I owe Cape Town’s Child Magazine and their comprehensive listing of pre-schools for this one. I would have never found the school on my own (and it turns out I couldn’t even find it with my GPS – thank goodness Jacky was able to direct me over the phone).
Hidden away in a quiet bend in Galway Road, Heathfield is the Blue Moon Montessori School set in a quaint little garden. The school building is pretty enough from the outside, but it was the inside that really impressed me. Big open flowing spaces filled with light streaming in from the wall to wall windows. And here’s the big surprise … it was relatively quiet. Busy: with children walking, moving, eating, painting everywhere – but quiet!?! Text book example of organised chaos.
I realised that my preconceived ideas about the Montessori education system may have been way off. I have never quite been able to fully grasp the concept of self-directed activity in a pre-school classroom, it seemed completely contradictory to what I had always thought education to be, but today I saw it in action and it worked! I also saw two other practices in the classroom that completely astounded me: Firstly, all the educational materials were stored in glass containers. Glass + 3 year olds = danger? Doesn’t it? But Jacky was ready for me. When I asked her about it her answer was wonderfully simple: “We use glass because it breaks. That is the lesson isn’t it? We can’t always keep children away from glass objects, but we can teach them how to handle glass carefully so that it does not break”. The second practice was that of helping yourself to snack – today’s snack was a delicious looking fruit salad -when you feel like it. Whoa! I had expected that this would cause a stampede of little bodies, all fighting to get to the food first. But what I saw was the complete opposite, a pretty little girl dishing up her snack by herself … and then washing her own plate! Double Whoa!!! It inspired me to read up more about the Montessori philosophy and the more I read the more it seems to make sense.
I spent my entire school career in a traditional, sit-still-and-listen, only-do-what-I-tell-you-to type of educational system (and I think I turned out kinda okay? – I hope? ), but in my professional career I have been intensely disillusioned by the results of this kind of educational setting. It simply does not produce independent thinkers and is not conducive to the development of true leadership. What I saw today at Blue Moon Montessori has given me some hope that reaching these ideals might just be possible. Later, I found this quote by Maria Montessori and I couldn’t help feeling like Maria and I were kindred spirits: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education, all politics can do is keep us out of war”.
Even better news is that Blue Moon Montessori now also have a foundation phase group (6-9 years) and I’m really hoping that they consider starting a senior primary (9 – 12 year) group.
If you are considering a Montessori education for your child, I would strongly recommend that you have a look at this school. Contact Jacky on 021 712 0221 or ask to visit them on their campus.
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.