A Parent's Perspective
A Parent's Perspective
Why We Are Post Oak Parents
Parenting at Post Oak
What you don't know, yet
At the 2007 POPA Dinner, five Post Oak parents described changes they had seen in their own children, glimpsed in these "Montessori moments."
My first thought was, "Who is this child, and what have they done with Kyle?" Then I remembered, oh, yeah, he’s a Montessori child: purposeful, peaceful, engaged, self-assured, a child who sees the importance of the details. Maria Montessori did not discount the intellect because of its age, but instead created an educational approach with the appropriate environment and tools to develop the child’s innate character and allow it to flourish.
Through all the levels, from Infant Community to Upper Elementary, these characteristics blossom. But it seems that, when they reach Middle School, the students find their inner self, their true being. This transformation is not just internal, but can actually be seen. It is incredible. It’s not true that Montessori kids are not competitive: they are just most competitive with themselves.
Another moment: the middle school rode the MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin this year for the third time. The team is named the Post Oak Pedalers. And, due to temporary dementia, I joined the team.
The first day’s ride is 85 miles to La Grange, where you spend the night in tents. Sunday morning, the Pedalers were talking among themselves, and a few said they weren’t going to ride the remaining 67 miles to Austin. Believe me, the last thing you want to do is put your rear end back on that bike. But a student went to Mr. Niezgoda and told him about some of the Pedalers’ reluctance. Being his charming self, he was able to persuade them to keep going. The kids did not want anyone to quit, because they knew everyone was capable of completing the ride. Just keep pushing that envelope, and who knows how far it will reach? Every Pedaler completed every mile of that ride.
Do kids transition well to high school after middle school? Our son Kellen is a freshman at Texas A&M now, after graduating from Post Oak in 2003. He went to St. Thomas High School, an all-boys school of about 650 students. He took AP and advanced classes; he received appointments to the Military Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He tried out for rugby his freshman year; he had never seen a rugby ball. It is now his true passion and, during his senior year, he was one of 28 boys from high schools across the nation to make the USA U18 team that spent ten days in England getting their butts kicked by the British. He placed out of 20 college hours. Yeah, they transition pretty well.
Just visit the alumni page on the website, read about them in the Post Oak News, or come to Alumni Night. These students excel in academics, music, art, videography, drama, dance, sports. They know who they are and pursue their interests with confidence, self-purpose, and focus. They are Montessori children.
We will miss Post Oak immensely. I advise you all to enjoy the ride, as it is over much too soon. Thank you.
Last spring, I had the pleasure of serving as a chaperone for fourth- and fifth-grade students on an overnight trip to San Antonio. During the evening, we had a bit of down time and I found myself in a hotel room with four fourth-grade girls, asking, "How should we spend the next hour?" I fully expected the girls to say something along the lines of watching TV, ordering snacks, or chatting about Webkins. Instead, one suggested that we should all give speeches about a topic that each child thought was important, and then we should critique each other. Imagine my surprise!
Those of you who know my daughter Megan, the "aspiring actress," might assume this idea came from her. In fact, it came from a student I had known from the Lower Elementary setting as fairly reserved and not particularly self-confident. All the girls agreed to the plan, and I proceeded to be thoroughly entertained by an hour of very persuasive speaking.
I wish I had videotaped the experience, because it blew me away. The topics chosen included animal rights, saving the rain forests, and that favorite topic of Ms. America contenders, "Why we should work for world peace"—hey, they were fourth graders! One girl did take up the cause of why children should be allowed to drink Diet Dr. Pepper... but I’ll tell you, she argued this with sound logic and great conviction! These speeches were all well thought-out, organized, and delivered with a sincerity and passion that truly amazed me. I would challenge most adults to sound as articulate and put together as these girls did without any real rehearsal.
