What is Montessori Education?
Many of our prospective parents have heard of Montessori schools, and heard that they are especially good at developing curious, independent, high-achieving students. Some have seen the research that shows that Montessori students outperform their peers on those metrics.
And some have seen the news that Montessori schools are being championed by Silicon Valley leaders such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. But many parents aren’t sure exactly what makes a Montessori school different from traditional schools.
teaching materials and educational methods. Fascinated by her results, she pursued her
interest in education by studying teaching techniques and continuing to conduct academic research with children.
What is Unique about Montessori Programs?
In the Montessori classroom, the child is systematically introduced to dozens of carefully
designed materials (called “lessons”) that are intended to teach a specific skill or set of
information. Once the teacher has introduced the child to a lesson and ensured that the child is working with it appropriately, the student is free to work with it when she wants, and for as long as she wants during the work cycle. When the teacher observes that she is ready, the teacher will then introduce the next lesson in the learning sequence. In this way, each student progresses individually at his own rate.
What if my Child Doesn’t want to Learn?
This question arises frequently, because at first glance, an educational system that relies on self-motivation may seem to be a bad fit for some students. However, these concerns generally arise from a misconception about free choice in the Montessori classroom.
Is it True that Montessori Schools Don’t Have Any Rules?
Not even close! Our students are introduced into the classroom with a closely supervised
orientation period, during which they learn all of the class rules, norms, and expectations for
behavior that you would find in any classroom. In fact, our program has more rules than many traditional programs, because we challenge our students to be more independent, and require them to take very careful care of their class and its materials. Starting in Preschool, Montessori students are responsible for their own belongings (changing shoes, zipping jackets, remembering and carrying own lunchbox, etc.), serving their own snacks and lunch, cleaning up all of their own messes, and putting away all lesson materials independently. In addition, Montessori has always championed positive behavior reinforcement and logical consequences for classroom behavior management.
What if my Child Needs More Structure?
Most early childhood education programs rely on strict age groups and a very tightly scheduled day (a common approach is 15 and 30 minute rotations through learning centers). This is a great way to keep students busy and expose them to a lot of different information and skills development. Many students do well in these programs. However, compared to a Montessori program, we think it has several major drawbacks:
Traditional approaches may work in the short-term, but at the expense of long-term success characteristics like curiosity, perserverence, and enjoyment of learning.
Students who are ahead or behind their age group may suffer or become very frustrated.
A tightly scripted schedule makes it very hard for teachers to adapt to students' interest in a topic.
Frequent rotations by group may mean that a lot of time is wasted organizing the transitions between centers and activities (finishing work, cleaning up, lining up, getting started in the next area, etc).
Too much structure in learning also makes the child dependant on the teacher to control his interest in learning and attention span.
Is Montessori Play-Based?
There is a very wide variety in what is considered a play-based preschool program, and how
students spend their time in such a program. Since they are so different, it is hard to draw
general comparisons. However, Montessori programs are sometimes considered play-based
programs, because the students are guided about how to use the lesson materials, and are also allowed to play creatively with the materials as they choose (as long as they treat the materials carefully and follow class behavior rules).
Where can I Learn More About Montessori Education?
There are several major Montessori associations and organizations with extensive information about Montessori education.
For basic information about Montessori, we recommend:
Association Montessori International (founded in 1929 by Maria Montessori)
American Montessori Society
For the latest scientific research on Montessori education outcomes, we recommend:
The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector, especially this summary of evidence-based research on Montessori advantages
American Montessori Society research summary