Why I Loved Having My Toddler in Virtual School

How Guidepost’s virtual offerings gave this parent the tools and guidance she needed to bring Montessori into her home.

Wendy Wilke, Guidepost Montessori Parent

We were so happy to find Guidepost

My daughter, Paloma, is four years old, and she started with Guidepost virtual when she was 22 months old. It was during the pandemic when just the three of us were at home. We tried a virtual Montessori summer camp first, and once the school year started, I was looking for another place that could offer a Montessori experience for Paloma. We were so happy to find Guidepost. Even though it’s a virtual program with an experienced guide leading the class, the parents are definitely still involved. You prepare things ahead of time and you’re there with your child during the class. But I think that’s one of the beauties of being online. You can be in the comfort of your own home while still being able to present things in a Montessori fashion with the help of a guide.

I was amazed by her focus

In the beginning, she didn’t understand that the person on the screen was talking to her and could see her. She had never been on Zoom before; she had never even done FaceTime with her grandparents. It was all very new for her. It took her about a month to realize that I wasn’t just watching TV, that there was someone there who was talking to me and guiding me. She made the connection that there was a guide.

Once she made that connection, that was it. She was extremely engaged. The lessons are an hour and a half long, and, at first, I wondered “Would she even last an hour?” And she did! I was amazed by her focus. Of course, I was very engaged with her. I was presenting the work, listening to the guide, and helping her along. It’s not just for your child; this is something you get to be a participant in and that’s a wonderful thing.

I loved learning along the way

Even though I was a Montessori kid, starting at 18 months and going through middle school, there were many works that I would never have thought of introducing to Paloma at home. Window washing, for example. I wouldn’t have thought of that, and Paloma absolutely loved it. We had the cleanest windows in Manhattan! And one of the great things was that after our daily sessions, I could leave some of the work down at her level and she could do it any time she wanted.

I loved learning along the way. We learned about brushing our teeth, for example, and we would go into the bathroom on Zoom and suddenly I would realize, “She needs her towel to be at a level where she can get it without asking” or, “I need to put something on the sink so the water flows in a way that she can reach” or, “Her soap needs to be at her level so she can climb up her little stool and reach it on her own.” I wouldn’t have known to set up my home that way.

I also don’t think I would have realized all her capabilities. Cleaning up spills, for example. I wouldn’t have thought to set up a little cleaning corner for her. We have a corner where she has a towel, a duster, a sweeper—anything she would need. And now, if there’s a spill, she can just turn around and take care of it instead of asking us. And the joy and confidence she found in it! Even as a Montessori kid, I wouldn’t have realized her age as being appropriate for things like that, but you learn along the way.

A Peek Inside Paloma's Virtual School Experience

An online art class for your 2-year-old? It’s incredible

If it worked well with her nap schedule, sometimes we would attend the extracurriculars. If you’re not used to virtual, you might be thinking, “An art class with 150 people in it? How could that work for a 2-year-old?” But it’s incredible. The kids all watch the guide, and they have their glue stick and their paper. They follow along and rip the paper to make a collage. We’re all muted, so hundreds of people aren’t talking at once, but the kids are all just following along. I think that having those extra activities available at that age is amazing.

We had an incredible guide

We were very lucky to have an incredible guide. It was amazing to meet with our guide separately for 30 minutes a week. It was necessary because we’re on mute during the class sessions and we don’t want to interrupt the class to ask questions. They can tell if we’re struggling, though, and they offer help. They might say, for example, “Oh, you might want to pour that into a smaller pitcher first,” if they see your child has something they can’t control well on their own. They can guide us along the way.

But meeting and going over things once a week was unbelievable. We would meet, and I could ask if I was setting things up correctly or if there were things I should be doing differently. Having that access meant I could even ask about things like sleep training and potty training. Being a new parent with a young child and having a guru there who had seen all this before was so valuable. Those 30 minutes a week were just incredible.

Children’s House was so comforting, another home for her

When it was time for Paloma to go into brick-and-mortar, she already had half of the materials at home and was so familiar with the classroom. She already knew what the pink tower was, she knew what the sound shakers were, she knew how to roll up her mat. It was such a comforting experience for her to have all these materials at home and then to go to another home, the Children’s House. It was a really smooth transition. She was able to walk into her classroom and to have so much confidence on day one. It’s an incredible gift to be able to support your child at home as they move into brick-and-mortar. For her to have that same experience of confidence and independence that she’s learning at school, continued at home from what we learned in virtual, it’s invaluable.

Montessori gave her an outlet

I feel strongly that children between 1 and 6 can learn so quickly. It’s an outlet for them to have an opportunity like this. They’re just itching to learn. We do the best we can at home, but it’s amazing having someone there, essentially in your home with you, who knows exactly how to feed your child’s appetite for learning. I found that having the work that was available through the Guidepost Virtual School really soothed my daughter. I know other children who didn’t have this intellectual outlet, and they still have the energy and the desire, but often it would translate into unproductive behaviors that were frustrating for the parents and for them.

For Paloma, though, I had a closet full of ideas that I could use to satisfy her craving for learning. We were given so many ideas that were perfect for a 2-year-old's desire to learn. I wouldn’t have known that Paloma would get so much satisfaction from pouring beans for half an hour, or from sewing designs, for example. Having that outlet of learning for my child and being able to be a part of it and learn along the way was invaluable. I really believe Montessori is for all ages.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity

Meet the Author

Wendy Wilke, Guidepost Montessori Parent

Wendy Wilke is the mother of Paloma, a former student of Guidepost virtual and current student at Guidepost at Museum Mile in New York City. Wendy chatted with us about how Guidepost’s virtual offerings gave her the tools and guidance she needed to bring Montessori into her home.