An Inly Parent’s Perspective by Rachel Rich
It’s January. This is the time where our family reflects on our past year and looks ahead at the upcoming year. We love setting goals and making resolutions for the year. Part of our yearly goals conversation always includes Inly. Should we stay? This question is a big one. We have a lot of young kids (just about five, all aged 7 and under). It’s a lengthy and important conversation. The past four years we have chosen to stay, and we have determined that we are in again for next year. Aside from the financial responsibility, the decision to stay is based upon three of our family’s core values around education and childhood.
We stay because childhood at Inly is valued.
Childhood is a small window of opportunity for children to fall in love with learning, living, and spreading the good that life can offer. As they get older, experience more of the challenging aspects of life, and begin transitioning into adulthood we can teach them how to maneuver those harder parts. However, we don’t need to throw all the tough stuff at them while they are young. In my opinion, that extra level of preparation can lead to unnecessary skepticism, anxiety, and negativity. Where our children spend a majority of their day should value and respect this very small window of an individuals’ life and how it impacts the entirety of their adulthood.
There is evidence that shows the ineffectiveness and detriments that screens have on a child’s learning and development. They are not age appropriate for educational practices at the elementary age. Physical movement, active engagement, and hands on manipulation have a much greater instructional impact then anything done on a screen. Inly waits until the third grade before assigning work that involves a form of the screen. In the current grades and stages of our children, there are no televisions, tablets, or gaming devices accessible to students in the classroom as a choice for exploration. The option for my first grader to do some math homework on a device has been made available but not required. We appreciate that the choice is ours to make.
We also feel that the standardized testing and multiple formative assessments take away from valuable time for learning and exploration, breed unnecessary anxiety, and establish a one-sided approach to growth and success.
We experience a sense of relief when we consider that Inly does not conduct obvious “preparedness” drills for extreme situations. We expect that that the staff is trained to help and manage the children in the case of an unfortunate event, but it does not need to be the child’s burden to carry. At such young ages, we believe our children only need to know how to listen to an adult that is responsible for their care, not how to be safe if a bad guy comes into their school.
We also feel that the standardized testing and multiple formative assessments take away from valuable time for learning and exploration, breed unnecessary anxiety, and establish a one-sided approach to growth and success. At Inly, I know that there is benchmark testing in place to monitor a child’s progress. These formal assessments are minimal and used to help in tracking a child’s overall performance in conjunction with the daily careful observation of the classroom teachers. It is not done in preparation for a state mandated test that all learning and teaching revolves around. Children are not taught how to pass these tests or to prepare for them. Instead they are free to learn at their own pace in their own unique way and the benchmark testing is one way of tracking this growth.
Our children love going to school, are not anxious about bad people and high stakes testing, or over exposed to screens. They have time to eat, play, rest and engage in learning activities that tap into their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So as we think about next year, we recognize that right now they are children living and learning in a child’s world when they are at school. So we stay.
We stay because education at Inly is intentionally individualized.
We can already tell that if our son had to sit and learn the same thing at the same time as every other child, there is a good chance he would very quickly become the problem child. As he grows and evolves, we are grateful that he has the freedom and independence at Inly to explore certain types of learning when the optimal time presents itself. We also like that the classrooms are mixed-aged so that if he is excelling at a particular lesson, the resources for him to go deeper into the concept are readily available. On the other hand, when it comes to aspects of his growth and development that haven’t quite been tapped into yet, he has time over the course of his three years in the classroom to get to it when he’s ready.
Children do not learn on the same linear path in the same exact method. Instead they acquire skills and knowledge when they are ready to do so. Past exposures, individual physical and cognitive growth, and personalities all contribute to the timeliness for certain kinds of learning. The structure of Inly’s classroom, curriculum, and its application of the Montessori Method respects this. We know that our son will not be misidentified with learning problems because he hasn’t learned something by the end of a particular year. We also find comfort in that his interests and strengths are taken into account to maximize his learning. At Inly, the learning is individualized with careful observation over several years, purposeful activities tapping into a child’s unique characteristics, and opportunity for student choice within a range of options. As a result, our children are still happy going to school everyday to learn. So we stay.
We stay because Inly is rooted in tradition but continues to evolve and adapt to current times.
Inly follows a traditional Montessori curriculum in the lower levels. They are not looking to fix it, reinvent it, or change it with new emerging trends. We appreciate that. In trying to keep up with all the new bells and whistles of education and learning, actual purposeful and intentional learning can get lost. Gaps open up and breakdowns occur. We love that when our children go to school they are engaging in hands on activities, natural materials, outdoor play, and classic timeless songs and games. Grace and courtesy are an intricate part of their curriculum and reinforced regularly. Each day they come home a bit more independant, respectful of their environment, and aware of the larger community. The idea of the larger self is not lost when they go to school, instead it is nurtured and practiced. At the same time though, they are engaging in state of the art science, art, and literature education.
They are building and creating in the da Vinci Studio, and engaging in an entrepreneurial and inventor-minded thinking beginning in Children’s House. They are participating in internships at the middle school level, presenting findings in Kindergarten, and uncovering solutions for real world problems in Upper Elementary, On a regular basis they visit a beautiful library that invites them to read and explore the written world. We feel that Inly has found a steady balance between tradition, childhood, progress, and the future of education and technology. We are not ready to sacrifice any of them for more of one of them. So we stay. I wish for all children that their childhood could be protected so that they grow up to be optimistic, problem solving, confident members of society capable of taking on the challenges of their world in productive ways. I want children to love learning and engage in tasks that build their confidence and strengthens their desire to learn. And I want for them to be rooted in tradition while also keeping up with progress. Currently we have found all of that at Inly, so we stay.