Montessori Schools

I met a lady recently. She teaches in a Montessori school for kids in the DC area. For the brief minutes we spoke she explained the philosophy behind Montessori schools to me and I was impressed. I have since been fascinated by the concept.

While doing my due diligence, it seems like most write-ups are filled with praise for the Montessori education system but I have to confess, I have more doubts now that I have done my own research. Let us start from the beginning.

Meaning and Origin of Montessori Schools

The Montessori movement is named after Dr. Maria Montessori. Although Dr. Montessori was not a trained educator herself, her work as a pediatrician and psychiatrist at the University of Rome gave her in-sight on behavioral and educational pattern on groups of learning disabled adolescents and how they learn successfully from an environment designed just for them. Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Montessori began to popularize her ideas by replicating it.

My main issue with the Montessori philosophy lies in some parts of this quote below by Dr. Maria Montessori herself

 “… Education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.”

This quote makes a vital optimistic assumption. It  assumes given the right environment, everyone is a potential Einstein. Well, I disagree. We have to do away with the notion that everyone is special. We all aren’t. Everyone is unique and that is where the generalization of potentials end with me. The rest is mostly nurtured.

Philosophically, Montessori schools believe in building upon a child’s strengths and not their limitations. My response to that would be —- isn’t it too early to give up on a perceived limitation of a child? For crying out loud these are kids between the ages of 2 – 5.

You see, there is a reason parents make sure children eat at a particular time, play at certain times, siesta at certain times and go to bed at certain times. These kinds of structure, if taught properly could serve as the much needed guidance children need to understand themselves and be aware of their physical and mental boundaries.

In conclusion, Montessori schools pride themselves as incubators of self regulating and reliant children. This could be a good choice for supporting the development of the talents within a gifted child. However, I am of the firm belief that this depends on the child’s temperament and abilities.