The Cult of Montessori

But if I only alude to the Montessori Method's failings, even in passing, I discover that nothing will get a Montessori parent shrieking faster and louder than evidence that their expensive private school may be shortchanging their child's educational potential. It really is like a cult against which nothing negative may ever be said.

I used to only think of Montessori schools as a private alternative to public school. I know one part of the method is putting children of different ages together, presuming that they will teach and influence one another, and that the children are expected to come into what they want to learn when they’re ready for it, rather than being expected to learn a particular concept at a particular age. I had no opinion for or against the Montessori method until I met some of the results of it.

My first inkling that the Montessori method isn’t the superior education its proponents claim it to be came when I spoke with the mother of one of Neil’s peers at school. She’d sent her older daughter to a Montessori elementary school, and understandably became concerned when the daughter reached the age of 9 and still couldn’t read. “Oh, she’s not ready to read yet,” she was told, as she had been told many times before. Mom disagreed and sent her daughter to Jewish day school instead. Within 6 weeks, her daughter was reading. She asked her daughter why she hadn’t even tried to learn how to read while in the Montessori school, and her daughter could only answer that she thought it was dumb there.

The next year, I volunteered in Neil’s second grade classroom. While working with the students individually in math, I discovered one of the girls couldn’t even count to 5. I was quite shocked, since I knew Neil’s kindergarten teacher had made sure all her students knew how to count to 100 before she approved their promotion to first grade. I told Neil’s teacher about that the girl couldn’t count, and she confided that the girl had transferred in from a Montessori school.

But if I only alude to the Montessori Method’s failings, even in passing, I discover that nothing will get a Montessori parent shrieking faster and louder than evidence that their expensive private school may be shortchanging their child’s educational potential. It really is like a cult against which nothing negative may ever be said.

First, they’ll trot out an example, like a 15-year-old Montessori student who just won a programming competition against experienced adults. But if I question the so-called genius, I’ll find out he doesn’t know what the Bill of Rights is, much less what it contains, and that he hasn’t read any literature more challenging than the latest Harry Potter novel. I call that being an idiot savant, not a genius.

Next they’ll insist that my examples must have come from inferior Montessori schools, renegades from the vaunted institution they’ve placed their children into. Well, I can’t bore you with all the Montessori failures I’ve run into, but they come from at least 4 different schools in 3 different states, and I find it hard to believe that by random occurence I have discovered only the bad schools.

They have to mention what attracted them to Montessori in the first place: all the happy children, of which their child is one. Well, no duh. If I lived a life of a Montessori child, in which everything was taken care of for me by my parents and I wasn’t expected to do anything I didn’t want to do, I’d be pretty delighted, too.

And when all else fails, they’ll self-righteously crow that at least they don’t send their child to (horror of horrors!) a public school. Yeah, it’s pretty tough for Montessori kids if they have to transfer into public schools. The poor little girl who couldn’t count got labelled as “slow” by the other children. If she’d started out in the public school the Montessori parents decry, though, I doubt she’d be having to play educational catch-up.

To keep the Montessori people from suing me, I’ll concede that the Montessori Method may work for some children. But overall, I think most children will get a better education in an environment that actually insists that they learn all that they need to know, whether they feel like it or not.


  1. cassford

    Right on! The other aspect of Monetssori I find scary is the self-ceneterdness it engenders in kids. I have a small sample size, but I can usually pick the Montessori kid out of a group based on their inability to treat others with respect, etc..

  2. Karen Higgins

    Aa an experienced Montessori teacher and Montessori teacher trainer, I can only speak from my own observations of the Montessori Method of Education at work. Montessori is not just a system of education, rather it is a philosophy, whereby children learn at their own pace as their needs dictate. That is not to say they are not encouraged to learn the skills of reading, writing and arithmatic. Montessori teachers value lie in their abilities to observe when the time is right for the children to be introduced to new educational activities and provide the optimal environment in which to do so.

    Surely the ‘many’ success stories of children from a Montessori background are testamony to the success of the Montessor Method. (The founder of google credits his achievements to his montessori eduction)

    However,while I respect the fact that you are entitled to your opinion, perhaps you should research the method a little more. Montessori gives so much more to it’s children than mere academic education.

