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We moved to this area for the public schools: Part 3

Categories: Adolescent Program / Elementary Program / For Parents / Kindergarten: It's a Big Deal! / WMS Programs

This is the third and final post by Suzanna Mayhugh, mother of two Wheaton Montessori School students, on the topic of why her family will be staying at Wheaton Montessori despite the good reputation of, and tax dollars paid to, local public schools. To catch up on Part Two, please click here!

At this point, my husband and I are all-in with Wheaton Montessori. We’re budgeting, we’re planning things out financially. We’re watching re-runs instead of joining in on the Game of Thrones conversations. We’ve decided to keep our two children at Wheaton Montessori through the Elementary cycle, which goes through 6th grade. Then, because we live in an area with fantastic public schools, we’ll transition Amelia and Henry to a conventional school. Decision made. After all, the amount that we pay in taxes for these nearby schools with great reputations? It’s definitely NOT inconsequential to our family.

Oh. Wait. There’s a Junior High?

You know what’s happened to our plan already, don’t you?

At one of the Parent Nights at school, I heard Dr. Bilezekian discuss how he approaches the fragile adolescent ego. There is no educator on this planet that I would choose over Dr. Bilezekian to help guide my children through adolescence. He’s calm, compassionate, and understanding. He recognizes that as individuals, adolescents can be vulnerable and fragile, but as a group, they are resilient and strong. He’s stern and quiet while being supportive and constructive. Also, I bought him a cup of coffee once in exchange for an understanding that he wouldn’t leave before my children completed his part of the program. So I’m not worried about turnover in the Junior High Staff. I covered that with the coffee.

At another Parent Night, we had a chance to question (read: interrogate) some of the Adolescent Community parents. I asked why they stayed. They all mentioned Dr. Bilezekian, talking about him as if he was the “Adolescent Whisperer.” They all said, “Observe. You’ll see.” I did get a chance to observe the adolescent community on a Friday morning, during which time they hold their “weekly seminar.” These students were discussing Einstein. These JR. HIGH STUDENTS were discussing Einstein. Quizzing each other, telling little facts that they’d come across on the internet about him that weren’t in the  assigned article, helping each other understand some of the truly out-there concepts. They were respectful, they were interested, they were AWAKE, they were goofy, and they were laughing, they were working. I was never all of those things at once in my middle school years. I’m rarely all of those things at once as an adult.

I attended the “Alumni Night” when the high-schoolers came back to talk to current parents about their experience. These were students that “graduated” from Wheaton Montessori before the school had expanded to include the Adolescent (Jr. high) program. This was the night that I decided that as long as Wheaton Montessori will have us, we’ll be here. 

During the Alumni Panel: 

Every single one of those kids said they wished they had been able to stay.

Every single one of those kids mentioned that they were better leaders and students because of their Montessori background.

Every single alumni at “Alumni Night” said that they wouldn’t have had the self-confidence, determination, or drive to “make it” in a conventional setting in a positive way without their Montessori foundation.   

These students talked about being willing to take on leadership roles, being confident in their worth and value, and knowing HOW to go about learning a subject on their own if they weren’t understanding a subject from traditional instruction. Yes, the had the everyday  insecurities of teenagers and the everyday challenges that come with being in high school. But the big ones – intense self-doubt, following a crowd rather than trusting yourself, getting left behind in a subject and not knowing how to recover – those were challenges they knew how to tackle.

So…See you for high school, neighbors.

THAT is why we’re staying for Kindergarten after “preschool” – and well beyond.

Right now, my kids are only 3 and 6. I’m thinking years (and years) down the road. We’re budgeting for years (and years) down the road. The money that we give towards property taxes is NOT insignificant for our family. But it IS insignificant when weighed against leaving the WMS Community. We’re balancing our checkbook and our belief in the Montessori philosophy. It takes major budgeting and giving up with “luxuries” that we know our family would enjoy. It means less vacations, less dinners out, less cable. (Okay – No cable.) It means driving our cars until they rust, and then we’ll probably just walk to school. It’s worth it.

At first, it’s very difficult decision to make, especially given the reputation of the schools in our surrounding area. As we talked to the WMS teachers, observed our kids both at home and at school, and listened to the parents of older children, the decision became simple. It seems like it will be the best choice for our family and what we’d like our kids to get from education.

More than I want my children to know advanced math, I want them to know their own value and worth.

More than I want my children to know the “classics,” I want them to know their own strengths and weaknesses.

More than I want my children to focus solely on perfection, I want them to make mistakes and learn from them.

More than I want my children to love black-and-white facts, I want them to be curious about the mysteries of their universe.

More than I want my children to be “normal,” I want them to be comfortable in “standing out.”

More than I want my children’s lives to be easy, I want them to know how to thrive if it’s difficult.