Monday, April 19, 2010

The internet annoys me sometimes

It never fails. Any time I find myself combing the internet for some Montessori info, I run across a thread like this one.

To make that long, poorly written thread short, some people think the Montessori method only works for developmentally delayed, antisocial kids who like to work by themselves. These people, and lots of others around the net, see the Montessori method as ridged, lacking imaginative play, group work and, well, fun. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence for these claims, and I do not doubt the experiences of these parents. But there are bad schools everywhere, it has nothing to do with a specific method of teaching.

Many of these schools are not Montessori schools people have experience with. A lot of them are Montessori "style" or Montessori "inspired" and do not actually follow the whole method. Or at least the whole method as I understand it. And these schools comprise some people's only experience with the method, which is really sad.

In other cases, I think the schools may not be the problem. I think sometimes the Montessori method is too focused on real world applications for parents to see "results." There aren't enough grades or check marks or stickers or lists or rewards or punishments. One criticism in the link above was that Montessori doesn't teach vocabulary. Really?? Life teaches vocabulary. Talking about things teaches vocabulary. I really doubt the school in question never talked to the children about what was going on around them and I doubt the child's vocabulary was stagnant. More likely, there wasn't a list of words for the parent to look at or quiz about.

Montessori schools, as I understand them, don't discourage dramatic, creative play and thinking. Although, maybe because of the materials it comes across differently than in other schools. Even so, I went to a public school until 5th grade. I don't remember pretend play, drama and creativity in the curriculum. I remember in kindergarten there was a kitchen set and store "station" that I didn't play with a lot because it was in high demand and I wasn't aggressive enough to push ahead of the pack. After kindergarten I remember specifically being discouraged to pretend or, in fact, do anything the rest of the class wasn't doing. We didn't put on plays or act out stories or draw outside of art class. Maybe things have changed in the 20ish years since I was a youngster (20? Really?) but I'm just not sure most traditional schools have an emphasis on pretend play and creativity.

Lastly, the social aspect. As a former homeschooler I've heard more than enough "what about socialization??" cries from concerned parents. In my opinion, traditional schools don't offer much time for socialization between peers, the peers are often of exactly the same age and meaningful interactions between different ages rarely happens, and finally any group work usually only serves to separate the leaders from the followers and rarely shows any true cooperation. But even so, socialization is not something that you have to facilitate, people naturally bond and connect. This post from The Moveable Alphabet describes the importance of peer leadership and small groups in a Montessori classroom.

It is possible that these criticisms annoy me so much because I finally took the plunge and sent in Ryann's application to a Montessori school and am anxiously waiting to see if there is an open spot for her. After much back and forth in my mind I decided this was the perfect place for her to be -- and after much planning and number crunching, I can definitely afford tuition ;) It's hard to make a decision about a school and to know that you will be handing over a portion of raising your child. It's hard to think that I, like these other parents, might be putting my trust in a place that isn't what I expected. I'm confident, though, that I have made the right choice. If I haven't, well... she'll be out of there before she can say, "I hate school."


  1. I found this post from Montessori Matters, and I just continue to be baffled at that thread. I'm AMI trained at the primary level and while I didn't get a chance to have that much experience in the classroom before having my own kiddo and becoming a stay-at-home mom, I certainly know enough to look at these claims (Montessori doesn't teach vocabulary? Or creative play?? Whaaaa???) and know how utterly ridiculous they are. It's sad how misinformed so many people are about Montessori (and how much of it comes from experiences with schools who are "Montessori" in name only). If they knew anything about Montessori philosophy they'd see how the classroom is ALL ABOUT vocabulary, and creative learning, and social interactions, so much more so than traditional schooling.

  2. It's enough to make you go crazy, isn't it? And it's so sad that many parents make education decisions based on some random voices on the internet and don't research the source of the method or the research that proves its worth. Thanks so much for the comment, Marcy!

  3. We are just in that topic : Elia (2years 1/2) started school two days ago, a Montessori school at a walking distance from home (sounded so perfect to me!). I've been reading about Montessori since Elia was born and I am considering to get trained in one or two years. But what I see in that classroom is not what I know about Montessori... no introduction or greetings or welcome from the teacher (neither to me, neither to Elia), no reassuring or explanation when a child cries (mine or another one who was all by herself sobbing in a play house during playtime), no attention to the children (one ran away in the playground, she did not see him) and we can barely understand her English!
    I'm so upset, and for our own experience and for the image it gives about Montessori, it is so bad.
    I do not mix what Montessori is with what the personality of the teacher is but most parents would if they don't know that much about the method...
    It takes more than having a pink tower in the classroom to be a Montessori school!

  4. Francine, I am so sorry your school isn't what you hoped it would be! It is hard when it is so easy for schools to label themselves Montessori even if they have little to do with the actually work of Maria Montessori. I can assume even in good schools the teachers might interpret her work differently than parents might like. I hope that you can reach an understanding with the school or you find a more interactive place for Elia!