When people who have never sent their kids to a Montessori school tell you Montesorri kids are weird, or how much they love Montessori despite never being part of a school with that system, it makes you want to…
Everyone’s an expert on what a child needs.
A child should know what’s it like in the real world, someone says, expounding the virtues of a competitive environment.
The pros and cons rattle about in my head, that feels empty of all else but the two opposing views; one suggesting kids should follow their own path, blazoning it themselves, and one saying children need their path illuminated for them.
Some mothers get my angst. Especially Montessori mothers. They too wish for the control experiment child. The I-dream-of-Jeannie style child suddenly blinked into two. One raised this way; one the other. See which turns out best. A test tube baby in the purest sense.
But short of this there is just giving the other system a go.
We walk the long hill. It is at the point of impossibility for me in my wheelchair. It is long and steep. A limestone wall, deteriorating, is on our right. Convict built. Already Graham has constructed a story how the hole chiseled in its mortar was made by the bushranger Moondyne Joe. Arm muscles are burning. I can do it. If I have to. Two crossings. Lollipop men – mid sixties – swarthy Portuguese? Dogs are tethered to the fence. Blue Heeler. Schnauzer. Chocolate Labradoodle. Murphy joins the mutts that wait.
Jasper asks me not to come into the classroom. But I want to meet the teacher. Please, I won’t embarrass you, I promise.
Just being me is enough. I have to excuse myself past a group of young boys. The corridor is not wide enough for them and me. Is Jasper hoping they think I am with someone else? Please believe she belongs to someone else. The boys are maybe 10 years old. In their huddle they are tanned, even more so because of their gleaming white shirts. February white.
At the desk sits the teacher. She has a gaggle of young girls around her. All leaning in close. Taking in the smell of her. Girls love their teacher. One girl wears her art shirt; a man’s old business shirt, oversized with sleeves rolled up, ready to get dirty. The teacher and I handshake. We smile widely, warmly at one another and I say I will catch up with her later, when she has time. I don’t want to seem demanding, strange, a Montessori mother. I notice her lines about her mouth – like she smiles a lot and I think this is a good sign.
The room is jammed with desks. I would not get around them they are so close. I imagine people squeezing their way through the maze of tables and pencils falling to the floor as one is bumped. On the uneven boards the pencils will roll and keep rolling. Excuse me. Under the desks I hunt for the pencils, but they are gone. The sound of rolling lead. Desks are upending, papers are falling to the floor. A domino effect of tipping tables. Pencils on the loose. Sliding between the boards. Gone. For it is a small, small desk. No spreading out. No room for loose pencils. Elbows almost touching. Nit city. Close enough for cheating. Close enough for note passing.
Outside again and a trip to reception to hand in a form about Jasper’s asthma plan and order more uniform and a wide brimmed hat. Magpies sitting high in ancient gums warble. Wait till we are nesting, they say. In the distance the back of another former Montessori mother can be seen crossing the grass with a child in a brand new uniform two sizes too big. I want to yell out. Here, over here. Come tell me it is okay. Parents cross the bitumen and mill about. Prams galore. A siren sounds to signal the start of the day. It is a sound bursting with urgency. Fire station-loud. Let the day Begin.