What is Montessori Education, Really?

Seven Montessori Misconceptions

Montessori Education is a way of teaching and philosophy that has often come under scrutiny from scholars and parents. The practice of Montessori involves an approach to child care that creates an educational growth while emphasizing values that can be applied outside of the classroom. You can learn more about the Montessori philosophy here. Skeptics of Montessori Education may become so because of certain misconceptions about its philosophies and practices. At Mandala Montessori, we are determined to address these misconceptions, and attempt to do so below:

1. Montessori is just for preschool children.

A majority of the Montessori Schools in the United States cater primarily to preschool age children. Mandala Montessori is one of these Montessori preschools, specializing in and accepting children from ages 3-6. However, the Montessori philosophy holds strong in children from birth to the age of 14, and many programs accept children up to this age.

2. Montessori is just for special learners—the gifted or the learning-disabled.

One of the true benefits of the Montessori philosophy is that its methods are highly effective with learning-disabled children, and children without learning disabilities. Montessori succeeds in this way by providing learning environments that are designed to ensure success for all children. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is encouraged as it benefits all children, in that they may learn from one another. Similarly, Montessori isn’t just for “smart” children; the philosophies can be applied to all children.

 3. Montessori schools are religious.

Because religious affiliation is such a common practice in the United States for private schools, it is true that some private Montessori’s will also support religious education in the classroom, primarily form a cultural perspective. However, Montessori is not a religion in itself, nor is it inherently religiously oriented. All religions are welcome in any Montessori setting, as diversity is encouraged for student enrichment and growth.

 4. Montessori is only for the rich.

The American Montessori movement that began in the mid 20th century was primarily orchestrated by private preschools and supported by tuition. The idea the Montessori’s are only for the wealthy had most likely stemmed from the stigma created during this time.  Today, Montessori education is available at approximately 200 public schools in the U.S. in addition to about 4,000 private schools. In many cases, Montessori programs are less costly that traditional child care. See our article about the differences between child care and Montessori education here (link to article).

 5. Children in Montessori classrooms are relatively unsupervised and can "do whatever they want."

Dr. Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. Thus, we encourage the principle of free choice as a means to purposeful activity and learning. While a Montessori student may choose his activities, he is confined to the materials and activities of each curriculum as lay out and presented by the teacher. Additionally, if the child is being destructive or is using materials in a destructive or ineffective way, the teacher will intervene and guide the child toward more appropriate materials, or to a more appropriate use of the material. In fact, Montessori education has also come under fire for possibly being too structured. This is another misconception, promptly addressed just below.

6. Montessori classrooms are all work and no play.

A Montessori teacher is responsible for making clear to students the activities and materials in an organized, step-by-step way. However, the child is free to choose from a variety of focused activities and is free to explore the possibilities of the program. The materials are to be used only in productive and respectful ways, and any behavior to the contrary will be gently redirected into more meaningful action. Playtime and personal exploration is a vital component to a child’s learning.

 7. Montessori is out of date.

The basis of Montessori teaching has changed little since the life of Dr. Montessori, but modern changes have been applied to traditional ways of teaching. The introduction of new technologies such as computers and cultural life exercises has allowed for new opportunities and advancements in learning. Still, contemporary research has confirmed the effectiveness and insights of the Montessori philosophies.

The list above is not comprehensive by any means, since there are many more misconceptions surrounding Montessori. To learn more, or to schedule a tour of the school, please contact Mandala Montessori in Minneapolis MN.