A little more information.
My friend is making a web site about Montessori and asked me to help answer some questions. Here's what I just sent her and thought I would pass it on.
Her web site is http://montessori.weebly.com
Q: Montessori teachers do not teach -they leave that to the materials and the older children.
A: There is a common misconception that Montessori teachers do not teach. This is because when we think of teaching, we imagine a person standing in front of a room telling things to people and they try to take it all in. This is one way to teach, but as Montessori schools show, it is not the ONLY way to teach.
What teachers really do is help us to understand, remember, and process information. That is what really defines the role of the teacher. In Montessori, there is almost a "back door" method used to teaching. Where traditionally, teachers tell students new information and they take time to practice it. In Montessori, students practice the information and once they have a clear understanding, they are taught the information. In essence, by the time the teacher steps in to help the child learn the vocabulary of a work or directly pointing out specific concepts, the child already has his or her own experience of the work to draw upon.
Q: Montessori only works for smart children
Montessori only works for self motivated children
Montessori only works for children from wealthy families
Montessori does not work for learning disabled children
A: All the "Montessori only works for..." type statements are not quite correct. Is Montessori a perfect solution to every situation? It would not quite be correct to say yes to that. However, the match does not really fit into a stereotyped mold of what certain children are like. To say it will only work for "wealthy families" denies the fact that it started in the slums of Italy. That is where the magic really began.
To say it only works for "smart children" is actually confusing to a Montessori person, because we view all children as smart.
What Montessori seeks to do is move EVERY child ahead. That's our goal. We're not trying to get some children to a certain standard then stop teaching them so everyone else can catch up. We're not taking a child that has many difficulties and letting them fall behind or rushing to get them to a certain point. What we are trying to do is move children ahead. We take where they are and keep them progressing in social, academic, emotional, and physical development.
Many of these stereotypes are, unfortunately, justified by experience. Anyone can open a school and decide to put "Montessori" in the name. Sometimes that means people open a school and decide, "I'm also going to push out the children that have any behavioral or learning problems." It is a terrible thing, but it happens. Is it Montessori? No. And I hope this web site helps to clarify what is good Montessori and what is not.
Montessori is also often very costly. There are not enough public Montessori schools and I hope more and more parents begin to put pressure on the school boards to bring about that change. The cost of running a private school is expensive. So the stereotype comes in that Montessori is only for rich families. I hope that changes. Most schools are competitive with local private school prices.
Where I see problems with Montessori "not working" are in two cases:
1) When the school is not a real Montessori school (discussed above)
2) When children are in a good Montessori school, but the parents are not on board with Montessori philosophy.
Many parents send their child to Montessori because they know the academics are stronger. Or they have an incorrect idea about Montessori and think children are just "allowed to do whatever they want" or "are controlled all the time." What Montessori seeks to do is provide inner discipline. It also provides a safe environment for the child to develop his or her own personality. That is something that conflicts with many parents who have a strictly authoritative style to parenting or want conformity to a certain ideal.
Either way, what matters is the question, "Is Montessori ideal for MY child?" That means taking the time to visit the school, see how things are working, and asking a lot of questions. You might even find some Montessori schools that are wonderful, but just do not feel right for your particular family's needs. Do not worry about the stereotype of "Montessori is only right for ____ type of child." They are ALL wrong. Montessori is right for the children who are in a good school and have good parental and teacher support. That's the only stereotype that fits.
Q: Montessori teachers don't believe in discipline
A: My response to this is always, "Then why are the children working so well and so disciplined?"
When there are 20-30 children all working together and respecting each other while learning a lot, what more could you want from a disciplined classroom? Isn't that the very definition of discipline?