There’s been a lot of early childhood education (ECE) research over the years. By now we know that children learn differently, so it makes sense that there would be numerous education theories and methods teachers can employ in their classrooms.
One popular way of educating young children, and sometimes older children, is the Montessori Method. The Montessori Method was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. It’s a specific child-centered method of education that involves child-led activities (referred to as “work”), classrooms with children of varying ages and teachers who encourage independence among their pupils.
Just like choosing a preschool for your child isn’t easy, determining what kind of educational philosophy you want to follow can be difficult, and it’s important to consider all factors. Weighing the pros and cons can be the perfect place to start—after you know exactly what Montessori entails, that is.
What is the Montessori method?
Dr. Montessori believed that children learn better when they’re choosing what to learn, and that philosophy is present in Montessori classrooms today.
A Montessori classroom likely looks different than what you’re used to. Things that make it unique include:
- Various activity stations for children to choose from throughout the day
- Up to 30 students of varying ages interacting
- Teachers guiding children through activities instead of standing at the front of the classroom teaching at them
- Nontraditional grading system
The structure of Montessori means that some educators love it, while others don’t. The same goes for parents in that some find that their children thrive in the environment and others do not. Let’s take a look at the various pros and cons.
Montessori education: The pros & cons
Every education system has pros and cons for both teachers and students, and Montessori is no different.
Some benefits of Montessori education include:
- Children learn independence
- Multiage classrooms help students learn from and support one another
- Children learn at their own pace
- Children are often more excited to learn because they’re learning about things in which they’re interested
Tracy Yarke, a Rasmussen College ECE instructor, uses Montessori methods in the childcare practice at which she works. She says that Montessori’s individualistic approach is one important benefit.
“One child may be learning their sounds while another is already writing a story,” she says. “We are able to meet the child where they are at developmentally and use the child's interests to spark learning.”
Michael Argiro of 4T Financial has only good things to say about the Montessori school his son attended in Connecticut.
“My son learned to work independently, work up to his level, help others and to be kind,” Argiro said. His son, now 14 years old, was in a Montessori school for three years, until he went to first grade. Argiro says that his son has stayed friends with many of his classmates even though they’ve gone on to different schools.
While there are many benefits to Montessori education, critics do find some detriments to the system:
- Teachers may have trouble letting students pick their own activities
- Some students may not deal well with the lack of traditional classroom structure
- Students may have difficulty transitioning to a traditional classroom later
- The term “Montessori” is able to be used by anyone, whether the school is truly Montessori or not
Argiro found that his son had no trouble adjusting after leaving Montessori and is still an excellent student. “I can really say that [my wife and I] don't have any cons to our decision to send our son to Montessori even though we originally agonized where to send him,” he says.
Yarke says the Montessori structure may be difficult for some teachers and students.
“The freedom in the classroom can be challenging for certain students and teachers,” she says. “Montessori believed strongly in a child-led, uninterrupted, three-hour work period. This means that the child chooses what they want to work on, again and again, all morning long. Some children, and educators, need more structure and struggle with this aspect.”
Yarke cautions that parents and educators should do their research to understand what Montessori means and what an “authentic” Montessori curriculum looks like so they’re able to judge a facility on more than just the name.
Should you be a Montessori teacher?
The Montessori Method is unique in the way it allows children to choose what they wish to learn, its mixed-age classrooms and its focus on independence. Its non-traditional feel means that there are some pros and cons to Montessori education. So, is teaching at a Montessori school the right choice for you?
Earning a degree is your first step. After that, you can decide if you want to teach at an authentic Montessori school or if you just want to use Montessori principals in your teaching. Learn more about becoming a Montessori teacher or earning a Montessori credential on the American Montessori Society’s website.
If you’re not quite ready to jump into earning your ECE degree, check out the infographic Preschools of Thought: Breaking Down the Benefits of Early Childhood Education to discover more about the benefits of ECE.
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