Adults, particularly those educated in traditional schools often have very little knowledge about the Montessori approach but have cultivated opinions about it. Many of these opinions are based on feelings or anecdotes, but often not based on a deeper understanding of the method. Many of these adults have enrolled their child in a Montessori school but have not done any research into how children are educated in a Montessori school. This can lead to some misunderstandings.
Here are a few examples of internet posts from parents with children in Montessori schools:
“I would NEVER enroll my child in a preschool where I couldn’t help out in the classroom. What are they trying to hide?”
”The teacher lets children wander aimlessly around. Aren’t they supposed to be learning something? How can the teacher allow this?”
“My 4 year old daughter has no homework. She doesn’t bring any books home to read. She’s going to fall behind her friends in regular school.”
“My five year old daughter is mixed in with three-year olds. They didn’t allow this at my last school.”
“Everything is so serious. Where’s the fun?!”
These are well-meaning, but misguided questions. They’re fairly easily answered with a basic understanding of a Montessori education.
If you’re considering Montessori, here are a few tips to consider before you enroll your child in a Montessori school.
1. Do the homework. To comprehend the methodology you first must understand the history and the philosophy. I’m told by Montessori teachers and administrators that 90% of parents enrolling their children in a Montessori classroom have little or no understanding of the methodology. Give yourself a chance by doing the reading. With a basic understanding of the methodology you will know what questions to ask when it comes time to visit a school. Without it, you won’t really know what to look for in a school, won’t know what you’re seeing when you visit one, or may make a snap judgement that is misinformed.
2. Research the schools before you visit. Not all Montessori schools are equal. Any school can call itself a Montessori school even if it doesn’t follow Maria Montessori’s methodology or use the materials in the way they were intended. Are the school or its teachers certified with AMI, AMS, or neither? Don’t know what these mean? You’ve got a little more work to do before you can make an educated decision.
3. Tour schools and observe classrooms. A tour is a great start, but it is not enough. You’ve got to observe a classroom in action. It’s a wonderful opportunity and provides important insight into the inner workings of a particular school. Don’t know what to look for or what questions to ask? Go back to #1.
4. Talk to other parents, but don’t expect your experience with a school to be the same. Talking to parents about a school does not a substitute for #3.
5. Trust your gut. Much like finding a home or a spouse: When you know, you know.
6. Talk to the teacher and administrators. If you are already enrolled in a school and feel uneasy about something, or are considering enrolling but have additional questions, it’s your responsibility to meet with the teacher. Do not let feelings of unease go unchecked. Conversations with teachers and administrators are important and illuminating for parents. If after these discussions you still feel that something is not quite right: see #5. It may be time to find another school. That’s OK. It does not mean the Montessori approach is not right for your child. Many parents mistakenly equate disappointment with a school with failure of the Montessori method.
You cannot rely on others to determine what is best for your child. You have to do the work. Then decide for yourself.