How can I determine if Montessori is right for my child?
The most important question in selecting a Montessori school is to consider how well it matches your sense of what kind of education you want for your children. No one educational approach will be right for all children. Ideally, parents should seek out the best fit, not only between their child and a particular school but also between their family’s values and goals for their children’s education and what given schools realistically offer. Finding the right school for mom and dad is as important as finding the right school for a child.
The decision to enroll a child in a particular school should be based on the parents’ and school’s mutual belief that this will be a good fit for the child’s personality and learning style, as well as with the family’s values and goals. There must be a partnership based on the mutual sense that each is a good match for the other.
In determining which school is the best match, you will need to trust your eyes, ears, and gut instincts. Nothing beats your own observation and experience. The school that one parent raves about, may be completely wrong for another, while it might be a perfect match for your family. Try to trust your own experience far more than the opinions of other parents.
It is very important to get all the parties involved in the school selection process together in reaching a decision. Sometimes one partner prefers to delegate preschool decisions to the other, which can lead to conflict later when one of the partners concludes that the time has come for their child to move on to a “real” school, or if one objects to continuing to spend money for private-school tuition once their child is old enough to enter free public kindergarten. Ideally, partners should share decisions about their children’s education.
Find a school that you love, and once you do, remember the old adage: “It is not a good idea to try fix something that is already working.” Some parents try different schools out for a year or two, and then move on to another. They do it with the best intentions, but it should be common sense that children who are educated in one consistent approach, and who grow up within one school community, tend to be more grounded and tend to get more long-term value from their school experience than children who have had to adjust to several different schools.
In the end, the selection of a Montessori school comes down to a matter of personal preference. If you visit a school and find yourself in love with the look and feel of the school’s atmosphere if you can clearly see your child happy and successful in this atmosphere than that school is more likely to be a good fit than one that leaves you confused and uncertain.
Parents Who Are Comfortable with Montessori Tend to Agree with the Following Basic Ideas about Children’s Learning
1. Intelligence is not rare among human beings. It is found in children at birth. With the right stimulation, it is possible to nurture the development of reasoning and problem-solving skills in young children.
2. The most important years of a child’s education are not high school and college, but the first six years of life. As a result, Montessori schools regard infant and early childhood education as the very foundation of everything that follows.
3. It is critically important to allow children to develop a high degree of independence, autonomy, an inner sense of order, and self-motivation. (Executive Function Skills).
4. Academic competition and accountability are not effective ways to motivate students to become well educated. Students learn more effectively when school is seen as a safe, exciting, and joyful experience.
5. A competitive classroom environment stifles creativity.
6. There is a direct link between children’s sense of self-worth, empowerment, self-mastery, and their ability to learn and retain new skills and information.
7. Education should be a transition from one level of independence, competency, and self-reliance to the next rather than a process of passing exams and completing assignments.
8. Children are born curious, creative, and motivated to observe and learn things.
9. Children learn in different ways and at different paces. The idea that those who learn quickly are more talented misses a basic truth about how children really learn.
10. Children learn best through hands-on experience, real-world application, and problem-solving.
11. Teachers should serve as children’s mentors, friends, and guides, rather than as taskmasters and disciplinarians. Students should be treated with profound respect, in partnership rather than with condescension, external control, and domination.
12. Children are capable of making choices to guide their own learning.
13. It is helpful for children to work together on learning as well as school projects.
14. School should be a joyful experience for children.
15. The family assumes that their children will do well, and are fairly relaxed about academic issues. They want school to be exciting and fun, not demanding and stressful in the name of high standards!
16. Parents want a school that will stimulate and encourage their child’s curiosity, creativity, and imagination.
17. The family would like to stay in Montessori at least for the elementary program, and perhaps beyond. Sending a child to a Montessori program and then transferring to a traditional classroom at kindergarten is truly illogical.
18. The family would like to be involved with their children’s school. They look forward to this and want to participate in as many school activities and events as possible.
Parents Who Are Comfortable with Montessori Tend to Disagree with Statements Such As…
1. Academic competition prepares students for the real world.
2. Children learn more when they are pushed.
3. Testing helps to ensure accountability for children, teachers, and schools.
4. Teachers must maintain strict discipline in the classroom.
5. School is basically like army boot camp, a place to earn a degree. It is not supposed to be fun.
6. Our family places a very high priority on achievement. We have high expectations for our children and are looking for a school that will provide them with a high level of challenge.
7. We want to ensure that our child gets into the best schools and colleges.
8. Our family is able to attend some functions, but we have other commitments. It will depend on the event or function. (Montessori schools normally look for a high level of parent involvement.)
9. Our family plans to stay in Montessori for a year or so to give our children a good start, and then we plan to transfer them to the local public schools (or another private or religious school).
Is Montessori right for your child?
Montessori is “right” for a wide range of personalities, temperaments and learning styles. Children who are consistently waiting for adult direction and those who have difficulty choosing and staying engaged in activities may have some initial difficulty transitioning into a Montessori class, but usually, they learn to trust themselves and gradually strengthen their concentration as they meet with successful learning experiences and develop independence.
Children who are loud learn to use their “indoor voices,” and those who are messy learn to put away their work neatly. In most cases, parents and teachers work together between home and school to help them develop these new habits. One of the strengths of Montessori is the atmosphere of cooperation and respect, as children with a variety of personalities and learning styles find joy in learning.
Parents who are particularly concerned about high standards and achievement may find Montessori difficult to understand and support.
While we all want the best for our children, Montessori really represents another way from the more conventional thinking found in most schools.
Montessori schools believe that children are normally born intelligent, curious, and creative and that all too often, parents and schools make the process of learning stressful rather than natural. We do not believe that most children need external or artificial structure and pressure to make them learn. We also believe that the current emphasis on testing and a state-established curriculum ignores common sense and the true nature of how children learn. The result is all too often students who are more stressed and apathetic about their educations than ever. Montessori children never seem to lose the joy of learning!
Montessori is “right” for families with a range of communication styles and learning expectations; however, families who are generally disorganized (arrive late in the morning, pick up children at varying times, and have difficulty reading and responding to school correspondence with consistency), may experience frustration in a Montessori setting.
The program is carefully structured to provide optimal learning opportunities for children. There is a place for everything, and everything is generally in its place! Children from somewhat chaotic families often cling to this structure and find it very reassuring. But the transition from home to school and back home again can be difficult.
Montessori schools have various expectations regarding parental involvement. Research consistently demonstrates a strong connection between parental involvement and overall student achievement. Be aware of your school’s expectations and strive to be as involved as possible.
If based on the evidence of your time spent visiting Montessori schools, you believe these basic fundamental principles are true, then Montessori is probably going to be a wonderful fit.
On the other hand, if you find yourself concerned, then you may be more comfortable selecting a more conventional school for your child.
We hope that these guidelines will assist in your decision to enroll or not to enroll your child in a Montessori program!