  3. Ashley Chang

    Our daughters attended a Montessori school and the results were quite excellent. I do believe, however, that since Montessori has achieved a certain branded status, there is an oversupply of Montessori branded schools that are absolute rubbish.

    Montessori is a term that can be used by anyone. Rather like the diet book publishing industry, everyone can claim their school is a Montessori school (just like “weight loss success”) and pitch it to the public.

    If one is serious about Montessori, research is critical. Know what it is — Maria Montessori wrote plenty of books and they’re all available for purchase on Amazon, so there’s no excuse for not knowing — and screen carefully.

  4. Ashley Chang

    It’s also worth mentioning that in a proper Montessori classroom (plenty of descriptions of those in Montessori’s books and books about Montessori), children are free to choose their activities, but their choices are among different sections of study such as language, math, science, and other worthwhile activities!

    Post the names of these other Montessori schools, I’d love to take a gander!!

  5. ahh i see your american

    Such a misunderstanding is astonishing,

    why a person takes it upon herself to be critical of the method by which learning the complexities of language in ‘traditional’ schools is based on can only be seen as an uneducated point of view. I will never be critical of the child, let alone referring to him as an idiot, you madam have a bone to pick for some reason and your attitude towards children’s education is pathetic. There are so many variables in your story that it begs belief that you post such dribble. A nine year old girl being sent to Montessori, had she been there since she was three years old? Was it an ‘accredited’ Montessori school? oh you will now question the whole Montessori movement as inapt because of a few ‘stories’ you have heard through the grape vine. Why don’t you go and read some books…. and stay off the booze,

    kind regards

  6. Deb

    Whoever left the last comment is rude. Talk about respect! It probably stems from projection of motives due to autobiographical listening, it indicates a poor communicator to say the least.

  7. Lori

    Unfortunately, there are schools out there that call themselves “Montessori” but are not really fulfilling the Montessori method. If you ever get a chance to see a quality Montessori school, you’ll be astonished at what the children learn, and how well-rounded they are. Respect for others is central to the philosophy. Actually, your post inspired my blog post today; here’s the link:

    And this post might be of interest:

    You also might be interested in reading this article about public school education; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be:

  8. judith

    I used to think exactly like you do! I’ve done a bit of research now and am finding I love the philosophy. I doubt we’ll be sending out child to a Montessori school because of the cost, but we are raising our little one with the philosophy in mind.

  9. Heather

    I know this post is quite old, but I wanted to comment because I just got a job at a Montessori school and I think the school is simply wonderful. I had been teaching at a public preschool for 2 years and left because of the disrespectful behavior among the other teachers around me. None of the other teachers had much of a philosphy regarding the care and education of children. I saw many displays of disrespect toward the children and unfortunately, many of these children’s needs were not being met. When this happens, certain undesirable behaviors occur. Since beginning my work at the Montessosri schools, I have only seen positive teacher-student interations. Yes, the children have choices regarding what they would like to work on, but teachers also give lessons when necessary and when asked. The children are independent and autonomous and know that the environment is there for them. Everything in the classroom is prepared and carefully planned and though-out, so that when the child enters, the classroom is organized and ready for them to enjoy. There is so much to love in the Montessori method, and unless you see it and live it for yourself, you cannot even begin to fathom how capable, independent, and caring these children become.

  10. Dan

    I was also surprised to read such an uninformed critique of the Montessori method based on a few kids and a few schools. These are most certainly unique cases, and as Lori says, probably schools that are not true Montessori establishments. Any school, regardless of their teaching methods can call themselves Montessori so it is important to make this distinction. Instead of being accused of being self righteous, or of shrieking, etc – let me simply say that we started with our three kids in the public school system where they were determined to be “gifted” or “talented”. They allowed my oldest to skip a grade but didn’t have any other resources in place to work with gifted children (despite being an IB school). Next we tried our local Prep school – a very expensive private institution. What a mistake! My daughter enjoyed the cheerleading and tennis and the over the top drama productions but there was no real focus on academics at all. Then we found Montessori! Our authentic Montessori school is student-centered and experiential. It is holistic, expressive, reflective and collaborative. It is constructivist, and challenging. We are so pleased. And to say that the life of a Montessori child is “easy” is simply ignorance. Our children work harder and learn more than they did at the public school and at the private Prep school. For us, it was by far the best option for our gifted and advanced children who have a real love and respect for learning. Sure, Montessori is not for everyone. It takes a certain level of responsibility, social precociousness and a sort of natural adeptness towards subject material.

