Its time. I have put this post off for a month but I think its time to talk about it. First of all I have to say a few things, (1) I love Montessori and I still believe that it provides a really great developmental foundation for my kids, I didn’t withdraw Henrik because of the Montessori way of teaching and actually I put him on a waitlist for a much better school closer to home. (2) Everyone has their own opinion on what’s good for their kids, and this is mine and Michael’s because we are the experts on our own children, so you may feel differently after reading my account, and that’s fine, I respect it so I ask that you respect mine also. There is no right way to parent, only what’s right for your family, so lets keep the nonsense to a minimum ok? OK. (3) I am not mentioning the name of the school in this blog post. Those who need to know the school name feeling like perhaps you’re trying to enrol your child there, are welcome to message me privately, but the intent of this post isn’t to have a permanent online review of the school. It’s to share our experience and our story. I don’t see the benefit of naming the school in this blog post, so I won’t.
The reason I withdrew Henrik from this particular Montessori school is because I don’t feel comfortable in the administration’s judgement, in their ability to take care of our child to the best of their ability or their care of my son’s wellbeing. Their policies, murky and undisclosed, do not align with ours. It was a series of bad decisions, not one single incident that led us to this decision. Michael and I made the decision together, though his perception of it is as a second party because most of the day to day interactions with the school were done by me.
But lets start at the beginning. I take some blame for what happened because I should have withdrawn Henrik’s application at the first sign of something wrong. That was last year in the spring. The school took Magnus and his class to the Art Gallery, and they forgot my 3 year old in the bathroom. He had been taken to the bathroom by one teacher, who left, another teacher was there but I guess didn’t see him, so she left too. A teacher from another school actually found him. I don’t know how long he was alone for, the school says only a few minutes, Magnus says a long time….I don’t think I’ll ever find out for sure. I should have pulled Magnus out right then and there and pulled Henrik’s application too, but I didn’t. The school said they made changes to policies and that they self-reported the incident to the Ministry, I accepted this, in part because I really loved Magnus’ teacher and felt like she truly was sorry. But looking back now, I think the problem wasn’t at the teacher level to begin, with but rather much higher up due to a lack of clear policies and order.
In September Magnus started Kindergarten at the same school as Johannes and Henrik started Montessori in the toddler program. There were some warning signs then too, like a high turnover rate over the summer, teachers that seemed cold and disinterested with not just myself but the other parents waiting to pick up their toddlers too, etc.
But the final incident for us was in December. Henrik’s class had been sick with chest colds and a couple of kids even had pneumonia. That morning as we left the house it was 0 degrees, pouring rain that was a mix of water and ice, uncomfortable enough for me as an adult that I assumed the babies would be taken right inside the class…much like Magnus and Johannes did when I dropped them off also. But as I walked up to the school I saw two toddlers, miserable and crying in the yard, and realized they were actually bringing them all outside. The kids were all wearing snowsuits…you know the kind that are great for snow but not waterproof. The kind that get soggy and wet. I spoke with the principal who confirmed that the kids were coming outside despite some having compromised immune systems, despite chest colds, despite the fact that toddlers don’t actually move in the yard, but rather stand there like little sacks of potatoes getting wet and cold. Despite all those things. The ministry mandates 2 hours of outdoor activity for their age group “weather permitting”, meaning the schools are responsible for self-direction there.
I am not a parent who believes in the “there is no bad weather only bad clothing” mantra. I think there is such a thing as bad weather, freezing rain is bad weather. As a grown adult I wouldn’t sit on a bench with a cup of jo in freezing rain even if I was in a poncho…because getting hit in the face by ice pellets just isn’t enjoyable. That’s probably against some opinions, and that’s fine, again this isn’t a debate…this is an account of our experience. There are outdoor schools in Toronto, the one we were at was not one of them.
This last incident solidified my growing concern in the school that had been mounting since the spring and we made a decision to withdraw him. To sign him up for a school with clear policies outlined in a handbook that’s made available at sign on, and based on many personal recommendations from friends and people in the neighbourhood who have their children there. It’s a school that did not have 1.5 year old babies outside in freezing rain that day, and that’s at least a good start. So for now Henrik is at home with me, where I can keep him close, safe, warm. Where I can take him for walks and teach him things myself. He may start school again in September but for now he’s all mine! And I’m happy about that.