation she needed, whilst simultaneously caring for Sophie. I also liked the thought of having some one-on-one time with Sophie (but Sophie was miserable without Charlotte, and so was I!).
One week of pre-school and I realised what Charlotte needs right now is support in learning to relate with other children. She needs to learn to feel comfortable in a large group of children her own age. I don’t want to dampen her beautiful free spirit, I want to hear her laughter and singing, watch her dance freely to music, run outside in the rain or shine, have fun getting messy (and fun getting clean!).
So, we didn’t go to Pre School for the second week, we found Play Centre instead.