Cost of Montessori Education

I don’t like to use my blog to rant, but this might be close. We never planned on sending Baby D to preschool. We can teach him to count and read and PutThingsBackCarefully. Then I got to thinking maybe half days in a Montessori Infant Community would be beneficial and not take him away for too long. Then I saw the price. I knew Montessori schools were expensive. I didn’t realize half day preschool would cost over $9,000 per year. That is slightly more than in-state tuition at our state college. Full day preschool is over $13,000, as is Primary. Elementary is $14,000. This school is fully recognized by AMI and looks to be just what we would choose if Baby D did go to school. I understand that teachers must be paid a living wage, schools must carry a lot of insurance, and materials cost quite a bit. But do the operating costs of the school really add up to $9,000, $13,000, or $14,000 per child per year? The first Casa dei Bambini was in a tenement. Dr. Montessori made the materials herself. How did Montessori education go from serving the poorest children to courting families who either can afford to pay that much for pre-school and elementary school or are willing to go into debt? How can we make Montessori education available to a wider community? Peace through education can not come about if so few people are included. Do we need non-profit, donation supported schools? Volunteer teachers? How do we accomplish this?


Very Informative Post About Toys in Montessori

The New Mommy Files blog has a very thorough post about toys/materials in Montessori philosophy. Please check it out! Her whole blog is worth reading.

Maria Montessori Would Not Approve

The ideal Montessori environment: uncluttered, beautiful, scaled to child size, simple. Something like this. I looked around baby D’s nursery today and realized that I have turned it into something quite different. I will spare the gentle reader from a photo, but suffice it to say that baby D’s nursery is cluttered and scaled to accommodate my needs, not his. I guess my next project is returning to my Montessori ideals and bringing order, simplicity, and beauty to his environment. I am an experimental mom, and this experiment took a wrong turn– but it is salvageable.

He is sleeping mostly in his Pack n’ Play. I still thoroughly believe in the concept of the floor bed, and he has slept on his floor bed sometimes. I just don’t feel comfortable with the floor level environment in his room. That is my fault. I have not maintained a child-safe floor level environment. So, momma, get it together! Montessori would not approve.

No Thank You, I’d Rather Have Thumb

Let me begin by saying… I am not in favor of fostering pacifier dependency. That said, when baby D is inconsolable giving him the pacifier helps both of us not cry. Totally hypocritical, I know. Today he was fighting sleep– very tired but not allowing himself to close his eyes. In this state he is cranky and there is nothing that will relax him. Nothing, that is, except the pacifier. Usually. Today, though, he did something different. When I offered the pacifier he pushed it away forcefully. Then he began trying to get his thumb to his mouth. He put the thumb to his eye, his nose, the side of his face, his ear. He got it to his mouth and licked it. He just couldn’t quite work out how to get it in his mouth consistently. Then he began to bring his thumb to his mouth and move it away over and over again. He became still and quiet except for the task of moving his thumb– sometimes successfully, sometimes not– to his mouth. I watched him do this for a little while, then I realized I was observing him at his work! I do not know if Montessori approved of thumb sucking, but I do know that baby D entered a serious, focused, quiet-alert state while he worked on this motor control activity. This is the first time I have observed “the child at work”. It was very exciting!

The Classroom of Life

Here is a link to a post on the blog The Parenting Construction Site explaining the Montessori classroom in action. The Montessori classroom prepares children for competency in life. Please check it out!

Preparing Children for the Classroom Called “Life”

On Dignity and a Giant Raccoon

I have a goal going into parenthood of providing an environment marked by beauty, order, and simplicity for my child. It has long been a given that there will be no garish colors, no big cartoon characters, nothing of questionable taste. This morning, though, I have been thinking about a beloved toy from my childhood that today would not meet my standards for my child’s environment: a giant, unnaturally colored stuffed raccoon. When I received it as a gift at three years old it was bigger than me. The fur was a pinkish purple color and it looked like it was wearing a rainbow colored vest. It was only identifiable as a raccoon by the black patches around its eyes. If I saw something like it today I would think it hideous. At three years old, though, I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. It was big enough to use as a chair. I could sleep on it. It could sit at my child-sized table sipping invisible tea without need of a seat. It took up a lot of room. The other stuffed animals were subject to it. (Except Huggy Bear, a polar bear who was missing a nose and had stitches above one eye and was the undisputed king of the toys.) I loved that strange raccoon until I was bigger than it and the fur was rubbed raw in many patches. It finally went to where all good toys go when they begin to disintegrate, and I grieved its loss.

