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RomanGoddess 01-09-2013 12:23 PM

My son is in a Montessori classroom for ages 3 to 5. He is three years old and will be turning four in April. I met with the teachers in November and they told me that he lacks a sense of initiative. He will not do anything in the classroom unless one of the teachers directs him to something and sits down with him to work on the material. If she gets up to go work with someone else, my son will immediately stop the work and just sit there until she returns. When he has finished working with a material, he will not choose anything else on his own until a teacher once again directs him to something. This is of course getting frustrating for the teachers, who have 26 children in the class. This behaviour is, according to them, not typical, either. The other children will look for things to work on without being constantly directed. 


I'm starting to wonder if Montessori was the right choice for him. Maybe he is just the kind of personality that needs more direction? Do any Montessori teachers or mommy experts out there have any thoughts on this? I have talked with my son about this issue a little bit and I'm going to try to encourage him to go ahead and work on stuff by himself but I am wondering what else I can do.

Aidan 01-10-2013 04:55 AM

Can you tell me if the school is accredited and by whom?  Most authentic Montessori programs includes ages 3-6 in the primary program.  This one as you mentioned is ages 3-5.  The third year, during age 6, is critical for both the individual and the classroom community.  Because Montessori is not trademarked, anyone can call themselves a Montessori school.  The other thing that concerns me is that the teacher is bringing materials to him or her, which he is clearly not interested in.  He should be allowed to sit and watch others, or do NOTHING.  Eventually, it is likely that choosing something is preferable to doing NOTHING..but it should be his or her choice when he or she is ready.  In authentic Montessori classrooms, initiative is never forced..simply suggested at most. 

RomanGoddess 01-10-2013 05:54 AM

Hi Aidan,


I understand that Montessori is a name that can be used by anyone. Unfortunately, AMI is not in the Middle East and certainly nowhere near where we live (in Kuwait). I have talked to the school about getting AMI-certified and the administration says that AMI will not send its people here to certify. The school is certified with Montessori Centre International, which is based in London, United Kingdom. It was formerly known as the Montessori St. Nicholas Charity, and was established in the United Kingdom by two former students of Dr. Montessori. 


The teacher does not bring materials to my son. She asks what he would like to do. When he says he doesn't know, she suggests something. At that point, he always goes to get the material himself. The teacher does the demonstration if my son has not worked on it before. Then my son goes ahead and works on the material but only while the teacher is sitting there. 


I have asked my son why he does not continue working when the teacher gets up, and he says "I can't, mommy. I can't." It's like he doesn't have the confidence to go ahead and work without some adult looking over him.


The same thing happens at breakfast time (the school has breakfast available for the kids). The kids are free to serve themselves juice and cereal and bread, etc. but my son is afraid to pour himself some juice until one of the teachers ask him if he wants some and then he wants her to watch him while he takes some.


I agree that the child should not be forced to do anything, but I think in this case the teacher is trying to direct him because she senses that he really does want to do something but he doesn't know what and he doesn't feel secure enough to do anything on his own.


I should also mention that my son is exactly the same at The Little Gym, a gym franchise where he does gymnastics once a week. He will just kind of wander around aimlessly unless and until the teacher directs him to a specific piece of equipment to do some gymnastics. The other kids are all running around trying out different equipment but he won't try anything unless directed to it.

janesacademy 01-10-2013 01:32 PM

It does sound like confidence/independence is his issue. Montessori is probably the only environment that is right for him (caveat: I believe that Montessori is right for everyone, though some people would do fine in conventional schooling too). For someone that lacks confidence/independence the only way to help him or her gain those is to build successes with these skills. In a more structured/conventional school setting this would not happen because he would be able to fade into the background, doing assigned work but never stepping up to where he is challenged. What my guides do in this setting is help him build successes and gradually fade as he starts taking control for himself. Something that is helpful is finding his "point of contact," that work that is so exciting to him that he feels drawn to it and cannot help but work on it. You can help by telling the teachers about his particular interests, and when you see him get excited about something at home. Lots of practical life will help him gain this independence also, both at school and at home. A great book for parents is "How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way" by Tim Seldin. You can also download for free Michael Olaf's Child of the World for tips on creating a Montessori home. 

Matt Bronsil 01-22-2013 09:28 PM

I assume he is OK with things at home (pouring his own juice, etc.) 


Re: the materials, I'd present stuff that only has one way of being done.  The Cylinder Blocks are an example.  I'd present it to him once, then help him by taking the cylinders out.  Then I'd observe what happens.

"I can't" can be met with, "Show me how you're trying it."  If the child sits back down and feels overwhelmed, break the sequence down step by step.  With the cylinder blocks :

"Go like this with your fingers."  (Make a pinching motion with the thumb opposite the index and middle fingers).

"Pick up a cylinder by the knob."

"Find out which hole it goes in to."

"OK.  Now, try the same thing with the next one.  You can do it!"


The thing with Montessori is you can help the child by telling them what to do.  But you eventually want them to gain that independence themselves.  In a regular school, the opposite is true: the teachers need the students to be guided by the teacher through as much as possible.  So there's not as much of a chance to learn how to take an independent initiative.

RomanGoddess 01-22-2013 10:01 PM



Thank you so much for your replies. Janesacademy, I think you've hit a very important point. It doesn't seem like he has *discovered* his point of contact (except for cleaning the mirror, which he loves to do).  Maybe he should do more practical life? He seems very bored with the manipulatives. He also is very keen to play with his best friend in the classroom all the time, and the teacher believes that he is in a sensitive period for developing social skills in particular. 


Matt, I wish I had the opportunity to observe the teacher with my son. I can only go on what she tells me. She sits down with him, shows him what to do. Then he does it. He doesn't seem to have a problem with completely the task while she is there, sitting beside him, but he doesn't want to continue working once she gets up to go see another child!!


It's been a few weeks, so I'm going to ask for another progress report. Maybe things have improved!

Matt Bronsil 01-23-2013 03:33 AM

Hope it works out well. 


I have been getting a LOT of emails from my blog asking about teaching EFL (English as a foreign language) using Montessori.  Someone asked me a hard question: How do you do it?


It's hard to answer.  Partly because there has been almost NOTHING written on the subject.  But I realized that we have to keep in mind what we're really doing with Montessori.  Montessori's ultimate goal is not about making sure a child learns things.  Learning is VERY important in Montessori, but it's seen as one part of the whole. 


A good Montessori teacher should always spot challenges and opportunities in your child's development.  Right now, it looks like he's struggling with what he knows how to do, what he can do, what he can't do, and is unsure about things or feeling uncertain.  I've seen this a lot, especially with younger children.  The nice thing about Montessori is kids are often given the one thing the rest of society has trouble giving them : time to grow.

ollyoxenfree 01-23-2013 06:37 AM

Originally Posted by Matt Bronsil View Post




Hello, Matt! It's so nice to see you here again. I have enjoyed and appreciated your thoughtful contributions about Montessori in the past.


OP, I don't have much else to offer other than agreeing with pp. I am wondering if there is a confidence issue whether you can help him at home by offering him similar work to practice, when and if he wants. You can replicate some simple Montessori-like materials with inexpensive materials. Practical life activities are a good suggestion too. 

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