The Myths of Montessori:
The Montessori approach to education continues to gain respect among educators at all levels. The Montessori Method stems from the pioneer observations, research and efforts of the infamous Italian engineer, Maria Montessori and are concrete and incomparable.
Due to recent awareness and popularity, however, Montessori is sometimes misunderstood by educators and parents amidst the abundance of educational theories in practice. Below are some common myths of Montessori with brief explanations provided to clarify and honor the true Montessori Method and its social and pedagogical value.
Myth 1 – Montessori children have total freedom
Children in a Montessori classroom do have freedom, but that freedom has limits. There are four limits to freedom in the Montessori classroom:
Limits set in the collective interest of the environment
Knowledge of materials must precede choice
Limits on variation in the use of the materials that might become destructive or dangerous or contrary to the purpose of the activity; i.e. any activity that would harm anyone or anything in the environment
Limits on the number of activities in the environment – not everyone needs to be doing a pouring exercise at the same time, but must learn to cooperate, take turns and to make alternate choices
Myth 2 – Montessori Classrooms have no discipline
True discipline comes from within a child and is not imposed on a child by an adult. The Montessori Method respects the child as a person and encourages that child to respect him/herself and others. Ground rules of behavior and action, which are clearly stated and repeated as necessary, (sometimes by the teacher and sometimes by other children) help to guide the child’s behavior. The Montessori Method encourages the child to set appropriate limits to his or her own behavior. It also makes available to the child the necessary activities and direction to make this a very natural process.
Myth 3 – Montessori is all work and no play
In the Montessori classroom, the child develops by means of skill experiences = work. The child is perfected by working at the same sill or activity over and over. Work to the child does not have the same connotation that it has for adults. Adults work to get something done, while the child works because he or she enjoys the process. They are becoming who they are to be! With practice and repetition, the child is able to master the work he has chosen. The Montessori classroom and materials help the child reach his or her greatest potential.
Myth 4 – Montessori stifles creativity
Imagination is an activity. Through imagination, we develop intelligence. Our minds gather and store information and combine them in many activities. Creativity is subconscious and is not found in a piece of work on the shelf in the classroom. The Montessori Method does not encourage fantasy, but instead presents reality to the child in every possible experience. Imagination corresponds to reality – fantasy does not. Nurturing the subconscious learning is quite evident in the classroom. There is much creative expression in a Montessori classroom and this expression has reality as its foundation.
Myth 5 – Montessori is only for Gifted Children
Some parents and educators incorrectly view the aim of the Montessori Method as “accelerated learning at an early age”. It has been said that Montessori is for every child, but not necessarily for every parent. The environment can be adapted to fit any child’s needs. The Montessori environment, by identifying and appealing to the child’s “sensitive periods”, is able to assist the child in reaching his or her fullest potential. It is not a cram course for early learning or for the creation of “genius” children.
Myth 6 – The transition from the Montessori
The Montessori Preschool classroom is preparing the child for much more than a first grade experience. The child is preparing for a lifetime of learning. This is shown by the child’s pure joy of learning and the ability and desire to be self-directed and motivated. A Montessori child is given more than the ABC’s of learning. Every experience is a learning opportunity that the child eagerly approaches. There are some things that can be done to ease the transition to a traditional classroom, such as a visit to the new school, talking about the differences and the similarities, and possibly talking about behaviors and expectations the child may anticipate. No matter where, when, or how learning takes place, a child with Montessori as a foundation for learning is prepared for the many opportunities the world has to offer.
Written by: Nancy Mehalic