As a psychologist by profession, I know very well that the Upper Elementary years can represent a time when many children, especially girls, start to experience increasing self-doubts, self-scrutiny, and waning self-confidence. But most of the children I have encountered in the Upper Elementary program at Post Oak really defy this norm. I walk into a classroom and I literally see children clamoring to be heard at a group meeting. What a far cry this is from my own childhood memories of a traditional school where the teacher stood at the chalkboard and had to coax children to share their thoughts.
I think that what I saw that night reflects the culmination of experiences that our children receive in the Montessori environment. The set-up of every classroom from Infant Community through the Middle School empowers the child. Starting at the Primary level, children are repeatedly asked to share information verbally in a supportive environment. At the Elementary level this continues with the frequent sharing of written work, group process meetings, and with more specialized activities such as the International Festival, Famous Person Day, class plays, the opera production, and the list goes on.
When I think about what I want most for my children, it is that they grow up to be well-rounded, thoughtful, civic-minded, and confident human beings. I believe that it is from a grounded sense of the self that all else flows. The ability to stand in front of a crowd and articulate your beliefs with conviction is a skill that I know will serve these children very well. Ultimately, I think this will go much farther in assisting our children in the "real world" than any particular grade or test score. Based on what I saw that night, I fully expect to see one or more of these girls in a position of true influence some day.
So I would encourage all parents to look beyond the traditional markers of success when making the decision about whether to continue with your child’s Montessori education. What I see in my Elementary child, and in so many of her peers, is a child who works because she loves the process, who speaks and persuades others because she has a strong sense of herself and of her values. What grade she gets for her speech is the farthest thing from her mind… and I think that’s pretty great!
I’ve been a teacher for eighteen years in a large public high school, teaching seniors. There’s an annual rite of passage going on right now: all the seniors are pulling their hair out, staying up late, writing essays, trying to remember what they did in sixth grade, like a week of community service; they’re trying to get into college.
I think there’s an understanding out there that if you study hard, if you stay up late and you make straight A’s and you get into a good college, and you get that high-paying job, then you can buy your house, and you can get married, and if you follow this model, then you can be happy. I know it’s an exaggeration or stereotype, but it exists. But this is not the educational experience, the sort of strict, narrowly defined academic experience, that we want our daughters to be a part of.
I must say that I have bought into it myself: at a parent-teacher conference last year, I strode in with something important to report. We sat down, my daughter’s teacher gave us a little introduction, and at the first little pause I confidently shared that I had been reading Greek mythological stories to my daughter, and we had been analyzing the stories, trying to find the meaning of the gods’ powers and how that plays out in their lives. And the Montessori teacher, of course, in a very gentle, polite, respectful way, popped my proud daddy ego right there on the spot. It was a wonderful lesson on perspective; my four-year-old daughter doesn’t need to read at the sixth-grade level to be happy down the road.
Lisa and I have two educational goals, or maybe hopes is a better word, for our daughters at Post Oak. The first is curiosity. What makes some people curious? After a K–12 experience, at the end of 12th grade, why are some kids more curious and some less? I feel confident that Post Oak will draw out the curiosity in our daughters.
As for the second goal, or second hope, I’ll relate another parent-teacher conference experience, this one a little better. We sat down, more humble this time, and our daughter’s teacher looked at us and said, "Your daughter loves to learn." Tears welled up in my eyes, and I looked at her and said, "The meeting is over; you don’t need to say anything else." Of course I stayed, but that’s the only thing I can really tell you from that meeting. What a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Post Oak, in my estimation, does offer a different kind of educational experience. It’s not that traditional, narrow, academic seek-for-happiness type thing. We chose Post Oak because we wanted to go beyond that vision. Post Oak offers a much broader educational experience. We know they’re going to be challenged academically; that’s not even a concern of ours. Some of the aspects we love are that community service is a part of the curriculum, everyday manners are a part of the curriculum, the child’s individual intellectual journey is so well respected—we love that part of it. So for these reasons and many more, we choose the Post Oak educational experience.
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