We hadn’t even been inside for more than a minute when the headmistress, Anita, scolded us for doing something wrong. She had already told Little Guy that we would be going to the shoe room to leave our jackets and hats. Automatically both my wife and I started to tell him again that we were going to the shoe room to leave our jackets and hats, but before we had spoken three words Anita curtly told us to hush and that “children do not hear stereo.” “There is no reason to say what is obvious. We just go into the shoe room and start taking off our jackets and hats. Leave him be, he will know what to do.”
Welcome to school, parents.
Anita was a bit intimidating, especially after the first interaction, but she was consistent and fair. She did, however, admit that all parents make the same mistake. Good to know we’re all doing it wrong. She led us around the school and showed us the music room and kitchen (only organic, only whole grain, vegetarian meals once a week, and no pasta so we can cook him as much pasta at home as we want). She showed us the painting room and the dining room where the kids have to earn a seat by showing mastery of clean and utensiled eating. We saw a classroom for the bigger kids and finally we went to the blue and pink rooms where there were actually some children montessori-ing. The blue room had material for older kids and the pink room for smaller kids. Children from three to six were distributed out, some paired off, some alone, around various tables and stations. Some 16 kids by my count and the atmosphere was that of a college library—without the palpable stress of finals and the gross streakers distracting everybody (Go Bears). The kids were doing arithmetic with chalkboards and beans. They were learning to “sew” the letters in their name, they were using an awl to design by perforation, they were pouring water from a glass pitcher into glass glasses and then drinking from them without the urge to experience what breaking glass sounds like. They were coloring in pictures of insects while learning their anatomy; they were counting with beads on a string. A three-year-old was learning to cut with real scissors and nobody was screaming or crying. There was no blood.
“What drugs do you use on the children?” I joked to myself. Luckily Anita didn’t hear me. We sat in the corner of the pink room and she asked Little Guy if he wanted to do a puzzle. He sat at the diminutive table and nodded his head. After a few puzzles during which Anita was explaining the parts of a dog, crocodile, frog and elephant, she brought him two bowls, one full of dry lentils and a spoon. Without saying anything Little Guy took the spoon and started transferring the lentils from one bowl to the other. Then more ‘typical’ Montessori material with different shaped bowls, different utensils and different objectives. Anita sat there with her eyes on Little Guy assessing his motor skills and resolve as she gave us the rundown on how things ran at her school. He built a tower with some of the cylindrical blocks that were destined for the perfectly sized holes in a beautiful wooden mass. The tower was getting pretty high and tumbled over; I instinctively jerked to catch the falling blocks when Anita whisper-scolded me to leave them, “if they fall, they fall, and he will know to pick them up.”
Our visit lasted about two hours and it was so much fun to see Little Guy in school mode. He was deemed ready by Anita and she reported that they should have some open spots in a few months.
Little Guy played with some Legos as we talked over the specifics of his going to school there. I sat there in a chair that was only a few inches from the floor watching him play and make up stories with the LEGO pieces. Here was our little boy about to go to school. Images of him being born, learning to crawl, walk, talk, checking off all those little milestones rifled through my mind. I thought forward to first sports days and summer camps, first girlfriends (or boyfriends, whatever). I stopped myself just before my eyes welled up. Just like the school visit was a way for Anita to assess Little Guy, she was also assessing us. Just as Little Guy checks off those milestones, so too are we. We get the experience of being parents of an infant, a one-year-old, a two-year-old, college student. His gold stars are our gold stars.
I thought my school days were long since done, but it looks like they are, in fact, just starting. I can’t believe how fast he is growing up. The bigger he gets the easier it is to imagine that he will “just know what to do”. And that is terrifying. Liberating, yet terrifying. As I learn not to say what is obvious I will also have to focus on leading by example, which is also terrifying, since ‘do as I say not as I do’ is pretty much out. I wonder if the school would have a place for me.
Image courtesy of: https://onlinelearningtips.com/