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Misconceptions About the Montessori Method

Learn the Facts About the Montessori Method

Misconception #1: Montessori is just for preschool children

Truth: Although most Montessori schools in the United States are preschools, Montessori programs are designed for levels from birth to eighteen.

Misconception #2: Montessori is just for special learners—the gifted or the learning-disabled

Truth: While the Montessori Method is highly effective with both learning-disabled and gifted learners, it is designed to ensure success for all children.

Misconception #3: Montessori schools are religious

Truth: Though some Montessori schools have a religious component to their program, the majority are independent of any religious affiliation.

Misconception #4: Children are unsupervised and can do whatever they want

Truth: The Montessori Method gives children the power of “free choice of purposeful activity.” That means the children learn how to use materials through lessons in an environment prepared by a Montessori-certified teacher as well as through modeling of the children’s peers. The teacher may intervene and gently redirect the child either to more appropriate materials or to a more appropriate use of the material only if the child is being destructive or is using materials in an inappropriate manner.

Misconception #5: Montessori classrooms are too structured

Truth: While students are given the freedom to choose from a vast variety of activities in the Montessori classroom and discover the possibilities on their own, the teacher gives lessons to carefully illustrate the specific purpose for each material and clearly demonstrate the activities, step-by-step.

Misconception #6: Montessori is a cult

Truth: Montessori is part of mainstream education. Cleveland State University, New York University and Xavier University are three of the growing numbers of universities offering graduate-level programs in Montessori education. Montessori’s popularity in public schools increases annually.

Misconception #7: Montessori is against fantasy; therefore, Montessori stifles creativity

Truth: Instead of being against fantasy and creativity, Dr. Montessori found that children prefer activities providing practical experiences that fulfill their inner needs. The “freedom with guidance” approach to learning encourages creativity in problem-solving though fantasy play initiated by the child. This approach is considered healthy and purposeful, while teacher-directed fantasy is discouraged. Additionally, art and music activities are integral parts of the Montessori classroom.

Misconception #8: Montessori pushes children too far, too fast

Truth: The Montessori philosophy allows each child to develop at his/her own individual pace. Montessori teachers never push children toward anything. In these scientifically-prepared environments, possibilities open for children to learn at their own pace, and they excel far beyond traditional expectations for their age levels.

Misconception #9: Montessori is outdated

Truth: While appropriate changes have been made to the original Montessori curriculum (including the introduction of computers and modifications to the Practical Life exercises to keep them culturally relevant), the basic teaching strategy has not changed much since Dr. Montessori’s lifetime. Contemporary research and evaluations confirm Montessori’s insights.

Misconception #10: There is no play in Montessori

Truth: The children at the 3-to-6-year-old level do not really distinguish between work and play. Their work in the Montessori classroom is their play. They enjoy themselves and interact with others. Art, music and drama curricula allow for creative play in the Montessori classroom.

Misconception #11: Montessori discourages children from working together

Truth: Children in Montessori classrooms have a choice to work alone or in groups as long as they are not disruptive to other students. Between the ages of 3 and 6, children generally want to work alone and the Montessori environment supports that desire. Students age 6 to 9 and 9 to 12 years old often work together in small groups. There is nothing about the 3-to-6-year age group that would discourage working together later on. Students at this age simply are not in the same developmental plane as older students. Dr. Montessori did not intend for the children to isolate themselves from others when working, but rather it happens more naturally.

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