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Montessori Schools- Good or Bad? Need Opinions!

Posted by on Jan. 28, 2010 at 2:43 PM
  • 13 Replies

Does anyone have experience, good or bad, with a Montessori school?  Whether you send a child there, work, or teach there, etc. etc..... I currently have 1 daughter in public school, and 1 still at home, my husband and I are also public school teachers.  (although I've been home since our girls have been born)  Just curious......... if you have anything to say about this method of teaching / schooling ~ please say it ~ I'm simply doing some research!

smile miniAverageJosey1 

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by on Jan. 28, 2010 at 2:43 PM
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by on Jan. 28, 2010 at 3:21 PM

I have friends that have sent their kids to Montessori schools. From their expereinces what I've gathered is that, like everything else, its a great fit for some kids and not so great for others.

Of my friend's children, the kids that needed more structure did not do well in Montessori. When we talked preschool, I took this to mean my son, while bright and certainly could have benefitted from the ability to work at his own pace, would not have done well at Montessori. While DS loves to learn and is significantly ahead academically in most areas, he's also not about to put out time or effort on areas that do not interest him if left to his own devices. For him, Montessori would not have been a fit.

by Barbara on Jan. 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM

I think it depends on the child's learning style and the teachers.  I went to a montessori school when I was younger, and it was great.  I really advanced, and I was really far ahead of other students in math when I ended up going to a more traditional school.

Also, a co-worker of mine had her kids go to a Montessori magnet school here, and they've been very successful in jr high and high school.  Her younger daugher is on the honor roll in HS, and her older daugher is just about to graduate from college.

In the case of my son, he does not go to a Montessori school, and I don't think it would be a good fit for him.  He does better in a more structured environment.  Also, a friend of his went to a Montessori school for awhile, but his parents changed him to a more traditional school because he also needed a more structured learning environment.

Then, of course in any educational setting, the dedication and quality of the teachers are a HUGE factor to look into.

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by on Jan. 28, 2010 at 4:01 PM

I don't really have any good info about Montessori, but I will give you a bump in the hopes that someone with some knowledge will see this.  : )

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by on Jan. 28, 2010 at 4:37 PM

I sent my daughter to a montessori preschool and I know several kids that have gone to montessori's prior to kindergarten and all have done extremely well. They are more vigorous with education than a regular school which means more education less play so it depends what your looking for.

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by on Jan. 29, 2010 at 8:25 AM

My DS1 is in second grade at our local Montessori, DS2 is in preschool there, and DD will start preschool there in the fall.  IMHO if it is a good Montessori with willing teachers, any kind of kid will do well there.  The only exception might be kids with special needs who need alot more individual attention than a regular classroom teacher can give them or extremely gifted students who may need a special curriculum and help to keep them motivated and working up to their potential.  But for the vast majority of kids Montessori is a great fit.  DS1 even has ADHD and our Montessori school has been wonderful working with him.

There are a few things that I love about Montessori and HATE about traditional public schools...

*The mindset of what kids are capable of.

Montessori schools work from the assumption that children are capable of so much if they are just given an environment that lets them do it.  One oft quoted Montessori child once said "Help me help myself" and that is just what they do.  The kids are given alot of freedom and with that freedom comes responsibility and the kids actually live up to it!  The particular way that the school environment is structured allows this whole freedom and responsibility thing to work without total chaos ensuing.  One preschool example that sticks with me is when I dropped a friend's child off at public preschool.  We were expected to walk the children in the school, wait at the classroom door with them, walk into the classroom with them, help them take off their coats and things and hang them up, and on this particular day they were doing some egg project so the parents were asked to write the kids names on the eggs.  I was somewhat taken aback that they seemed to be treating four year olds like they were toddlers so while I stood by, I asked this child to take off and hang up his own coat, and to write his own name on his egg.  He did so very competently, if not quite as legibly as I would have done it.  Over and over they do things for kids that kids can and should be doing for themselves.  At our school we drop kids off at the curb (yes, even three year olds) and they walk to their own classrooms, shake the teacher's hand as they walk in, and take off and hang up their own outerwear.  And the rest of the school day follows suit - if it is something the kids could conceivably do on their own, they do it. 

*The education is more individualized and not "empty vessel" based.

The traditional public school model is based on the "empty vessel" theory - that children are empty vessels that just need to be filled up with knowledge.  With that as your base then it makes sense to follow a one-size-fits-all curriculum with all the kids doing the same worksheets and working out of the same books and working at the same level.  But the Montessori model doesn't use the "empty vessel" approach.  The Montessori approach looks at a child's sensitive periods, both generally and individually.  Overall children go through periods where they are more sensitive and attuned to different kinds of learning and Montessori takes advantage of that.  And besides looking at overall readiness for different things, each child is individually observed for their readiness to tackle different topics.  Leading back to my first point about competent kids, since kids in the Montessori environment do so much for themselves and are such independent workers, that allows alot more time for classroom teachers to observe the children and give individualized guidance.  Another thing that contributes to the ability to offer individualized education is that the kids are grouped in three year multiage classrooms.  So 3yo-K are together in a class, 1st-3rd, etc.  Since each classroom hold the materials for a wide age group to learn and be challenged, if an older child needs to spend some more time on the basics and do things that are a bit under grade level for them, that's okay.  If a child is more advanced that his/her peers, the material is already available in the classroom for them to work ahead.  This multi-age grouping also allows for alot of peer teaching - older kids polish their skills by helping younger kids and then in turn provide good role-modeling for younger kids too.  And at my kids school the rule is "Ask three before me" - so when kids help other kids the teacher is even more freed up to offer individual attention.

