Poroporoaki ki Montana (Goodbye to Montana)

“Calvin, did today feel special at school, since it’s your birthday?”

Calvin: “Yes, but it also felt sad.”

Me: “Why did it feel sad?”

Calvin, quietly: “Because it’s my last time going to Montana, and I know that there’s visiting, but to visit is not the same as going…”

Montana 1
Suzy did amazing facepainting for Cal’s last day; the dressup area; Helen and Cal’s class in the preschool room; the farewell letter to Cal in the vestibule

The four months Calvin spent at Montana Early Learning Center were truly wonderful. Each of the teachers treat the children with so much respect and love; the space is cheerful, clean, and colorful; the day is structured and stimulating with tons of time outside and free play.

Did I mention that the New Zealand national government pays for 20 hours of quality early childhood education for everyone, regardless of income level, nationality, parents’ work status, etc.? So we paid for hours in surplus over 20 in addition to a small weekly donation to supplement costs of care and activities, while the state of NZ paid the bulk of the weekly bill. Brilliant.

For his final day at Montana, Calvin asked me to bring in a special snack: chocolate chip cookies. One of his teachers brought in facepainting supplies, on Cal’s request, and did beautiful and whimsical characters. Cal picked Batman, but I also saw a Christmas tree, a snack, unicorns, butterflies, a green cat, and monsters, among others.

Initially he requested a movie, but I talked him into sharing two of his favorite They Might Be Giants’ music videos, Electric Car and The Bloodmobile. So I brought my laptop along and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Montana 2
Cal’s picture on the wall; Cal wearing the special Maori robe and receiving a special book; handing out cookies to everyone; Cal with Ms. Suzy

I am not going to lie; I got choked up a couple times witnessing the warmth and love the teachers consistently showed the kids. And while I do think that Calvin will thrive at Ilam in Year 0, it is not without saddness that we say goodbye to the Montana community.

Calvin was also given a scrapbook made by his teachers, with art, photos, stories about what they did each month he attended the center, and personal notes from each educator at the school. Some favorite excerpts:

  • “Calvin, this is the first piece of art that you completed at Montana. It tells me quite a lot about you: you can find an activity which interests you and complete it to your own satisfaction; you are happy to work alone as well as in a group; you know how to use scissors.”
  • “I think the construction sets like the lego or mobilo are your favorite activities and you often spend long periods of time building with these.”
  • “During our discussions I discovered you have an amazing knowledge of space and you have enjoyed sharing lots of this information with the other children. Your interest has been demonstrated in so many areas of our curriculum, from completing space puzzles to listening to stories about space and of course creating spaceships with lego or any other construction set available.”
Montana 3
Another acknowledgement; Cal gives a book and some art supplies to the school as a goodbye present

We are so thankful for the wonderful care and education Calvin has received at Montana, and I imagine that we’ll need to schedule a return visit to say kia ora very soon.



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