Why I Pulled my Son out of Preschool
It all started on the playground.
I had just arrived at my son’s Montessori preschool to pick him up after his morning session. He and his fellow classmates, ages 18 months to three years old, were enjoying the warm spring day in the school’s backyard alongside the primary students, ages three to six.
I never loved that bigger kids played outside with the little kids; the playground always seemed a bit too chaotic for the handful of teachers supervising. But I never complained because I understood the Montessori philosophy was to let the younger students interact with the older ones.
(I also always thought the slides were a bit too high for such tiny toddlers, but I wondered whether I was just being a paranoid first-time mother.)
That particular day, however, I saw a primary student sprawled flat on his back near the backyard jungle gym and a toddler girl get hit in the chest (or maybe it was her face!) with a large rubber ball. Then I turned my head and watched my 20-month-old son, Levi, fall down a concrete patio step while following two older boys – who knew how to use stairs!
Enraged by all of the accidents I had just witness on the playground, I pounded out an email to the school’s administrative assistant, asking her to forward it to the appropriate person. Despite my anger, I thought I had handled myself professionally. Rather than laying blame on any particular teacher, I shared my concerns about the size of the equipment and the number of children playing at the same time and asked if there was any way to make the backyard safer for everyone.
I waited all day for a response from somebody. Anybody. And then I waited all night.
Can you believe that I never got an email or a phone call from anybody in the administrative office?
I know my email was read because the next day only the toddlers were in the backyard at pick-up time. Although the children were safer and the teachers were visibly less stressed, I was fuming because the staff never directly acknowledged my safety concerns.
At that moment, I couldn’t think of anything more unprofessional than ignoring the concerns of a parent who pays for their child to attend that school. Right then and there, I knew I would be pulling Levi out of school, and I began researching other possible Montessori programs in the area as soon as we got home.
Eventually I did have a face-to-face meeting with some woman who acts as the “liaison” between the teachers and the administration to discuss my email, but I had already made up my mind to transfer Levi. She didn’t do much to allay my concerns, anyway. I found her to be too agreeable during our chat, too willing to consent to the safety issues I brought up. Honestly, it felt like a lot of lip service.
So earlier this month, Levi began at a new Montessori school with more up-to-date facilities and two separate age-appropriate play areas, including a toddler-sized space with sandboxes and manageable Fisher-Price plastic slides. Not only am I less concerned about his safety, but I appreciate that the administration has responded to every email I’ve sent in a timely fashion.
After all, parents just want their kids to be safe -- and to know that they’ve been heard.