Have you heard some tall tales about Montessori? We sure have and are quite happy to chat with families to paint a clearer picture. Here are some of the misconceptions that still abound about this highly respected and effective educational method and the truth behind the myths.
Myth 1. Montessori preschool is just daycare.
While Montessori preschool programs often include elements of daycare, such as extended hours and full-day programs, they are not simply childcare centers.
Montessori education is a holistic approach that emphasizes the development of the whole child, including cognitive, social, emotional, and physical growth. The Montessori method is grounded in the belief that children are naturally curious and capable of directing their own learning. Montessori environments support and nurture this innate curiosity and creativity.
Myth 2. Montessori is only for preschool. It doesn’t work for older students.
In an adolescent Montessori classroom, student-led learning enables students to explore complex social issues, current events, or other topics requiring critical thinking and analysis. Students may be asked to research a topic in-depth and then present their findings and perspectives to the group. The other students can then ask questions, provide feedback, and engage in dialogue.
Adolescents participate in their community in a way that allows them to take on ever-increasing adult responsibilities in a developmentally appropriate way with teachers working alongside them. In the Post Oak Middle School, the curriculum is directly linked to what is happening within their community and provides the adolescents the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways through practical interdisciplinary studies and projects.
Student-led learning also encourages students to develop active listening, respectful communication, critical thinking, time management, and self-regulation skills. Students learn to express their opinions and perspectives in a way that is respectful of others, and they learn to engage in purposeful dialogue and debate. This helps to build a strong sense of community in the classroom and encourages students to take ownership of their learning.
Myth 3. Montessori students can do anything they want.
The Montessori approach emphasizes order, routine, and responsibility, and teachers carefully prepare their classroom environments to provide students with purpose and direction.
In a Montessori classroom, there are expectations and guidelines for behavior, and students are taught to respect themselves, others, and the environment. They are encouraged to take care of the learning materials and to work cooperatively with their peers. At the high school level at The Post Oak School, students hold themselves and one another accountable to an agreed set of community norms.
Myth 4. Montessori classrooms are only about playing.
In a Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to engage in purposeful activity and work independently, which helps to develop their executive functioning skills. Montessori materials are designed to be self-teaching and self-correcting, which allows children to learn from their mistakes and develop problem-solving skills.
Montessori education also promotes a sense of order and structure through a very intentionally and thoughtfully prepared environment, which helps children develop planning and organizational skills. Children are taught to take responsibility for their own learning, to set goals, and to develop a plan of action to achieve those goals.
In addition, Montessori education emphasizes self-discipline. Children are given lessons that equip them with the skills to control their impulses, delay gratification, and stay focused on a task until it is completed.
Myth 5. Montessori schools aren’t real schools.
Montessori education is a well-established and respected educational approach that has been around for over a century. A high-fidelity* Montessori curriculum is designed to meet the same academic standards as traditional schools. The difference is in the approach to teaching and learning, which emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning and supports children and adolescents to take more ownership of their own learning.
Many Montessori schools are also licensed and accredited by the same organizations that accredit traditional schools. Those that undergo accreditation are held to the same standards of quality and accountability and are subject to regular evaluations and assessments. Post Oak is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest and is authorized by the International Baccalaureate (IB) for the Diploma Years Programme (grades 11 and 12).
Myth 6. Montessori academics aren’t rigorous.
Montessori education promotes academic excellence by providing students with a rich and stimulating learning environment that supports their development across a wide range of subjects. High-fidelity Montessori schools like The Post Oak School typically have a comprehensive curriculum that includes math, science, language arts, social studies, and the arts and is aligned with state and national academic standards.
Montessori schools also use various assessment tools to track each child’s progress and ensure that they meet academic standards.
Myth 7. Montessori students don’t transition well to traditional schools.
Montessori students often have a strong foundation of skills and attitudes that can help them to succeed in any educational environment. Montessori students also often have a strong sense of self-confidence and independence, which can help them to navigate the challenges of a new school environment. They are used to taking responsibility for their learning and advocating for themselves, which can be an essential skill when transitioning to a traditional school.
The self-regulation and self-management skills students build in Montessori environments typically prepare them to excel in other learning environments, including college.
Myth 8. Montessori schools don’t use grades.
While traditional schools may rely heavily on letter grades and standardized tests to assess student learning, Montessori schools use a more holistic approach that takes into account a wide range of factors, including academic progress, social-emotional development, and personal growth. Montessori teachers use a variety of tools to assess student progress, including observation, anecdotal records, checklists, and rubrics.
Furthermore, Montessori schools do use grades in certain contexts, such as when students move on to higher levels of education or when applying for college or other post-secondary opportunities. However, these grades are often based on a broader set of criteria than traditional schools and are used in conjunction with other forms of assessment.
Myth 9. Montessori teachers are untrained.
At The Post Oak School and other high-fidelity Montessori schools, lead teachers are highly qualified individuals with advanced training in the Montessori method in accordance with Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) or American Montessori Society (AMS) principles. Many undertake university programs to simultaneously earn their master’s degree in education. At the upper school level, teachers may hold advanced degrees in their area of expertise. For example, The Post Oak School has five PhDs on the High School faculty.
Montessori teachers are adept at creating environments that support students’ learning and development and are skilled at observing and responding to each individual’s needs and interests.
I just finished my first year of graduate doctoral study. And this may be a really large statement, but I swear, I don’t think I've met a professor or teacher that really engages students at that same level—like at a doctoral level—outside of the Post Oak setting.... I just think it’s really, really good teaching. Grace Armstrong ’16
Myth 10. Montessori students have a hard time in college.
Many Montessori students thrive in college and beyond thanks to the skills and traits they develop through their Montessori education, especially in executive functioning, self-regulation, and conflict resolution.
Montessori students are known for their independence, self-discipline, and strong sense of self-direction. These qualities are highly valued in college and can help students to succeed in a challenging academic environment. Montessori students are also skilled at time management, collaboration, and problem-solving, all of which are important skills for success in college and beyond.
Take a look at some of the colleges and universities to which Post Oak students have been accepted.
See it to believe it.
Myths busted! Many parents, caregivers, and educators believe that Montessori education offers a more holistic and child-centered approach to education and can be a highly effective way to support students’ growth and development. If you or someone you know is curious about Montessori, it may be worth visiting a high-fidelity Montessori school* to see it in action firsthand. We welcome prospective parents to tour Post Oak School at several points throughout the year.
Share this blog post with a friend who may be interested!
*How will you know if a Montessori school is authentic or high-fidelity? Take a look at their lead teachers to see if they have AMI or AMS training. At Post Oak, all lead teachers in the Young Children’s Community, Primary, and Elementary levels hold Montessori credentials, as well as our divisional directors and many assistants.