Common Montessori Myths Debunked
Have you heard contradicting things about Montessori? Clear things up with these common Montessori myths explained!
While you’ve likely heard of Montessori, if you don’t have personal experience with the educational philosophy, it can be a bit confusing. There are a lot of myths about Montessori out there that you may have heard.
Perhaps you’ve heard Montessori is too structured, or not structured enough. Perhaps you’ve heard it’s too academic, or not academic enough.
One reason for the confusion is that Montessori is just so different from the traditional schools most of us are used to. Thus visiting a Montessori classroom can evoke strong reactions.
Another reason for these misconceptions is the wide variety of Montessori schools out there. While Montessori schools are based on the ideas of the Italian philosopher and educator Maria Montessori, “Montessori” is not a trademarked term. This means that anyone can call a school Montessori, even if it’s not completely aligned with the philosophy.
Pro tip: look for Montessori schools that are AMS or AMI certified for reassurance that the school is indeed aligned with Montessori.
Regardless of the reasons, trying to decide if Montessori is right for your family can be quite confusing, given all of the misinformation. To make things easier, here are a few Montessori myths debunked!
Myth #1: Montessori kids do whatever they want
Children in Montessori schools choose what to work on. They can practice any piece of work they’ve previously had a lesson on. This might mean that, if you observe a Montessori classroom, you’ll see one child reading aloud to a friend, another child painting at an easel, or another child working with the math materials.
When some parents hear that kids can choose their own work, they assume this means their child can skate by doing nothing but art for three years and will never learn to read. This isn’t the case!
While it’s true that children in a Montessori class can choose their work independently, the teacher guides the child to ensure they practice all areas of the curriculum. Montessori teachers keep detailed records on what each child is working on and all children receive individual lessons in math, language, geography, and so on.
The difference is, part of the teacher’s job is to entice the child so that they want to practice math and reading. The work is designed to be interesting and attractive to children and teachers often get creative if a child is resisting a certain kind of work.
Myth #2: Montessori schools don’t allow for creativity
Montessori classrooms for young kids focus on real world experiences. They do not include fantasy, such as animals dressed in clothes or cartoonish images.
The reason for this is not because Montessori did not value creativity, but rather because she thought children should learn about the real world before they absorbed adult-driven ideas of fantasy.
Montessori children are always encouraged to work creatively in art, music, and creative writing. While books in a Montessori classroom will focus on the real world, you will also see children writing stories about fantastical worlds and creatures.
Myth #3: Montessori kids can’t adapt
One of the most common fears parents have when sending their kids to Montessori school is that they won’t be able to adapt to traditional school when the time comes.
The truth, however, is that one of the main focuses of Montessori education is helping children to learn how to learn. Rather than memorizing facts, they are encouraged to make new discoveries on their own. The teacher might ask them, “where you could find that information?” or “why do you think that?” which encourages important critical thinking and problem solving skills.
This focus on learning how to learn actually serves kids well when they eventually transition to a different learning environment. There will of course be an adjustment period, but this true whenever a child changes schools.
Myth #4: Montessori is always expensive
Like any private school, private Montessori schools can be quite expensive. Fortunately though, there are an increasing number of public and charter Montessori schools popping up.
Many parents also opt to send their kids to traditional school, but to incorporate Montessori at home. This does not necessarily mean buying a bunch of specialized materials. Maria Montessori herself developed all of the materials for the classroom based on materials available to her. Montessori is much more a philosophy and a way of interacting with children than a set of materials.
Myth #5: Montessori is just for preschool
While there are definitely more Montessori preschools than upper level classrooms, Montessori school actually extends all the way through high school. Maria Montessori started her work with young children, but also developed educational models and materials for older students. Montessori classrooms for older kids focus more on abstract thinking than working with physical materials, but retain the emphasis on educating the whole child and incorporating real world experience.
For example, Montessori middle schoolers might regularly visit a farm to learn new skills. Montessori high schoolers might be in charge of running a small business to raise funds for class trips.
Whether or not Montessori is right for your child is a highly individualized decision. Going into it with all of the facts can at least make the choice a little easier when figuring out what’s right for your own child.