First I was a Montessori parent, the mother of a four-year-old daughter who had announced that she wanted to read. It was 1974 and I was unimpressed with this request because I too had wanted to read--at the age of five. My father was a high school teacher who had taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the early 1920's before earning his teaching degree. With great patience he brought out his McGuffey Readers and worked with me (“The boy stood on the burning deck...”) to little avail. So I had no stellar expectations for my daughter.
But Erica was determined, so in spite of the fact it was August, my husband and I set out to find a school for her. The Evanston Public Schools would not take her--too young--but recommended two private schools in Evanston that might. At the last minute the Montessori school was the one with an opening. We enrolled our happy child.
Next door to us lived the only other child her age in our venerable Evanston neighborhood. Bicky and Erica formed a love-hate bond which erupted into shouting matches whenever they tried to play. One Saturday when I was desperately trying to clean the house for company, Erica asked if she could invite Bicky over. Knowing Bicky's doorbell was broken (Bicky's mom:”The only thing that works around here is me!”), I told her we would have to phone to invite her. "But,” I added,“I do not know the telephone number and I am much too busy to stop and look it up.” I thought that would be the end of it, but no.
Erica:“Where can I look it up?”
Me:“Erica, I'm busy. It's that big telephone book with the blue cover.” A few quiet moments pass.
“Mom! I found it! Now how do I look up the number?”
“Oh, dear, it's a little bit hard to do. You have to know the alphabet and find Bicky's last name. Can you say the alphabet?” She can and does.
“Good!” Next, I'm hoping, comes the impossible part when I say,”Bicky's last name is MacElroy. So to find her name, you first have to find the names that start with 'M'.”
“I found them, Mommy!” Then, amazingly, letter by letter, head bent over that big Evanston phone book, saying the alphabet over and over under her breath, she finally managed to find Sheila's phone number. Needless to say she dialed Bicky herself, and Bicky came to play.
Two years later I left the Blood Bank at Evanston Hospital and enrolled at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center. As much as I felt I was helping people before, I have no doubt that what I have done in the Montessori classroom has helped many more. My daughter's was typical of the way children's minds develop in Montessori classrooms. But like snowflakes, each mind is unique.