  11. Mik


    Makes sense to me! Not. As a former teacher in a public school with a 2 year old daughter, I was very shocked to find my neighbor (who runs a Montessori school) giving me an unsolicited 45 minute critique of my disiplinary practice with my child. She said I was “destroying her soul” because I give her time outs ocasionally.

    Apparently discipline is suppossed to come from a force from within? Of course her own 19 year old boy is an obnoxious spolied college dropout brat, so I am sure she knows what she is talking about, right?

  12. Jennifer

    I was a Montessori teacher and your observations are accurate. The secret is that in Montessori conferences, anonymously in trade journals, and in teacher lounges, the teachers confide to each other their concerns and criticisms which are never permitted in public.

  13. NIck

    Givcen the cost of these institutions, one would assume that most children will be coming from parents who are themselves well educated and successful, they will themselves be educating their children at home in many different ways, both subconsiously and consiously. If parents encourage kid to read, then of course these kids will encourage other kids to read (peer pressure to be able to read, do math, etc.) as otherwise they might appear less succesful (even though not pushed by teachers). The effect will be self sustaining, so the best schools will do well. I imagine on the otherhand if you took a load of people from a background of poverty and put them all together, they would not teach each other as much. (i recognise this is a generalisation).

    but that would result in the same is expensive private schools churcning out well educated people verses public sector schools working in innercity areas that get very few success stories. All it engenders is an attitude of whatever I think is best, and educational results will vary as widely as any other method in the long run.

  14. colleen

    I have a child who started Monessori at 2 years old, she is now 5. I did not know much about the philosophy when she started and was a bit skeptical about it all. I have to say, observing her in the classroom, I can’t imagine her anywhere else!! She is doing great, and I am now looking for a MOntessori elementary for her. To send her to our public school would be a dis-service to her right now.

    In response to an earlier post…..I am sure Montessori may not work for everyone, but a 9 year old not reading yet? are you kidding me? Parents are still parents and need to advocate for their children. If it does not feel right…it probably is not!

    I am sure there are plenty of “public school” kids who are NOT meeting the expectations of their age/grade, but do we blame their school? Their parents?

  15. l smith

    I totally agree with the poster that Montessori schools are dangerous and this philosophy of learning at the childs on pace is ridiculous. My son went to a such a school and thank GOD! I pulled him by the second grade. He was tested in as behind the other children. He quickly caught up and thrived in a structured environment and went to the top of the class. Any school that is not held to national testing and scores RUN FROM! your child will end up an idiot., that will not be able to read. Don’t let warm fuzzies these predator type schools offer the parents so they won’t take a real hard look at the reality of their little game. Use real teachers to teach your children, not someone’s 8 year old kid “helping” your child learn how to read. How about a “degreed” teacher who is “state certified”. This is another fruitcake European bullshit idea.

  16. susan

    teaching kindergarteners to count to 100!!!!???? i don’t care for the amount of rote memorization that requires at that age. talk about dampening the love of learning!!

    re: montessori… i think there are pros and cons to all the approaches. i am currently debating if it will fit my daughter and am not so sure.

  17. Karin

    This is an interesting discussion, to say the least. I have 4 children ranging in age from 2 to 10 yrs old. All are NOW in Montessori. One, has spent time in the public system. And all, are successful – some typical in certain areas, some outstanding in other areas. There have been challenges along the way, however, I find it concerning to “blame” a certain learning methodology or philosophy for the failure of a child. Just as the public system manages to produce children who cannot read into high school, Montessori is not for every child OR every family.

    If a family doesn’t understand the philosophy Montessori philosophy and they don’t talk about the world at home, then I’m I’m sure that child will not know about the Bill of Rights, but a Montessori Child will certainly be able to tell you who Ghandi. Mother Teresa, the International Bill of Children’s Rights and all of the countries of North America and all of the continents in the world are, I don’t think most high school students could do all that. I’m not sure I can blame ANY school if I child can’t count to five, my 2 year old was doing that at 18 months, (for fun of course), so is that a school problem or is that something else, like a learning disability, missed by everyone, even the public school….

