Originally Posted by Astoria
I like a lot about Montesorri but didn't choose it because of the emphasis on practicality vs. imagination. There is a tendency in montesorri schools to correct children and ask them to use things the proper way, as tools not toys.
So a child who turns over the small ironing board and says its a boat will be told its not a boat, its an ironing board and it goes right side up. They think children model adults and take their "work" seriously. I think that's true. I also thing imagination, open ended creative play, story telling, imaginary worlds, etc... are really significant and important to the development of children. Both waldorf schools and progressive schools make more room, in my opinion, for this aspect of early childhood. I'm not endorsing those schools, I'm just comparing the fact that some models make room for this type of play and I don't think Montesorri, on the whole, does.
I see this presented frequently as a downside to Montessori. I agree that pretend play does not have a role in the Montessori primary classroom (3-6 year olds). But I don't believe that it means that creativity is not encouraged. I think a lot of adults have a set idea about what imagination or creativity means (pretending something that isn't there, making something that is one thing into another) and I don't think it always has to be that. I am struggling to explain, I guess. But if I want to be creative, I pick up my knitting or I spin some yarn. I don't pick up my power drill and pretend it is a flying saucer, KWIM?
I don't fell that there is anything wrong with saying that there are certain items that are tools, and we use them for specific reasons. The Montessori materials are designed to teach certain concepts, and they lose their effectiveness in teaching that idea if they are used in a different way. But if a child wants to build with building blocks rather than understand the differences in dimension taught by the pink tower, then I, as a parent, would provide blocks at home. The same with dress up clothes or a play kitchen (my children have all of these at home).
Although I am training as a Montessori teacher, I feel that it is easier (and much more fun!) for me as a parent to provide play and dress up and pretending. When my kids go to school they learn to explore with their senses, do multiplication, find out about the sounds that the letters of the alphabet make, etc. I don't mind doing some of that at home with them, but i'd rather just spend time with them enjoying life (Montessori schools also typically don't give homework, even at the elementary level).
As far as the academics being "pushed" on them, or children taking their work seriously, children don't have the same preconceived notion of work that adults do. We automatically think play = fun and work = boring and depressing. If i ask my kids what work they did at school, they are likely to say something like, "I did the checkerboard today and it was really awesome!" or my little one will say, "I did the color tablets. It was fun!"
I feel that if they are naturally interested in something, such as letter sounds, and the teacher presents it to them, that doesn't mean it is being pushed on them. After something is presented to them, they have the option to choose or not to choose that work in the future. If they are choosing to learn division, or choosing to learn letter sounds or cursive writing, it isn't because someone is forcing it down their throat. It is because of all the lessons they have been presented, that is what they find interesting at the moment.
And we do present lessons in handwork, art (painting, drawing, batik, papermaking, embroidery, sculpture, bookbinding, etc.) We also present music lessons and students are free to play the tone bars or sing in class. There are botany lessons and children are often free to go outside and garden, or to collect samples of types of plants to investigate. We present science concepts and children can create models of the sun and earth and rivers, mix different substances to see how they react, do experiments to learn about concepts of gravity, magnetism, and the states of matter. Children can make giant timelines of historical events or the lives of people, and can usually research and illustrate/make posters and books about/write plays about, nearly any concept they find fascinating.
Even with all of these things (and more) available as choices in the classroom, children still often make the choice to do math, geometry, and language skills as well. If you think about it, throughout human history, people have always been interested in communicating with one another through language, written and spoken. People have always been interested in mathematical and geometrical concepts. No one has to pressure children to find these things interesting if the sense of wonder is left to develop naturally and people don't tell children that these things are supposed to be boring or hard work.
I understand that children like to pretend, and dress up, and play. I don't really understand where we get the idea that this is all they want to do, that they don't want to participate in and learn about real life things. Just because I had a difficult time learning algebra in high school doesn't mean that when I teach it I plan to give the impression that it is hard and no fun. For some kids, it might be their favorite lesson! Especially if I introduce it with the idea of, "Look at this really neat thing that people learned you could do with numbers. Can you imagine who the first person was that ever though of this?"