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Five criticisms of the Montessori method

Popular criticisms of Montessori education

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Education methods, both old staples and newly-minted, are always under the microscope of parents, educators and experts. It is important children are getting the education that best suits what will help them find success. And equally important a critical eye be placed on education to hold methods, philosophies and techniques are held to rigid standards.

Click here to view a list of Montessori schools


When parents are looking to spend above the taxes they pay into the public school system annually, they tend to want to have their concerns and criticisms answered before investing that money. Not only that, but proponents of one form of education method may not agree with how another operates, therefore criticisms can arise.

Five of Montessori's biggest criticisms

The Montessori method has been the subject of criticism throughout the years and has been willing to openly address what people see as problems or disadvantages of Montessori education.

And through explanation Montessori educators and experts are able to respond to the criticism with why the method is shaped the way it is - and why they believe is the best way to shape young minds.

Criticism #1: There isn’t enough opportunity through group activity for social development and interaction.

Sure, the interaction in Montessori classrooms differs from that of a regular day public school or a non-Montessori based school, however, the interaction students have is far more meaningful. The prepared environment used in the classroom allows for students to interact more freely, rather than at set times of the day like it would be in a traditionally-styled classroom.

Similar to Waldorf, interaction is more spontaneous and far less structured – while still being structured by the way teachers set up their classrooms. Montessori students are viewed as individuals and the method respects that by removing the rigidness and structure that is found in traditional classrooms.

Criticism #2: Creativity is quelled and the childhood taken from students due to early use of cognitive thinking – and too much time spent on the practical life.

A child’s true potential can be activated in the early years of their lives (up to age six is said to be the most formative years for children), and for a child, learning is a natural thing. Even in idle play, children are learning about social interaction, sharing, counting, and the basics that will make up the foundation they will take into the classroom.

Montessori doesn’t take childhoods away, but enriches them through early education that helps ignite a child’s development. In these early years, children learn with great ease and by giving them a Montessori classroom in which to interact and learn, they will develop at a more rapid rate. This is productive for both advanced learners and those who sometimes struggle.

Children love to imitate the world they see moving around them and Montessori takes advantage of the chance to help him or her function in their environment. Activities focused on sensory development at an early age will help to build a foundation for intellectual growth later in their lives: hand-eye control, small and large muscle control and the refinement of skills later needed for reading and writing.

Criticism #3: There is far too much freedom in the classroom for the child to choose – and the classroom is far too structured.

In some ways, these two points contradict themselves: how can there be too much freedom and too much structure at the same time. How a student interacts with the environment will help answer both these criticism.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is part of Montessori’s classroom philosophy. The method in itself is not structured, as students are free to learn as they want and about what they are curious about at any given moment. However, in order best achieve this freedom, teachers will structure classrooms in a certain way to maximize student potential.

The child is able to freely function within the structured class, and each child gains security in knowing things will be in the same place each time. In many ways, the freedom and class structure work in a collaborative manner.

Criticism #4: Montessori school is only for the upper-class family.

This is completely untrue. Montessori schools, like private schools, don’t choose students based on how much money, fame or prestige a family has: they want the best students that will help create the best education and social environments for their students.

Many schools have worked to improve accessibility for students from the full-range of socio-economic statuses. If you want your child to be enrolled at a Montessori school, in Toronto, Ontario, or elsewhere, there are a number of steps you can take to help make sure you can afford to cost of tuition and make a dream become a reality.

Criticism #5: There is no research that proves Montessori education has an advantage for children over public school.

This is true: there is no research that definitively proves that Montessori education is better than any other education, public or private. For a number of reasons this can be hard to determine: mostly because of a number of variables that cannot be controlled in scientific study.

However, students who attend Montessori schools are more than likely to come out better prepared for life: more organized approaches to life and learning; development of independence; self-discipline and a keen interest in learning.

All educational approaches face criticism and vigorous research for and against that specific type of education. And the Montessori approach, similarly, has pros and cons. Moreover, it might not be the right fit for your child. It’s about finding a school and a method that works for what you and your child need.

Even when choosing a Montessori school, it’s important to find the school as they can vary in many ways. So be sure to be diligent in your research in order to find the best school to help your child achieve success.

On OurKids.net, you can find Montessori preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. You can also find our guides to preschool, daycare, as well as preschool programs, benefits, curriculum, and costs.

(Note: the information above was, in part, extracted from The Essential Montessori: An Introduction to the Woman, the Method, and the Movement by Elizabeth G. Hainstock)

Click here to view a list of Montessori schools



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