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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.