    One of my children is autistic, there is not another environment (of 9 tried with hopes every time that they would work) that treated him with as much kindness, gentleness and respect. He is also known as the meltdown kid. They “the montessori” people, were the only ones that didn’t blame us for the way he was, didn’t degrade and humilate him in front of other students and most importantly, they “the montessorian’s” were the ones that gave him the confidence to write. The child who wouldn’t write a story due to his embarrassing handwriting now writes and writes and writes, at grade level! He will never be “typical” but in the Montessori world he is never “less than”.

    I have one child, now 5, who has had kidney surgery, has permanent damage to one kidney and may need a transplant one day. When everything started to slide, during 3 years of treatment she stopped growing, stopped putting on weight, (she weighs about 9 pounds more than her 2 year old brother), didn’t want to move out of practical life for love or money and we tried to entice her in many ways. I was just started to panic about entering grade 1 next year without a knowledge of the alphabet because she could not remember all 26 sounds at the same time. Maybe half at any one time, if we were lucky . She had her surgery, took the summer to recover, had a few problems in September, October which we slowly worked out. Then we noticed that the dark circles under her eyes were gone, she didn’t want to be carried everywhere and she started to talk about what sounds certain letters made, while she was at home. In 6 weeks she went from having no clue to flying through to green reading. Those of you who know Montessori know what happened there, don’t you. While she was sick she was absorbing, but, she wasn’t well enough to move forward. Now we are in February, she is reading short books, adding, subtracting, doing a study of Canada and smiles, and giggles like a 5 year old.

    In 2011/12 by oldest, the one who is autistic, will be going to a “public” school, and the other will follow. Do I think it will be a disaster? Well, no actually I don’t. And, the biggest reason is that he has learned, through example, how to advocate for himself, gentle ways to resolve conflict, that he can be successful without feeling bad about his failures. And most importantly he knows how to work, independently so I’m not worried about him having to make some huge adjustment to a classroom. He may not like having to ask to use the washroom though, LOL.

    And, finally, for the record, here we also have public montessori programs, not only EXPENSIVE private ones for the elite.

    In Peace and Understanding – Karin

  18. Tammy

    Montessori is a CULT! You “Montessoriains” are all socially crippled people. I work in a public Montessori school and the students can not pass a state minimum skills test. We have gone through a series of administrators and they leave with health problems related to stress. All the “Montessorians” do is make excuses for their student’s poor performances, going so far as to say “Who’s minimal skills are those on that state test?” The parents are even more insane than the teachers! They critic and magnify each and every thing that is done in the school. Their children are for the most part socially crippled spoiled brats that are going to have a very difficult adult life. I would never put my child in a program like this! You Montessori people are nuts!!!

  19. beadframe

    I like this discussion.I was browsing the net looking a negative comment about Montessori..and this is it..

    Before,I thought montessori is too good to be true philiosophy.I understand why some people hate it because they do not know it.

    There are many factors why the kids mentioned were not that excellent..maybe because of child factor..parents or family factor..

    Observe if the parents are rude,children never flourish..observe the way they give comments..very offending..that is why the world is not changing..

    ..the child will be better in other school not because of that school only..his past school has a great montessori, we call it “explosion”where we do not know where going to be happened.

    If the child is not very good in certain area but genius in one area,so be it..if some montessori graduates do not excell in other school,being hated or questioned,maybe the school was not real montessori or maybe the new school where he is now lacks strategy how to lit the candle of that montessori child..

    Montessori philosophy has a great contribution to our education..

    I think this is not in the hands of many that is why it is is being attacked because of fake or improper implementation of this method.

    For me,it’s trained one of us..yes we are few..but its really great to be criticized by traditional people..its greater to be loved by the kids..

    ..let your children come to authentic Montessori school,they will learn and love the Good Shepherd there..

  20. Bud

    My sister went to a Montissori preschool and she is a radical liberal like Obama. LOL.

