Montessori Myths and Misconceptions

The name Montessori can mean many different things to different people. The number of myths and misconceptions which swirl around the Montessori Method of education is alarming, and can easily dissuade a parent from looking into a Montessori program for their child. A few of the myths are so extreme that they are often ignored when administrators are talking to parents about a program, but they circulate in parent and educator communities nonetheless. The following myths are most common and cause parents the most concern.

Myth 1: Montessori Is Only for Early Childhood

Originally Montessori designed her program for the early childhood student, but later developed her Cosmic Education curriculum for the elementary child. While elementary, middle school and high school programs are not available at all Montessori schools, there are thriving students across the country engaged in upper level Montessori classrooms.

Myth 2: Montessori Students Do Whatever They Want

Many people outside of Montessori circles have a vision of children running wild in the classroom, ignoring lessons, and playing all day. When a parent familiar with traditional programs visits a Montessori classroom it may look as if this myth is true. Students can often be seen working on different materials, sitting on the floor, at tables, or sprawled on the carpet, and often talking to the guides or each other. Especially in an elementary classroom, where students have internalized their sense of order and do not feel the need to keep everything in its place, papers can be scattered around a student at work and the student may have all parts of a material dumped on the work mat in front of him. After observing for a few minutes the rhythm and flow of the classroom can be seen. Students complete works and put away the materials before getting out their next work, and sometimes a group gathers for a group lesson with the guide.

Myth 3: Montessori is Only for Gifted/Challenged Students

Maria Montessori’s first group of students were the littlest hoodlums in Italy. The primary purpose of establishing her program was to get them off the street and under some kind of supervision. The myth that prevails today is that Montessori is for students that cannot function in a traditional classroom, that they are “troubled” or “bad” students.

The flip side of this myth is that only exceptionally bright or gifted students are admitted to Montessori programs and that the Montessori Method is designed to create mini-Einsteins. Neither of these extremes are the case. The students enrolled in Montessori programs function well because the environment gives them the freedom to learn at their own pace and with the materials/methods that work best for them. They are given the opportunity to explore subjects and concepts that interest them, even if it is not part of the “standard” curriculum for a child their age.

 

Myth 4: Montessori Works for Every Child

This is the most difficult myth to overcome for Montessori administrators and guides. Every child is different, and some children function better in environments where they are being told what to do and when to do it. Additionally, some families are more comfortable with a traditional, scheduled curriculum and a traditional, single-age classroom. If a child is placed in a Montessori classroom and the school and guides do not have the support of the parents, the child will be set up to fail.