Monday, June 6, 2011

Samantha's Report Card

School is out for the summer! And, contrary to the famous commercial, I think now is the most wonderful time of the year. I thought summer last year would be tough - no more free babysitting in the form of school.  (Well, not free, but included in the price of admission.) But I found out that, with a couple of camps and a couple of trips to break things up, spending full days with my daughter was a pleasure that I had missed during the school year. I hope and expect that this summer will be the same.

Sammy received her end of year "report card," such as it is from a Montessori program. Actually, they call it a "progress report." There are a couple dozen categories in which the child is rated from 1-5 ("works with moveable alphabet," "enjoys listening to music," "demonstrates grace and courtesy," etc.), but it's really the teacher's narrative that is meaningful. Last year, the theme of the report was that Sammy needed to be more independent. I was so concerned! This is why we were sending her to Montessori! She was independent at home. Why wasn't she choosing work on her own and being so timid at school? Why were we paying all this money for her to sit around and peel carrots?

Well, I was wrong and I was right. Developing her independences is the primary reason we sent her to Montessori, but the fact that she wasn't showing independence wasn't the fault of her school or her character - it was no cause for alarm. It was just what she had to go through to get where she needed to be, and thank god she is in Montessori, because this year, she got there! And she did it on her own, the Montessori way, because she was ready, not because someone pushed her.

This year, Sammy flourished. She blossomed. She went from reticent, shy, clingy school-Sammy, to choosing her own friends, choosing her own work, working hard every day, acting with confidence, and really concentrating on her work. I couldn't be more pleased. Of course, she has made excellent progress in the "academic" side of school as well. She is reading real books now - her language development is far ahead of the curve. She is also on-track with numbers and math, which she was completely uninterested in last year. She works with all the other materials in the classroom as well, from geography puzzles to the musical bells. But to me, those things are consequences. The important thing is that Sam is learning about the rewards of work and effort, about independence, and about values.

This year, her teacher mentions that Sammy still sometimes needs direction in choosing more challenging activities, and her underdeveloped fine-motor skills are still holding her back. (Isn't it wonderful that in Montessori, a need for direction in choosing more challenging activities is not seen as normal, but something to be improved upon? The child is expected to learn to choose challenging activities for his own, selfish purposes.) I must have blossomed right along with Sam because now, I'm not worried. Instead of flipping out about how Sam must be lazy or fears failure, I just see this as part of the road that she needs to travel. Some kids struggle in other ways. Sammy struggles with self-confidence. There is no better place for her to learn it firsthand than in a Montessori classroom. I can't wait to see how she develops next year! And maybe I'll learn something again, too.

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