  21. Not a Montessori Mom

    So I know this is an old post, but I have to comment. My daughter goes to a traditional preschool and many of our friends send their children to a montessori school. When I toured the school, I was alarmed and put off by the kids wandering around the classroom somewhat aimlessly. However, my friends who have their children in the classroom have been armed with this strange sense of competition and superiority of their preschooling choice. They constantly make remarks about the inferiority of other preschooling options. The funny thing is that my daughter has been reading since she was 4 and a half, whereas their children are still trying to figure out their letters. The other interesting and cult-like behavior is as the author mentioned, an extreme defensiveness about their institution. I mean, come on. It’s preschool. It’s not like your kid is at Harvard. I think these parents need to get a grip on reality and if these Montessori schools really teach respect to the children, maybe the parents need to begin to respect other preschooling options available and stop insulting the “Non-Montessori” kids. While you collectively see the Montessori kids as free thinking, outsiders see them as ill-behaved… Sure this won’t be a popular post… I don’t care.

  22. Discrimination

    My son is an add third grader and has attended Montessori for 9 months after being home schooled k-2. I am an educator so I was well prepared to teach him at home. He is bright and reads well. Unfortunately, he is stagnating under this montessori system, doing the same boring lessons over and over and we are leaving at the end of this year. Additionally, the teachers are complete snobs who show no interest in my son whatsoever unless he gets out of his seat. I am there as his aide 50% of the time and provide an aide-but the school will not tolerate my son’s presence without an aide for even 15 to 20 minutes.

    So, I am essentially sitting in the montessori classroom, guiding my son through these easy, boring assignments which they won’t let me change, and if I leave him there to actually develop some “independent” learning skills, they are all over him for the slightest perceived transgressions. What one of the above posters observed about kids wandering aimlessly is so true-I see it all day.

    My aide has expressed her concern that my son is singled out as a “problem” child when I am not there. I looked into it with the teacher and she said “we will need to document some of these behaviors, like touching things at a school dance…why should we teachers have to deal with that?”

    Really? A teacher can’t handle a child who “touches” things in a school full of manipulatives? I was a public high school teacher for ten years. These people need to learn how to live in the real world.

    The fact of the matter is these schools cherry pick potted plant style children and passive parents who like to feel superior about their kids going to a private school with a funky name.

    I am soooo over it.

  23. Lainey

    I took my 3 year old son to a Montessori School last year. After 3 days (keep in mind that he only went Tuesdays and Thursdays), they felt he wasn’t “ready” for a Montessori school. Apparently he acted like a normal 3 year old who had never been in a school before. He had trouble sitting still, dumped over the bins sometimes and would not sit to eat lunch at the picnic tables OUTSIDE in the Florida summer heat while in front of a playground. WTH? What a GREAT method huh? They told us to bring him back next semester in January.

    Well we did, and after about a week, they “called us in for a conference”. He was difficult…blah blah blah. His teacher wanted to work with him more but the director followed us around saying “I don’t think this is the school for him.” Ok so my son is not good enough for your stupid school? Is it my fault that you don’t have teachers equiped to deal with NORMAL toddlers? How come all of your students seem robotic….like mini-adults?

    I guess if your kid acts like “Vicki the Robot” then maybe this IS the school for you. If you have a normal toddler that likes to play and be a kid, I suggest you look elsewhere. There is so much more I would like to say but I don’t want to be too disrespectful or vulgar. Still angry although it’s been months. BTW, I found a wonderful school that my son LOVES going to everyday and the teachers are wonderful and cooperative. Everytime we drive by the Montessori school my son yells, “look mommy! there is the yucky school”

    Nuff said…

  24. Jack Windisch

    Having homeschooled my three daughters in a foreign country, and having seen them become fluent in three languages by the age of 13 and learning a fourth, I know a little about about what it takes to educate children.

    Seeing so many serious critiques about the Montessori Method, I would like to inform you, while in Switzerland, I picked up a Montessori brochure at a local Swiss Montessori school.

    It plainly stated that the philosophy of the Montessori system, which may have meant only in Swiss Montessori schools — I don’t know, was that of Theosophy.

    Now, if this was true there it may also be true in other countries. Therefore, I challenge all parents to study what Theosophy philosophy teaches and you just might have a much better understanding of the Montessori educational system.

    Yes, this is a serious subject. There is a saying, “The unaware are unaware of being unaware.” Be bold and brave — check everything out — you child’s future is at stake wherever and however you educate them.

