Montessori education has been around longer than any of you readers have been alive, yet it is still a very misunderstood form of education. Most of this stems from the fact that Montessori schools aren’t everywhere across the nation, though there are nearly 4,500 out there. This means that, while most people have heard of the Montessori method, they might not have been in direct contact with students or parents who have attended these school. This has led to quite a few misconceptions (and downright myths) about this particular type of early childhood education.
Today we’re going to take a look at a number of these myths and then let you in on the facts about Montessori education. Let’s start with the one that gets our goat more than any other…you can probably guess why it does!
Myth: Montessori teachers don’t teach
Fact: If you stop by a Montessori classroom (and you’re more than welcome to schedule an appointment to do so), it might not seem like the teachers are doing much. Much of this comes from the idealized image of a public school classroom, where a teacher is up front while the children are in neat rows, listening to every word.
In fact, Montessori educators are observing the ways in which each child plays and learns, creating a mental (and later written down) record of the best way to teach each particular child. They will then use this knowledge to guide the child toward other activities so that they can learn as quickly as possible while still being challenged. By observing the behaviors of the children in every circumstance, teachers are also well equipped to handle disciplinary problems in the classroom by knowing what a child responds to best.
Myth: The kids aren’t doing any work.
Fact: At their age, play is work! Kids are constantly exploring their world, because many times it’s the first time that they’ve interacted with it in a particular way. Exploration is a child’s work, and playing is a large part of that. By playing, kids are learning about their environment, social interactions, and their preferred way of learning.
Much as we debunked the myth that “teachers aren’t teaching” up above, it’s simply not true that kids aren’t doing any work. They’re simply learning in a different way, one that matches their particular personality best. This leads to another myth that plagues Montessori education…
Myth: Montessori classroom are out of control
Fact: Of all of the myths, we can understand where this one came from. It’s busy in each classroom, but there’s certainly a method being employed. If you observe a Montessori classroom, there’s a lot going on at once. To someone not familiar with the Montessori method, it might seem like most of the time is “free time,” where kids can do what they want. In some ways, this interpretation is accurate, though teachers will certainly help guide kids on what to do. Different children might be engaged in many different activities, but that’s because they have chosen the methods that help them play (and therefore learn) in the best way possible.
Myth: Montessori has religious roots
Fact: Nope! We’re not sure where this one came from. Perhaps the name throws people because it sounds vaguely like monastery or Masonic. But in truth, the name Montessori is simply named after the developer of the method, Maria Montessori.
As we’ve mentioned before, Maria Montessori started her education as a physician and then went on to study child psychology, quickly becoming a leader in the field. The advances that she made were all brought about by her observance of the students’ advances, her tweaking of the curriculum, and continued study of how kids responded to it. It was a scientifically-based field of study that she tweaked and championed for more than 40 years.
Myth: Montessori excludes religion
Fact: After Dr. Montessori started her schools in Italy, her teachings spread throughout the world. While Montessori’s method doesn’t specifically involve religion, it doesn’t exclude it either. This pedagogy has been used in a number of countries with extremely diverse religions, such as the United States, India, China, Japan, Australia, and Indonesia.
Myth: Montessori is expensive
Fact: When you compare any paid childcare to free public education, we guess it can seem expensive. But because we only have students who are infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, the only fair comparison is to compare paid daycare with paid Montessori. When you compare these two costs, the difference isn’t really that much.
Some people who pay for Montessori daycare or preschool end up sending their kids to public school. These are the parents who realize that, if a child is going to go be in childcare during the day (and if they’re going to pay for childcare either way), they might as well benefit from the advantages that the Montessori method can give their children.
Myth: Montessori is a passing fad
Fact: Here’s one that we can back up with numbers. Montessori schools have been around for 111 years, which makes it one of the most enduring teaching methods around. It’s certainly not a fad after being in use for so many years! In 1906, Maria Montessori started her first school in Italy and expanded her teaching from there. Montessori’s teaching have moved around the world, but it really took off in America in California in the late 1950s. Since then it has spread across the country, and as we said before, there are now more than 4,500 Montessori schools across the country from infant all the way through high school. (Most Montessori schools focus on early childhood education, and Montessori high schools are quite rare.)
Well, those are the first seven myths that surround Montessori education, but there are more we’d like to talk about in the next blog. Stop back by to discover a few more myths and the way in which we respond to them. We want you to have the truth about Montessori education, and that means breaking through the misunderstanding that surround it. Until then, if you have any questions about it, please feel free to contact us right here.