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8 Montessori Myths

Introduction

Montessori education system is deeply rooted in developmental psychology and is very child-centric. It has a long and well-documented history based on research and observation. 


The first Montessori school started in the United States was in 1911, and several other schools rapidly came up.[1] Although the Montessori system is not new to us, there are still several misconceptions attached to it.


Montessori system and educational framework can appear complex to new parents or anyone outside of the Montessori system. Someone who is trained in the traditional education framework can find it challenging to comprehend this unfamiliar system and would need some orientation to understand and appreciate it better.


There are several misconceptions associated with the Montessori classroom. We will try and debunk some of the common myths today.


"The education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, butfor life."

-Maria Montessori



Myth 1: Lack of Structure as There is No Curriculum

In the Montessori classroom, children are allowed to move freely, but not without a purpose. Montessori philosophy is very child-centric and focuses on the needs of the child and his capabilities. 


The directress aids the learning process through their observations of the child and offers cues or guides the child in the direction he wishes to proceed. There is very meticulous planning that goes into the curriculum planning for each child.


Montessori classrooms have a schedule to follow, which guides and focuses on various activities for the child throughout the day. 


There is a plan for the day, but it is not enforced upon the child. In case the child wishes to work with a particular material for longer periods of time, he is freely allowed to do so. The child has the freedom and can make decisions in the classroom.

Myth 2: Montessori Schools Are Not Affordable

There is a common misconception that Montessori education is for the wealthy and unaffordable by others which is very untrue. Montessori is suitable for all children. It can even support children with learning difficulties and other disabilities. 


Although there are certain private Montessori schools with different fee structures and variations, in general, there are several Montessori schools that are affordable and do not compromise on the learning component due to less fee. 


There are presently a good number of public schools following Montessori philosophy and several options for lower-income families to pursue Montessori education through various independent school environments.


All Montessori schools typically follow the same methodology and philosophy, and the teachers go through a rigorous training program before they become certified to teach.


Myth 3: Montessori-Trained Children Cannot Adjust to Other Academic Setups at a Later Stage

Montessori Children have knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, and they don’t learn for the sake of grades or tests. Instead, the learning is driven by pure curiosity and interest in the subjects. 


The directress encourages this and offers them more information on their choice of interest. Children who go to Montessori schools are far more knowledgeable, and they become self-disciplined, self-motivated learners who do it for the love of learning and not for any rewards or praise. 


Working with mixed ages groups, children learn to move respectfully around the classroom. This helps them to learn from one another through observation and through working in teams at times. 


Thus they are more flexible and adapt easily to any change and academic system than children who go to conventional schools.

Myth 4: Mixed-Age Groups Don’t Work as Children Need Same-Aged Peers for Age-appropriate Learning

This is a common misconception with several parents who are concerned that the mixed age group might be tough on their older children as these children might end up imitating the younger ones and unlearn several habits.


The mixed age group is one of the best features of the Montessori classroom. The social community of mixed ages gives children an opportunity to experience the outside world in the classroom.  


The older children guide and act as role models to the younger ones. All the children are part of the community and feel responsible and compassionate towards one another. They help one another and learn concepts of tolerance, respect, and value for each member in the class.


The learning is higher in the mixed age group classroom as most children learn through observation and are far more open to learning from peers than from adults.

Myth 5: Children are Taught to Do Chores in the Name of Learning and Independence

The practical life aspect of the Montessori classroom is misunderstood most of the time. Some parents feel children are pushed to do chores and given tasks that are beyond their capacity to handle, which is very untrue. 


Montessori emphasizes that children need to be made independent and are capable of taking care of their basic needs and the needs around their home. 


Every activity in the Montessori classroom has a developmental value and a goal. Sometimes the goals are direct and sometimes indirect, which means they are preparing the child for a particular skill that requires pursuing another activity.


The practical life activities, which appear as ‘chores,’ apart from helping the child develop coordination of movement, concentration, it is also developing the skill of being able to do a particular activity. Through these life skills, children develop a sense of personal responsibility in caring for a shared environment.

Myth 6: The Teacher in the Class Doesn’t Teach; Children Just Play with the Materials the Whole Day.

In the Montessori classroom, children have the freedom and independence to move around and explore. The materials are formally presented by the directress initially. Once the material is presented, the child is free to explore that material and learns through self-correcting.


Work feels like play for children as the materials can be very engaging. Once a child is presented with an activity, he is then left alone to explore and work with the material for as long as he wishes to. The work done by children is developmentally appropriate, meaningful, and not just ‘busy work.’


For an external observer, it looks as if the child is just playing with the material, but he is actually exploring and deeply engaged in his work. The teacher is only a facilitator and observer who offers help when required. The children are very independent and work by themselves without needing too much intervention.

Myth 7: Montessori Stifles Creativity as Fantasy and Imagination are Not Encouraged

In the Montessori classroom, imagination is encouraged through experience with reality. Children are encouraged to think out of the box and tap into their imaginations. 


Montessori philosophy believes that creativity is being able to think about and trying to work in different ways. Creativity is encouraged through art, music, and movement. Children also explore the material in creative ways.


Montessori philosophy believes that as children learn to experience reality in their environment, work with realistic scenarios and real-life knowledge and facts, their creative skills are simultaneously developed, and imagination can flourish.


Exposure to a rich reality is essential to develop creativity and imagination. Montessori education taps into and nurtures the creativity and imagination in every child.

Myth 8: No Grades or Tests to Evaluate Progress or Learning

There is indeed no grading or tests in the Montessori system, but the teacher monitors the performance of the students. Each child is encouraged to progress at his or her own level of readiness, and there is no common yardstick that would measure the capabilities or learning levels in children.


The teacher keeps track of the progress made by the child and uses these observations to plan and present the next set of activities for the child. 


Parents are regularly updated on the child’s progress. The child’s progress is not dictated or driven based on a fixed curriculum or textbook, unlike in traditional schools, but more by his innate ability and effort to learn a skill. The Montessori system believes that children should not be motivated by grades or rewards but should be driven by curiosity and a love for learning.

Awareness Programs and Orientation Sessions Can Dispel Myths and Misconceptions About Montessori Education

Misconceptions happen when there is a lack of awareness about any subject which is why most Montessori schools these days conduct workshops for parents regularly to help them understand what happens in the classroom.


Almost every Montessori school conducts orientation programs for new or prospective parents to help them understand the philosophy behind the Montessori education system. 


These sessions are very interactive, with many demonstrations of the various materials used, which helps parents experience the education firsthand.


These days several schools also have a feature called ‘Parent observation day’ wherein parents are invited by turn to observe children without distracting or interfering with the children’s work cycles. 


These observation sessions can be beneficial for parents to see how their child is working and help debunk several myths.


If you have questions, comments, or if you’d like to suggest future topics, please leave a note in the comments section below.


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