I am sure I would not choose a toy such as my old companion the raccoon for my child. However, if the child receives such a thing as a gift I will be okay with it. While I still want to create a Montessori-style simple, beautiful, natural environment for my child, I will not obsess on perfection. My goal is to raise a child who is dignified and has an appreciation and preference for things of value and substance. My friend the strange raccoon did not prevent these desires in me, and thinking about that wonderful, awful toy helps me relax and realize that a less-than-model environment will not lead to undignified taste.

Our Montessori Bed

Montessori Floor Bed

Our simple floor bed, ready for baby.

The nursery is ready for baby! I spent today doing all of the finishing touches– hanging new blinds and curtains, putting everything away, cleaning, arranging and rearranging the furniture… and setting up the Montessori bed. It is very simple, no toys or pillows as that would not be safe for an infant. I am displaying the lovely hand-knit blanket that a relative made for the baby, but it will be removed for safety while the baby sleeps. Ideally a shatter proof mirror would be securely mounted to the wall next to the bed for visual stimulation and encouraging the baby to explore and “interact” with his or her reflection, but we do not have one. So, following the principle of having a simple, clutter-free, developmentally appropriate environment for the child, I resisted the urge to add more “stuff”. We used a very firm crib mattress, although a low profile twin size mattress designed for bunk beds or a futon mattress would work as well. A floor bed must be low enough that a baby will not be harmed by rolling or crawling off, and firm enough not to sag and cause a suffocation hazard. Look for a mattress with the most coils you can find, and test it to be sure that it properly supports baby. Some parents choose to put the mattress in a wooden frame to provide a more finished look. We decided to forego the frame for budget reasons and also so that there is nothing hard between the baby and the floor once he or she is mobile. The reason for using the floor bed is to allow the child to get into and out of bed independently. A pre-mobile infant benefits from the floor bed by having an unrestricted view of his or her surroundings, which encourages visual and eventually physical exploration. When the infant becomes independently mobile, the transition from visual to physical exploration happens seamlessly– there is no crying to be taken out of a crib. When the child is ready, he or she crawls off of the bed and into the nursery environment. For this reason everything must be safe for the baby to touch. It sometimes helps to think of the whole room as the crib and prepare it accordingly.
An excellent description of the Montessori floor bed– one of the most thorough I have seen online, can be found at:
Please, please, please check out the link. If you have any apprehension about the floor bed concept, or if you need a place to direct curious (or furious) people, this is the post to read. The whole site is worth looking at– lots of articles and videos that explain many aspects of Montessori philosophy.
Once our baby is born I will post about how the bed is working out. It won’t be long now!

You Aren’t Using a Crib?!

    The first childhood development and education theory that I became familiar with was the Montessori Method. I am not a trained Montessori guide, and I have no affiliation with any Montessori school. I am just fascinated by the concept of ‘freedom within limits’ in the prepared environment , and with allowing children to do independently what they can. I like the concept of letting children do real tasks– household tasks, dressing and undressing themselves, preparing their own food, planting and tending their own gardens, etc. Montessori contends that children want to do these things. In fact, she says, they would rather do real tasks than engage in pretend play.

     The very first Montessori concept that I am incorporating into my child’s life is the floor bed. Although not a new idea, it is still decidedly countercultural. The idea is that by placing babies on a mattress on the floor to sleep rather than in a crib, the child will have an unobstructed view of his or her environment, and will have independence of movement. Once the baby becomes mobile, he or she can move onto and off of the bed without needing to cry until someone comes to remove the child from a crib. The whole room is really seen as the crib. Everything is child safe, and everything within the child’s reach is okay for him or her to touch. This fosters independence and maturity by allowing the child to learn that he or she can move to meet his or her own needs. Some parents who use the Montessori floor bed report that their children do not cry upon waking– they just crawl over to a toy or book that has been left in the child’s line of sight on a low shelf and play contentedly. Some of my favorite posts about the floor bed concept can be found here and here. A nice picture of a baby’s room with a floor bed can be seen here. I will upload my own photo when my baby’s room is complete, but I think the picture from Sew Liberated is one of the nicest I have seen.

     One thing that is vital to remember when choosing to do anything that contravenes societal norms (especially as regards the care of a baby!) is that you will receive criticism, and that is okay. For things like the floor bed, many people are likely to be shocked and concerned for the child’s safety. All an experimental mom or dad can do is explain the concept, tell the concerned party where more information can be obtained if desired, and let it go. It is not productive to be offended or defensive when someone criticizes or seems horrified by your choices as a parent. As difficult as it may be, remember that people are just concerned because they likely have never heard of what you are doing before. Know when explanation is helpful and when it is not. Then go forward confidently with your plans as a parent. If something doesn’t work out like you hoped you can always change it. If you avoid something just because others think it is weird you may regret it later.