We are smack dab in the middle of summer, and this is the first year where my son is enrolled in The Children’s House year-round. I am surrounded by mainstream messaging of “Let them be bored, but don’t forget to sign up for camp at your local museum. Take them out of school, but don’t let them forget everything they’ve learned.”
Who knew that summer could be so conflicting? I think it’s no different than the pressures we as parents field year-round, just exacerbated because summer offers the chance for many of us to make changes to our routine. We are fearful of not doing enough for our children and critical of doing too much. We want to provide enriching experiences, but we also want to protect the nostalgia of boredom.
This conflicting feeling is probably what made my stomach sink when pictures popped up in my newsfeed of children holding “Last Day of School!” chalkboard signs. It took me right back to my childhood, when I could envision that sweeping excitement of school letting out until fall. Sweet freedom! I can still taste my favorite raspberry-vanilla twist from Mr. Freeze; hear the clicking of my purple rollerblades racing over uneven sidewalks; and feel the sand between my toes at the pond I used to visit with my dog Clifford. Summer to me has always been the one time of year when I felt my childhood truly belonged to me.
It made me ask myself, “Am I robbing my son of the magic of summer by keeping him in school?”
As I spent many morning drop-offs reflecting on this question, I realized this comparison was faulty from the start. Montessori is a transformative approach to formal, traditional education – one in which freedom is given to the child. Freedom to choose their own work, freedom to choose how long to work, freedom to choose who to work with, freedom to sit, freedom to move. When I send my son to The Children’s House, there is no big agenda other than helping him further his journey of self-discovery. This pillar of freedom within limits is still revolutionary to education today, a century after Montessori founded it.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved school growing up and can list off a handful of favorite teachers who supported me tirelessly, but there is inevitably a feeling of systemic confinement when you have to follow an adult’s lead in pause of your own; sit in a traditional row of desks and contain your urge to explore; or pause your deepest passions as something reserved for “after school.”
I confidently continue our morning drop-offs now as I realize my son does not need a formal break from school because school is not a formal break from his childhood. There is a powerful magic to this approach that evolves with us through all four seasons. Montessori has made learning a lifestyle for our family, and when it becomes a lifestyle, it doesn’t need an arbitrary schedule. It’s that feeling I have as a professional writer, where it doesn’t feel like work because my work is one in the same with my passion.
When my children think of summer, I hope they retain the memory of picking blackberries at the farm just North of our home. I hope they remember the smiles and laughter we swap while splashing in our neighborhood pool in the grueling hot Texas heat. I hope they remember the times I let them stay up late to watch the rolling, roaring thunderstorms. I hope they remember mornings we spent on the porch waiting for bunnies to scurry across our lawn. I hope they remember the sweaty bike rides, chalk-covered driveways, and sunset dance parties. Most importantly, I hope they treasure these memories unique to this season, not because they needed a break from learning, but because they were learning to love learning.
“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself – that is the first duty of the educator.” – Maria Montessori
About the Author
Jenna Wawrzyniec is a writer and Montessori-inspired mother of two children under the age of four. Her two dogs also count as children. Read more of her work at itslittlebird.com.
Recommended for you: