As we come to the end of a school year like no other, parents may be looking for alternatives to traditional schooling for their families. While a challenge for sure, this unusual academic year may have brought to light that a one size fits all approach may not in fact fit the kids in your family. Let’s take a look at one alternative and ask, “are Montessori schools good?”
Founded near the beginning of the last century in Italy, Montessori schools have now spread across the globe. Italian physician Marie Montessori founded the schools based on her observations of how children actually learn. She believed that an integrated approach where students are actively involved in their education yields better results than teaching various subjects in isolation. Much like what we value at HAPPÉ, Marie Montessori was interested in the emotional, intellectual, and physical development of the child, not just in transmitting facts and figures. Montessori schools have faith in the child and foster a love of learning.
What Is It Like to Go to a Montessori School?
Is It a Classroom or a Workshop?
If you walked into a Montessori classroom, you might not even recognize it as a school or classroom. It might feel more like a workshop or maker space. And that’s the point. There are no desks set up with assigned seating with a teacher in the front of the room with a predetermined lesson plan that the students passively absorb and are tested on. Instead, there are workstations the student can choose from. Children are grouped with others of a similar age and ability, but they can move through the space at their own pace. The groups have teachers that stay with them for three years at a time. These teachers get to know the students and can make individualized goals and lesson plans based on each child’s unique learning style and interests.
In the Montessori Classroom, the Focus is on the Child, Not on the Lesson
This child centered approach fosters a love of education that will hopefully follow the student throughout his/her life. The focus is on applied learning, not simply an absorption of facts. This method has faith in the child that even without time limits, s/he will learn and accomplish the work for that day or week. There is homework and a general plan, but it is individualized to the child. There is a non-traditional grading system. This approach leads to the student having internal motivation to learn for the sake of learning, not just to achieve a certain grade. The students are invested in their work because it is tailor made for that child who has had input on their projects.
Montessori Schools Place Importance on the Design of the Classroom
Classrooms are intentionally designed to be beautiful with abundant space and natural light. High quality materials are at each learning station and the teachers are trained specifically in the Montessori method. This environment is pleasant and comfortable allowing the child to focus on their projects and goals more easily.
How Montessori Schools Build Community in the Classroom
There is interaction among students at the workstations, but it is spontaneous. Children are naturally drawn to each other, so these interactions are an opportunity to explore what other students are working on. Time is built into each day for the whole group to clean up the cafeteria after lunch and to perform chores in the classroom to keep the space clean and beautiful. At the end of the day, the students shake hands with their teachers as they leave the classroom.
Are Montessori Schools Good?
The answer to this question is of course, “it depends.” There are various appealing aspects to this type of education including the level of freedom and engagement the students have and the thought with which the activities and stations are designed. However, not every student feels comfortable with this level of freedom. While it is true that most students will be more interested in engaging activities they choose than passively listening to lectures about topics they do not choose, the level of activity in the Montessori classroom can be overwhelming for some students.
In addition to a perhaps overwhelming amount of freedom, by focusing on the individual child, there is not as much emphasis on working as a team. Many of us dread when our children are involved in a group project. There are always those kids who just don’t pull their weight which leads to the inevitable complaints of the project not being fair. However, many adults need to work together in teams in their jobs and collaboration is a valuable skill to have.
Just like the traditional school is not the right place for every student, a Montessori classroom may not be the ideal setting for every student either. However, the respect shown for the students and their choices, the integrated approach to learning, and the culture that fosters a love of learning and care for the entire child are certainly values we appreciate at HAPPÉ.
At H-A-P-P-Ē.Life we have created programs to support the continuous development of your psychological health and well-being. We are dedicated to helping provide you with the means to navigate life more fully and successfully through fun programs aimed at you and your child’s social, emotional and mental health. The Mission I’m Possible series are short videos designed to teach kids lessons about self-awareness and relationship development. To sign up for the Mission I’m Possible series at no charge, click here. They’re enjoyable activities you can do together as a family that impart valuable skills.