Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, the Montessori Method is an educational approach that is child-centered and based on scientific observations of children that happened from birth to adulthood. It has been implemented by a diverse array of cultures over the last century and is generally considered to be a successful approach to education.
The key advantage of the Montessori Method is that it is designed to help children develop a concept of wholeness. Instead of working on one aspect of their education, they work at their own pace and learn in a way that suits them best. They can work individually or with small groups that are at their own level. It creates the foundation of self-motivation for many children.
The primary disadvantage of the Montessori Method is that it really is more than just an educational emphasis. It is a lifestyle emphasis. Embracing this method, from a family perspective, means making numerous changes to the home environment. It can even mean changing to a different parenting approach that may feel uncomfortable or natural.
Here are some additional pros and cons of the Montessori Method to review.
More Pros of the Montessori Method
1. Each child is evaluated on an individualized basis.
The Montessori Method doesn’t care about standardized tests or how well the entire group of students is able to perform. Teachers using the Montessori Method will evaluate each child to determine what their individualized needs happen to be. This method treats every child as an individual – a “singular entity.” This process makes it easier for teachers to identify the abilities of each child so they can work at their own pace.
2. There is a broader range of subjects that are taught.
The Montessori Method looks at the whole world as being a potential learning opportunity. They explore various topics, including science, history, and geography, from a holistic standpoint. There is more time outdoors with the Montessori Method and there are more hands-on projects that are completed in this approach. In return, children stay busy, have fewer distractions, and have the chance to learn more about the world that is around them.
3. Children still learn manners.
How manners are taught in the Montessori Method is much different than the traditional approach. Instead of being directed into specific behaviors, often without instruction, the Montessori Method uses role-playing to help children learn how to handle real-life situations. That includes skills that involve personal courtesy and grace, such as how to decline an invitation without hurting someone’s feelings.
4. It is a multi-age learning environment.
Although the Montessori Method has become popular in preschools, it is an educational approach that can include older children as well. There are many opportunities within this approach to develop leadership skills, clear communication skills, social and emotional skills, and even vocational skills. When multiple ages are combined into group settings, the experiences of the older children can often enhance the learning processes of the younger children.
5. It is a community-based educational approach.
Children learning through the Montessori Method are often engaged with their community. You will find them taking short field trips to explore local businesses, have class sessions in a park, or getting a walk to have some exercise. Schools using this approach are highly active in community service projects as well, especially if there are older students enrolled in the program.
6. It is a learning method that is based on curiosity.
Many forms of modern education dictate to students the concepts that they must learn. In the United States, with the advent of standardized testing, that has led to the idea that teachers must “teach to the test” to ensure that students are learning mandated subjects. Children become bored in this type of environment because their curiosity is not engaged. The Montessori Method agrees that there are necessary concepts to learn, but treats the curiosity of a child as an equally important component of learning.
7. Expect projects instead of worksheets.
The Montessori Method encourages memorization, but from the standpoint of personal experiences. The idea of completing worksheets in this educational approach is one that is rarely utilized. There are rarely lists of information that are asked to be memorized. Students are instead encouraged to learn based off of projects that need to be completed. That allows students to identify their natural role in group settings, work on their social and emotional wellbeing, and a number of additional benefits.
8. Homework is a rarity in the Montessori Method.
Although there are programs that do send homework with students, it is not your typical homework assignment. Students may be asked to journal about their feelings, complete project tasks, or discover something new about their environment. Sending home repetitive problems to solve, like practice spelling tests or math problem sheets, is never part of this educational approach for students of any age.
More Cons of the Montessori Method
1. It can be difficult to learn mathematics using this method.
Although some subjects are naturally suited to the Montessori Method, mathematics is not one of them. Math is a language that is based on specific facts and rules. If you have 1+1 as a problem, then you know the answer must be “2.” The design of the Montessori Method would suggest that the answer could be whatever it needs to be in that moment for the child. In other words, using an extreme example, 1+1 could equal “Pizza.”
2. It can minimize the importance of friendships.
The Montessori Method encourages small groups, so students who are engaged with this educational approach are often with the same kids, all the time. Although that can lead to lifelong friendships, it can also minimize the importance of those relationships. The friendships formed can be seen as part of the educational process instead of being a social component of life. For some students, that process can make it difficult for them to form relationships in the future.
3. It can be difficult to adapt to other types of school.
Once a student encounters the Montessori Method, it can be difficult for them to adjust to the rigid structures of traditional schooling. Many students who have spent 3+ years in the Montessori Method find themselves struggling with certain rules and expectations in traditional schools. They’re used to exploring the world with a hands-on approach. Sitting in a classroom, exploring the world through textbooks and lectures, is a foreign concept to them that makes them feel uncomfortable.
4. Not every student adapts to the “grace” concept.
Students who come from difficult family environments tend to struggle in the Montessori approach. Their natural instinct when forming relationships is to dominate them. Since the approach calls for a hands-on method of relationship development, some children tend to take that idea too seriously. Kids who are bullies tend to have fewer barriers in place to stop their behavior in this environment, relying on the targeted child to stand up for themselves instead.
5. It requires a student to learn self-motivation to be successful.
Students will usually have a natural curiosity that leads them toward certain subjects in the Montessori Method. “Usually” is not a guarantee. There will be students in this educational approach that are motivated to watch TV all day, play video games, or go outside to play on the playground all day. The idea of learning language skills or figuring out math problems does not interest them at all. Without some direct interventions, students like this can fall through the cracks and be at a disadvantage for their vocational career as they get older.
6. Not every community has a Montessori school.
Although the Montessori approach is common, it is not available in every community. Not every public school district has a Montessori option. In some communities, only private schools offer this option and some don’t even offer one. Either way, parents are asked to be more involved with the educational process, including student transportation. Depending on the work schedule for the parent, the asks of the school district may not be something the parents can meet.
7. Any school can claim to be a Montessori school.
There are no restrictions on the term “Montessori.” There are no specific definitions or guidelines that must be met to use this name. That means any school can call themselves a Montessori school. That means it is up to each parent to perform their due diligence to determine if the school can meet the needs of their child. Even then, it can sometimes be difficult to find an authentic teacher.
The pros and cons of using the Montessori Method will always be hotly debated. Some parents swear by this educational approach, while others feel like it detracts from the learning process and puts their child at a disadvantage. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer here. Education should be an individualized approach and students should be enrolled in a program that meets their current and future needs with consistent effectiveness.