Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting ready for school

Here in Canada, the summer holidays are almost over and many Montessori families are getting ready to start school. A quick search on the internet showed  lots of tips and lists to help parents but not many of them were about Montessori schools.  Here are a few suggestions that parents might consider when preparing to send their child to a Montessori classroom for the first time.

Now is a good time to start waking up earlier to get into the "school" routine.

-  Start moving bedtime a little bit earlier every night  if summertime has allowed for a later-than-usual
    bedtime routine.

-  Help your child practice choosing an outfit the night before. If he decides the next morning that he
   doesn't want to wear that outfit, help him choose another by offering him two choices.
    (Too many choices makes for grumpiness.)

-  Set up your kitchen so your child can help make her own breakfast.  If cereal and milk are her
    usual breakfast, put the cereal in an easy to open container and the milk in a small jug. Yogourt and
    fruit?  Same thing - put them in easy-to-open containers.  Place both the food and any utensils she
    needs on low shelves so she can get her own breakfast, giving you time to do other things.

Prepare your child to be independent at school.  

-  Make sure he can get in and out of his clothes by himself without any real help from an adult.
   For example, pull-on pants with no buttons or zippers and Velcro shoes. If your child can't yet tie
   up his shoes, don't send him to school in lace ups.  Remember, your child is striving for
   independence and we can foster that by being aware of (and adjusting for) his capabilities and
   developing skills.

-  Does your child's classroom provide hooks or hangers for his outdoor clothing?  If he is expected to
    hang his clothes on a hook, provide him with a low hook at home so he can practice.  If the
    classroom uses hangers, give him a small hanger with which he can practice. (Use a low hook or a
    door knob if you don't yet have a low hanger bar.)

Make sure you know what to bring on the first day.

Many schools ask parents to bring a second set of shoes and a complete change of clothing.  If you
   haven't been told by the school what to bring, a phone call or email might be in order.
Is snack provided or does your child bring her own snack?  If she brings her own, make sure she
   can open the container by herself and without spilling.  I've written about containers in this post if 
   you'd like a bit more information. 

Separation Anxiety

-  You and your child may have sailed through the observation and tour but the actual, real, first-
   day-of-school can be anxiety riddled.  The most important thing I suggest to parents is to try not to
   show any of that anxiety to your child.  Children are sensitive to parent's emotional states and if she
   senses you are anxious, she may think there is something in this new environment to be anxious
   about. Be positive and enthusiastic about your child's first days of school.

-  Talk about what is going to happen a few times before the first day - children are less anxious if
    they have an idea what to expect.

-  Let the teacher help with the separation.  Indicate when you are ready to go so that she can hold and
   comfort your child if he is crying. Then say goodbye and LEAVE. Don’t hesitate or linger or
   come back because that will just make it more difficult for your child.
-   Don't leave without saying goodbye. The next time, your child won't trust when you are going to
    leave and can become even more anxious. Believe it or not, a solid "Goodbye.  Mummy will pick
    you up at lunchtime" is much more reassuring to a child.

-  Be prepared to do the same thing for a while.  She may have had a great time on the first day of
   school but would really rather stay home with Mummy.  Goodbye on the second, third and fourth
   days of school can be just the same as on the first.  Trust that she will settle down in a little while.
    If you are concerned, arrange to talk with the teacher after school hours.

The first days of a new school are wonderful, frightening, thrilling, and stimulating - for you and your child.  Trust that you've made the right choice and stay in touch with your child's teachers.


  1. Thanks! Just in time for school, great tips.

  2. These are some great tips! Thanks for posting and the pictures are great as well!

  3. Great advice! I am stressing about my mornings with my 2.5 year old. I will incorporate these tips!

  4. I'm so glad these tips were helpful and I wish you all the very best first day!


  5. Hi Cynthia,

    You have SUCH a great blog here! I've been trying to figure out how to send you a private email. I am in the process of writing a blog post for the parents at our school about setting up their home in a Montessori friendly way. I would love to feature some of the photos from your blog for this post and I'd like to ask your permission to do so.

    All photos will link back to your blog and will be credited to you, of course.

    I hope to hear from you soon!

    1. Hi:

      I just sent an email to your school. Please feel free to use whatever pictures you need for your post. :)