A Montessori Elementary School guide leading a lesson

Does Montessori Work? Looking at Critiques of Montessori

A Montessori Elementary School guide leading a lessonMontessori Education has benefited children and contributed to the world for 112 years. Despite this rich history, misconceptions of Montessori exist and questions like, “Does Montessori work?” arise. We will address these misconceptions here.

Montessori has a ‘loose’ curriculum

This idea comes from Dr. Montessori’s idea to ‘follow the child’. This allows a less structured curriculum than one sees in conventional school classrooms. The multi-age groups of children do their work at their own pace, at their own level, and in their own learning style.

Montessori curriculum comes from a universal developmental plane of learning. The developmental plane of learning follows three-year cycles. Children in the program through the entire cycle absorb all the environment offers.

Toddlers explore language, care of self and surroundings, music, art and nature exploration. In the Early Childhood Program, 3-6-year-olds add academic at a pace that fits the child.

More rigor, challenge, and critical thinking come into play in the later school years. Elementary (and beyond) classrooms look more like university quads or labs. An untrained onlooker viewing these classrooms might see a loose curriculum. What they actually see is spontaneous and self-driven learning.

Montessori students enjoy a curriculum that exceeds conventional schooling. They receive conventional subjects, plus arts, music, and outdoor educational experiences.

The classroom days follow a flow of work periods. These work periods encourage deep concentration. Students have time to finish work without interruption from bells or time limits.

Parents may expect to see a 7 hour day divided into 6 class periods and lunch. Instead, they will instead see a 3 hour morning work period, lunch, followed by another. Montessori Education designs these work periods into community classrooms from toddler age on.

Montessori doesn’t use grades and take tests

It is true. Grades force-rank and create a competitive environment. Tests have become the primary focus of learning, rather than a measure of learning.

Rather than give tests, Montessori teachers observe students and their work. They provide regular progress reports to parents. Students save their portfolio of work so they can observe their own progress over time.

Students, from early childhood classes and above, take part in this learning partnership. They track their own advancement through the curriculum.

Montessori students transferring to a conventional school learn what letter grades mean. The knowledge and skills they develop at Montessori translate into any schooling system.

And how about NO HOMEWORK? How can we see what they are doing?

Montessori children develop deep focus and concentration in the classroom. With this level of work, seven hours of learning is productive and wastes little time. Schoolwork is best viewed as quality over quantity, and we do not assign homework.

If you enjoy bonding time with your child over homework, try using that time to read, work, or play together. “Home Work” in the conventional sense remains on the shelf at school. Students bring finished work home, to save and share.

Parents see how their child is progressing according to academic expectations. Parent-teacher meetings, watch me work nights, and curriculum events help parents see the growth of their child.

There are no rules

Self-discipline and respect (for oneself, others and the environment) are Montessori’s guiding principles. When these principles are followed, other rules are redundant.

Within the Montessori classrooms, the guiding principles translate to a few simple rules:

Choose your work, do your work without interfering with or disturbing others,

Then restore and return your work for the next person to use.

This simple process creates an inner discipline present in all Montessori classrooms. As children mature, they can accept more responsibility. The guiding principles reach beyond the walls of the classroom into gardens and play areas. Soon, neighborhoods and communities enjoy the discipline derived from the guiding principles.

Children won’t learn about the ‘real world’ in Montessori

Yes, the ‘real world’ is rough. How better to deal with it than to learn to be empathetic, fair, independent, assertive and knowledgeable? Observers in a Montessori classroom witness examples of real-world skills, including:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Respectful expression of concerns and opinions
  • Showing appreciation
  • Acknowledging another student’s efforts
  • Seeing an alternative point of view

Montessori students will benefit from understanding that each person can make unique contributions.

Montessori Schooling is Expensive

There are Montessori Charter Schools, Montessori Public Schools, and Privately-owned Montessori schools. In all cases, there are considerable costs involved in running a Montessori School. Extensive teacher training and high-quality materials drive the cost of Montessori education.

Children will have difficulty adjusting to conventional schools

One common concern about Montessori is the transition from Montessori to conventional schools. How will Montessori students adjust to sitting at a desk and having scheduled lunch and bathroom breaks?

We prefer children didn’t have to conform to these standards. If homes and offices were mirrors of the child’s day in a conventional school setting, adults would not be happy.

Montessori doesn’t sit children in desks. Dr. Montessori observed that movement improves learning. Child educational and development experts agree people learn better when they can move.

Montessori encourages movement. Students use tables, rugs, chairs and hangout areas to study.

Final Thoughts: Montessori Works

There will always be pros, cons, and critiques on any method of education. It is interesting to study the best practices of schools throughout the world.

We hope to live in a culture that prioritizes excellent, free, public education for every child. We believe that this vision will come from a student-centered education like Montessori.

We invite you to consider the choices offered by pioneers like Maria Montessori. Visit a classroom, spend time observing children, and be open to exploring the opportunities that exist for your child.

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From your Friends and Family at Montessori House Community Schools.

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