As New York City expands its public Pre-K program, parents must decide whether to keep their children at MDS for the pre-kindergarten year or move on to a free public school program. Some families may also seek a charter school or independent school placement that begins at age four. There are several points to consider before taking one of these paths:
- As a 4 or 5-year-old in a mixed-age class at MDS, your child has many opportunities to teach the younger children lessons that he learned when he was their age. Research shows that this experience has powerful benefits for both tutor and tutee. This is at the core of the success of the Montessori philosophy. 4 and 5-year-olds at MDS gain a real sense of running their classroom community.
- Many public Pre-K programs are geared for children for whom Pre-K is their first school experience. Focus is on socialization. Children who have been at MDS for at least a year are already accustomed to their environment - they know their classmates and teachers. This allows us to focus their efforts more on learning during the Pre-K year than they might see in other programs.
- During the Pre-K year at MDS, many of the lessons learned the previous year come together and become a permanent part of the child's understanding. For example, we introduce children to addition with large numbers. When children leave Montessori for another Pre-K program, they can lose some of those still-forming concepts, not having had a chance to develop a complete understanding of them.
- The Montessori curriculum is more sophisticated than that found in most Pre-K programs. Children are introduced to basic geometry and other concepts. They also begin to read, while Pre-K students in many other programs are just learning to recognize letters and numbers.
- For many of our MDS children, there is the opportunity to spend a second year with their current teacher. This allows both child and teacher to begin September right where they left off in June. The teacher knows his strengths and the areas that are presenting challenges and the child knows the routines and style of the teacher. In some cases, spending the Pre-K year in a new classroom in our environment can be the best choice for a child as well, giving them new challenges in the same, familiar framework.
If you have questions about this or any other part of our program, we hope you will come and speak with your teachers and the school's Executive Director about your thoughts and allow us to help you through these difficult decisions. We also encourage you to spend a morning observing your child's class and compare it with a Pre-K class at the school you are considering. The differences may be subtle, but most likely they will be significant. We strongly believe that the positive differences you observed in the MDS classroom might help shape your child into the young person you hope he or she will become. Most importantly, we want to help identify what is best for you and your child.