*The three year classroom

Besides the points I just made about how the three year classroom benefits peer teaching and the ability to work above or below grade level, I also love the three year classroom because it gives the teachers a chance to get to know the kids.  My DS1, as I said, has ADHD, so both his 3yo year and his 1st grade year, as he entered a new classroom, were not his best years.  It took him a while to get used to the new routine, it took a while for the teacher to get to know him and know what works for him and what doesn't.  By the end of those years he and the teacher seemed to have found a rhythm, but I couldn't imagine if we had to go through that EVERY year with a new teacher.  The consistency of the same teacher for three years has been wonderful for both my sons and I couldn't imagine how difficult it would be to be a teacher who had to teach a whole new classroom full of kids you've never met each year.

*The curriculum

The Montessori curriculum has been completely thought out and integrated from pre-K on up so that concepts taught early on have direct correlations in future grades.  The binomial cube that small children put together as a sensorial material - a sort of puzzle - is used in later grades as a math material.  Children are exposed to the same sorts of things over and over again throughout their time at school with more and more layers of complexity added.  It is a fully integrated curriculum both between grade levels and also between subjects.  While some public schools have done this, it's not common.  What you see more often is frequent curriculum changes and even curriculum that does a good job of building year to year does not usually correlate at all with what is being taught in other subjects.  Do the kids still manage to learn?  Of course, but it's definitely not an ideal situation.

So anyhow - we have been at our Montessori school for five years now and I have no complaints at all.  It has been great. 

One thing to be wary of though is schools that are labeled Montessori but are not affiliated with the AMI or AMS (the Montessori governing bodies).  The name "Montessori" is in the public domain so any Tom, Dick, or Harry can slap the name "Montessori" on their school as a marketing ploy even if they hardly use the Montessori method at all.  Which isn't to say that schools that don't have the AMI or AMS certification are bad schools, but you just need to research closely to see what you are getting.


by on Jan. 29, 2010 at 9:59 AM

It depends on the child. Alyssa was in a Montessori based school for two years, and did not do well. She did much better in an academically rigorous, highly structured school.

Robin in Chicago

by on Jan. 29, 2010 at 10:10 AM

It depends 100% on the child's learning style. If they do well in a free environment and learn by integrating their senses Montessori school is best. If they do well with the traditions memorize/regurgitate system then a regular public school is right for them. All depends on the kid.

by on Jan. 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM

I agree with Elizabeth's post on the benefits of Montessori.  My girls both went to a full time Montessori day care/pre school - one from 3-6, one from 8 mos - 5.  We absolutely loved it!  Our Montessori was a more balance blend of play/Montessori style teaching, so they got the best of both worlds. 

However, specific to the Montessori methods, what I loved was the individual development - not all children proceed at their own pace, each can develop as is right for them.  These is less competition as there is no standard set for "average."  They don't have to teach to the masses.  Montessori is also advantageous for many learning styles in that they use manipulatives, practical life play, etc - a lot of hands on techniques for teaching.  It is not all for the auditory or visual learning, but also recognizes the sensory.  Very important and part of the reason that Montessori children learn math at young ages. 

They also recognize that child's play IS their work.  That they learn how to function in the world around them through PLAY.  So, while there are a lot of developmental learning tools, they are really just ways to play to the kids.  So, they have fun while learning.   Montessori children are said to be extremely flexible, and I found this to be true in that neither of my dauther's had any trouble transitioning to a traditional school.  I was the one who missed the very detailed individual development plan.  It was hard to get used to a macro assessment of my child as compared to some state developed "average." 

I will say that I have seen Montessori education fail for some - particularly where the staff is very inflexible, harsh, unaffectionate and push the kids beyond their capabilities.  Some Montessori's are so focused on "advanced" children that when a child doesn't fit the mold, they categorize them as a problem.   While I whole-heartedly believe in the value of the Montessori method, the execution of it is what matters.  I would be very interested in the approach that the administration and teachers take to the students - whether they have a flexible environment or whether it is so rigid that a child can not be nutured.  I hope this is helpful. 

by on Jan. 30, 2010 at 1:11 PM

My 5 yr old goes to one and we love it:) Its definitely different but she has learned so much and for her its a good fit. Her older brother goes to a reg school because I am not sure how well he would do there since he is already in 1st grade. Most allow you to come and observe so you can see what they do.

by on Jan. 30, 2010 at 8:24 PM

I dont know much about them... I know they are very focused on the individual child and really focus on exactly what they can do or are ready for academically.  I observed on before and all of the students were working on different things... but the thing I didnt like about them is that they said all of the students work alone on things specifically for them.. no group work.. I am completely against that.. I believe in ALOT of group work / partner work.. its reality.. you have to learn how to work with others and accept their strengths and help with their weaknesses in everyday life.. how to communicate and so on is promoted with collaboration and group work.  Which is a very important life skill for children.  That made me go against that school (it may not be how they are all run.. i dont know.. could just have been how that school did it.)..

There was even kids eating lunch alone.. i felt sad for them.... it was way quiet.. no one talking with each other or anything.  and the one here is like 300 bucks a month.. too much for me.

I took the view having my kids' teachings individualized like in these schools and use it in partner work.. in a charter school where I teach ... during our workstation times.. my kids are paired up with someone at their work on what ever they need to work on .. I have 3 different levels going on in my class at once.  Some are still working on their letters and sounds and others are already doing blends and word endings.  Some are still working on counting to 100 and others are doing addition.  but they do it with others in a group form..... i was even complimented on how polite and helpful my students were to each other... they know that everyone learns things at different times.. and they are willing to help others when they need it... rather than saying " you are dumb cuz that is easy" or something like that.  It promotes educational skills and lifeskills. 


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