If you’re asking yourself this question, chances are, you have started to see a thirst for something more in your child.
Maybe you notice him flourish when he’s socializing with other toddlers. Maybe you see a distinct sense of pride when she solves a puzzle with her toys. Or, maybe you simply have that strong gut feeling that your child needs more opportunities to satisfy his or her curiosity.
You’ve thought of a toddler program or preschool as a solution, but your child still seems so small – is now the right time?
Preschool and Readiness
Like many parents, you might become excited thinking of your little one accomplishing milestones at preschool, but then feel anxious about how he or she will cope with the transition. It’s common to wonder if starting preschool now would be pushing your child before he or she is ready.
When you consider a child’s “readiness” in the traditional sense, three main issues are usually in focus: separation anxiety, adaptation to routines and the development of skills and abilities. Let’s take a look at each one and see how Montessori preschools factor into each area.
Separation anxiety, or children’s worry over being without their parents, is completely normal. While it’s most common between the ages of eight months and two years, it can resurface later, during children’s first school experiences.
Children might have a difficult time saying goodbye to their parents or adjusting to their new environment. Parents, too, can struggle. Seeing children cry can make them feel guilty or question their decision to start preschool in the first place.
Easing Separation Anxiety – The Montessori Way
At a true Montessori school, such as Richmond Montessori, teachers are trained and the classroom is prepared to accommodate children who need a little extra comfort. For example, children will walk into a neatly organized classroom, specially designed to invite exploration.
Because classes are multi-age level, older children naturally assume leadership roles, showing younger children around the classroom and inviting them to collaborate in their work.
As a result, children who might arrive anxious will gradually understand their own control in this new environment, and they will soon become comfortable and confident upon entering the classroom.
Adaptation To Routines
Some parents might feel like their young children are too rowdy and need more time learning how to follow directions before they go to preschool; others might feel like their children are too shy, and need more time in smaller settings, learning how to follow the directions of someone other than Mom or Dad.
While many parents share these concerns, the answer might not lie in the “extra practice” from a non-preschool setting, but in selecting the right preschool that assists children in learning customs and courtesies.
Adaptation To Routines The Montessori Way
Montessori teachers are trained not only to implement an overall routine, but also to instill in children a sense of respect for classroom rules. A particular signal, such as a bell or music, indicates transitions from one period of the day to the next. These predictable, gentle signals help maintain a rhythm to children’s days, and the children grow to rely on them.
Children quickly learn where to place their things upon entering the classroom. They learn that they are responsible for bringing out and putting away their materials. They even learn how to interrupt another person politely. Young children can master these routines not because they got enough practice before starting preschool, but because their teacher has carefully prepared an environment in which they can succeed.
Development Of Skills And Abilities
If you close your eyes and think of preschool, images of single-file lines, circles of cross-legged students and intently listening faces might come to mind. And then you might wonder how your busy toddler could possibly fit in. It’s quite normal for parents to fear that their active toddler won’t sit still and will disrupt the flow of the classroom.
But, think about the nature of children. They are not meant to be still or restrained, and this is part of the beauty of the Montessori philosophy.
Development of Skills And Abilities The Montessori Way
Maria Montessori sought to prepare an environment in which children could satisfy their natural curiosity and inherent desire to explore, uninterrupted. She did this while instilling a basic understanding of respect and courtesy within the classroom. This is what is known as “freedom within limits.”
Children are free to walk about the classroom and select the materials they want to work with. They can work at a table or stretch out on an activity mat. When children engage with these materials uninterrupted, their attention span grows and their skills sharpen. There, teachers can clearly observe them focusing intently, gradually honing their skills.
Parents realize that they didn’t need to send their children to school able to sit on a square for 20 minutes, straight; an environment that allowed children to move about and explore enabled them to accomplish tasks like zipping their own jacket, folding clothes and holding a marker properly.
Follow The Child
What it comes down to, is not finding the right time to send a child to preschool; after all, fighting the clock adds an extra layer of stress to an important decision. Instead it is finding the right environment for your child.
A Montessori education rests on an important credo: “Follow the child.” Here, Maria Montessori’s philosophy counsels teachers and parents to observe and follow the child’s interests; more specifically, follow the child’s pattern of development.
If you are wondering if your child is ready for preschool, a simple first step might be to bring him or her along to tour schools. Observe your child’s behavior while you’re there, while you’re at home and with friends. You’ll be amazed to find that your child will lead you to the answer.
Contact us to learn more about Richmond Montessori programs or schedule a tour of our toddler and primary programs for ages 2-6.