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Daughter Not Enjoying Montessori Preschool

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My daughter just started preschool at a Montessori school. From all I had read about Montessori, I felt this was going to be a great environment in which my kid would explore and learn at her own pace. Freedom was the word that really seduced me into choosing this school.

After one semester I find that it is quite the contrary. I find the kids are tremendously quiet, sitting very still, and they're not even allowed to get dirty on the playground. Academically, I have to admit she has learned a lot. She now knows the whole alphabet, can color really well, and recognizes all the numbers from one to ten. But is this really important for a 3 year old?

Not a day goes by when I don't wonder whether I should put my daughter in a more traditional preschool where she will play and do all the cute arts and crafts that I used to do when I was her age. What do you think?

A: Trust your observations of the school and your instincts that your daughter is not in a child-centered environment that encourages her natural curiosities and interests. Be mindful of the fact that not all schools that say they are "Montessori schools" are actually accredited by the Montessori organization. This school, like many others who say they are Montessori schools, may be saying that they employ some or all of the Montessori teaching and skill-building philosophy and curriculum. It's very easy to check out this preschool's accreditation with your state's appropriate governmental agency. Regardless of what you find out about their Montessori status, you do not like the highly structured, academically oriented system.

There is no "need" developmentally for your 3-year-old daughter to learn all her ABC's, how to count from one to ten, or and to color "really well." There is a need for her to be in a stimulating environment that encourages creative play -- play is the "work" of young children -- socialization, physical activity, self-exploration, and a sense of her own self-worth. Find her an environment that encourages and delivers those things and check in from time to time to see the preschool in action.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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