MONTESSORI MYTHS EXPLAINED
Myth #1. All Montessori Schools are the same.
Montessori is a philosophy of education and is not a franchise. This means that Montessori schools come with great variety of ownership (non-profit, private for profit, and public). It is essential that parents researching Montessori act as good consumers to ensure the authenticity of their chosen school. We assure parents that MMCA follows the traditional methodology of Dr. Maria Montessori. Michigan Montessori Children's Academy is an independent school licensed by the State of Michigan and is in the process of becoming accredited by The American Montessori Society (AMS) and The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). The owner, Jaya Paul, is fully trained in the AMI approach and stands by it fully.
Myth #2. Montessori is a religion or is affiliated with a particular church.
Montessori is a child-centered, developmentally-based, philosophical approach to education developed in Italy by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s and since adopted by educators around the world. Montessori schools may be housed in churches or affiliated with many different kinds of churches or houses of worship. However, the program itself is not religious nor is it attached to any particular religion or church.
Myth #3. In Montessori classrooms, children can do whatever they want.
Montessori classrooms offer a thoughtfully prepared environment, rich with developmentally appropriate learning materials that invite the child to explore using their curiosity and interests to lead the way. Montessori recognized that children who are given independence are much more motivated to learn. Each program level of Montessori is based on a curriculum that is conveyed to children through their work with the materials. At Michigan Montessori Children's Academy, teachers are guides to learning, who give lessons and move about the classroom coaching children to challenge themselves in areas they are exploring and in new areas. Teachers are trained observers of children and invite children to branch out and grow intellectually as they master skills and content.
Myth #4. Montessori classrooms are either too structured or too unstructured.
The “prepared environment” of a Montessori classroom, paired with the thoughtful guidance of the teachers provides a structure that is peaceful and conducive to learning. To the casual observer who is accustomed to a traditional approach, it may seem unstructured. Closer examination will reveal the beauty of the structure and how well it supports children as learners. Children can move about the classroom selecting work, setting it up, completing it and then returning it to its proper place. Children might all be working on the same thing, but more typically they will all be engaged in different work. The materials are often auto-didactic so that children can see an error and self-correct. Teachers can assist children who are stuck, need to be refocused, or would like to go further with the subject. It is a subtle but powerful structure that yields wonderful results – empowered and engaged children who love to learn.
Myth #5. Montessori curriculum is not strongly academic – my child could fall behind.
Montessori curriculum actually helps children excel and even surpass the academic levels of their peers in traditional schools. Montessori understood that very young children can understand complex concepts if they are introduced in a concrete manner. For example, children who have learned about multiplication tables by doing the “100s Board” will have a much firmer grasp of multiplication when it progresses to abstract symbols. Skills are not taught simply for the skill’s sake. This encourages students to progress at a more rapid pace since they are often studying areas of great personal interest.
Myth #6. Montessori education only works for one kind of learner.
Montessori education actually works for a wide range of learners. By design, instruction and work address all three modes of learning – visual, auditory, and kinetic, so that every child can find success! Teachers are skilled observers who know the strengths and challenges of their students. When they deliver a lesson to a small group, they are tuned in to each child to make sure they understand before they move on to related independent work. Multi-age classrooms naturally provide additional time and support for students who need it and at the same time allow more precocious children to move ahead at the levels that keep them challenged and interested. Success in a Montessori classroom does require a degree of self-management and ability to focus. The only kind of learner who may struggle in a Montessori program would be one who consistently needs one-on-one, step-by-step teacher support in order to progress.
Myth #7. Montessori programs do not offer opportunities for free play or development of creativity.
Not all Montessori programs are alike, but at Michigan Montessori Children's Academy children have ample time for free play at recess and also have specialists who teach art, music and Spanish. These classes are considered important to the overall intellectual development of children. Moreover, the Montessori approach in the regular classroom actually encourages creativity by supporting a child’s curiosity and interests. An amazing number of innovators in high technology and the arts have received their educational foundation in Montessori schools. (See the Wall Street Journal article http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/04/05/the-montessori-mafia/)