Our Durham consultant, Emmy Renquist, has a passion for Montessori. Though like many of you, I’m not sure she ever envisioned it being her choice beyond preschool. I asked her to talk a little bit about her journey with Montessori and why she chose a Montessori school for her family. Here is her story.
Montessori principles have taught our entire family to slow down and trust the process and have allowed my children to be curious learners, gain independence and enjoy learning for the sake of learning.
When my journey as a Montessori parent began almost a decade ago I would never have guessed that my children would continue with Montessori through elementary school. I was sold on the early childhood aspects, but was sure they would need to move to a more traditional setting as they got older. Montessori principles have taught our entire family to slow down and trust the process and have allowed my children to be curious learners, gain independence and enjoy learning for the sake of learning.
When my daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I had a hard time finding a part time preschool program for her in Ohio. My brother had recently finished Montessori teacher training, so we looked into Montessori schools nearby and found a great fit. We fell in love with the simplicity of the classroom and the “prepared environment” for her to safely explore. The toddler sized furniture, low shelves with developmentally appropriate work, emphasis on outdoor play, and practical life (such as sweeping and food preparation) activities stood out to us. Simply put, it was not difficult for us to see the benefits of this type of education for young children. When we moved to North Carolina and enrolled our daughter in another Montessori school we still thought we would likely move on after Kindergarten because that felt like uncharted territory for us.
Every year since, our daughter (and now also our son) has asked to stay in Montessori. I am so glad because I can’t imagine missing out on the richness of these elementary years. All of the work in elementary has built on the foundation from those toddler and early childhood years. They continue to have multi age classrooms, spanning three years, in which they can learn from both older and younger children. They have the same teachers, or guides, multiple years enabling strong connections with those adults. There is a lot of freedom to think critically, take responsibility and practice perseverance within a structure. This was never more glaring to me than during the pandemic when our children were home. They went outside a lot, created games to play, helped make lunch and dinner, and practiced independence when we all needed some time alone. I don’t want to paint a picture of perfection because it was far from it, but I am convinced that their ability to adapt and work through that difficult time was largely due to tools they have learned as Montessori kids.
Due to the nature of the Montessori learning environment, it takes a leap of faith from the family in some ways. I have found this to be more relevant as my children get older. There is not as much concrete data in the form of regular testing and homework that we were familiar with from our own experience. However, at all levels there are regular progress reports with emphasis on exposure, practice and independence in different areas. We’ve found that the lack of take-home work has allowed for more time as a family during the week, which we cherish.
I often remind clients that there is no “perfect” school or educational model. This is simply our family’s experience and the benefits have certainly outweighed any drawbacks for us. If you are considering Montessori, but are hesitant about the elementary years, consider taking the leap!
Emmy Renquist is a Durham Schools Consultant for SchoolUp. She was born and raised in Durham, attending both public and private schools in the county. Emmy went on to complete my associates from Durham Technical Community College, bachelor’s from UNC-Chapel Hill and eventually her Master’s in Education.
Triangle Area Montessori Schools:
Montessori School of Durham (Durham, NC)
Montessori Community School (Durham, NC)
George Watts Montessori Magnet School (Durham, NC)
Morehead Montessori Magnet School (Durham, NC)
Lakewood Montessori Middle Magnet School (Durham, NC)
Montessori School of Raleigh (Raleigh, NC)
Follow the Child Montessori School (Raleigh, NC)
Sterling Montessori Charter School (Morrisville, NC)
Triangle Montessori Academy (Cary, NC)
Kingswood Montessori/STEM Magnet Elementary (Cary, NC)
Casa Esperanza Montessori Charter School (Wake Forest, NC)