Debunking Common Montessori Myths
“Each year, during the start of the school, teachers and administrators try to explain to new parents the essence of the term Montessori… [The following explanations] dispel a few misperceptions about Montessori education” (Schmidt & Schmidt, p. 11).
Montessori is only for gifted children.
Montessori is for all children. Since Montessori preschools begin working with three-year-olds in a prepared learning environment, Montessori students learn to read, write, and understand the world around them in ways they can easily express. To the casual observer, Montessori students may appear advanced for their age, leading to the assumption that the school caters to gifted children.
In reality, a Montessori school offers children of differing abilities ways to express their unique personalities, through activities using hands-on materials. Montessori schooling helps each child develop individuality in a way that accentuates his or her innate intelligence.
A Montessori classroom is too unstructured for my child.
The Montessori classroom is very structured, but that structure is quite different from a traditional preschool. Montessori observed that children naturally tend to use self-selected, purposeful activities to develop themselves. The Montessori classroom, with its prepared activities and trained adults, is structured to promote this natural process of human development.
Students in a Montessori classroom learn to select their own work and complete it with order, concentration, and attention to detail. Many traditional preschools work on a schedule where the entire classroom is involved in the same activity for fifteen minutes before moving onto the next activity. This structure is based on the speculated belief that young children have short attention spans.
A Montessori classroom is too structured for my child.
Parents sometimes see the Montessori concept of work as play as overly structured. The activities in the classroom are referred to as work, and the children are guided to choose their work. However, the children’s work is very satisfying to them, and they make no distinction between work and play. Children almost always find Montessori activities both interesting and fun.
Each Montessori classroom is lined with low shelves filled with materials. The teacher, or guide, shows the children how to use the materials by giving individual lessons. The child is shown a specific way to use the materials but is allowed to explore them by using them in a variety of ways, with the only limitations being that the materials may not be abused or used to harm others.
Montessori schools do not allow for play.
Montessorians refer to children’s activities as work. The children also refer to what they do in the classroom as their work. What adults often forget is that children have a deep desire to contribute meaningfully, which we deny when we regard everything they do as ‘just’ play. With our adult eyes, we can observe the child’s ‘joyful work’ and expressions of deep satisfaction as the child experiences “work as play.”
Montessori schools create environments, where children enjoy working on activities with grace and dignity. Montessori children often describe feelings of satisfaction and exhilaration upon completing tasks that we might have considered only as ‘play.’
Montessori schools do not allow for creativity.
Creativity means ‘to bring something into existence.’ First we have an idea. Then we use our imagination, thoughts, and skills to bring these ideas into being. The Montessori classroom nourishes the creative skills of writing, drawing, painting, using scissors, clay, gluing, etc. to enable children to express their thoughts and ideas in genuine and unique ways.
Montessori classroom allow for safe self-exploration through art, music, movement, and manipulation of materials and can be one of the most creative and satisfying environments for children to learn to experiment and express their inner-selves.
Schmidt, M. & Schmidt, D. (n.d.). Montessori myths. Tomorrow’s Child Magazine, Montessori 101: Special Issue, p. 11-17.