  25. Felicity

    I am a preschool director in Australia, working within a play based programme drawing on a number of pedagogical influences – EG an emergent approach, influences from Reggio Emilia, some influence from Gardner’s multiple intelligences, social constructivism etc…

    I recently visted a Montessori preschool and I have to say I felt concerned and uncomfortable. I recognise one visit is not enough to judge – but i do have some questions: The issue of the Montessori materials having such a prescribed and singular use… where is the room for creative or imaginative play? The seemingly rigid approach to children moving from one stage to the next – where’s the room for children exceeding expectations – or seeing things in a way that is different from that of the educator? any comments?

  26. jane

    I was studying to become a Montessori Teacher. And like every newcomer I was caught up in the hype of “How great this Method of teaching was”. As I studied the method I became concerned with How I was to prepare myself to be effective teacher. I was taught to seek my own inter spirit, my inter peace (according to the teaching Everyone has this) — I was forbidden to “teach” the children to write their name or even one letter. I would have been fired if I did. Because if the child wasn’t showing interest then the child was not ready. Maria Montessori was Catholic but became and created her own religion. Needless to say I left. This school sugar coats everything– just like satan, he ‘s great at making things look perfect when they are truly evil. It is made to look Fabulous, but when you dig deep You’ll find just how scarey it is. Parents if you are even considering this type of education please spare your child’s soul.

  27. Educator for humanity


    I am studying now montessori which i consider a very simple, therefore, great phylosophy (aid to life!) which was deformated and polluted after Maria Montessori’s death. Why? It is not only money, I think the main reason is because during her life, the method did work… Who wants thinkers, leaders, decision-makers? All human history is about extinction of those who were different, isn’t it!?

    What I observe today is a tragic parody of montessori materials focused marekting. It is a tragedy because the experiments are done on our children,i.e. our future. I vitnessed in many schools how they break the spirit of children…

    To be honest, not every montessori course student understands or is aware of the injustice, the spirit, etc. They just stand in line for the diplomas to earn 50.000 per annum. They do not care..

    It is a market. The problem is our children are at stake. We need to do something to stop this fake montessori making money on our fears or immature behaviour…

    Unfortunately, montessori movement is growing and im afraid it will grow till ….we start truly love our children.

    to be continued..

  28. Name Withheld By Request

    I have been trained as a traditional teacher, ie. state certified public school, and Montessori certified. I totally agree, having to teach in a Montessori school presently, I see so much wrong and “cultish” with it every day. These poor kids don’t know any better and have no discipline, if they don’t want to do something they have no qualms about saying so and just stopping in the middle of their work. Supposedly that is ok in the Montessori method, although not in my classroom. They are not learning the expectations that normal society has and I will feel bad for these kids, who when they get to the work place, will be fired when they say they don’t feel like doing something or don’t finish the job! I would highly recommend that parents not send their child to a Montessori school, all I thought it was before I got into it was an elite private school, but it is so much less than that! Also, the teachers of Montessori only have to do an 8 week training and sometimes have to intern for a year under another barely trained teacher before they become a fully certified Montessori Teacher. Oh, and one last thought….Maria Montessori wrote her books 100 years ago and at that time her theories were revolutionary, but now with so much more scientific research and technology available in education, Montessori theories are so last century! Did you know with Children’s House (ages 3-6) children are not supposed to take field trips nor use computers? Why so we can shelter them and keep them prisoner to the Montessori Classroom? Sound like a Cult?

  29. June

    My experience with Montessori educated preschoolers is this; They lack discipline i.e. they break the rules excessively as if they are entitled to do whatever they want. They don’t understand the concept of an adult instructing them to do something mandatory i.e. handing an object to the adult instead of dropping it on the floor and skipping off. They don’t have much self discipline to learn something, if it immediately seems too hard they quit i.e. learning to write their own name. They lack social skills, again the lack of discipline i.e. they think in a self centered manner by taking things out of the hands of others, they don’t play well with groups of children.

    I think it is important to understand that the most important aspect of a school is picking the right method/ philosophy for the child’s personality. However, every literature I have read about raising children, including the subject of Gentle Discipline, emphasizes the importance of setting rules and boundaries for children to follow and having consequences when they are broken. I know Montessori says they don’t allow children to “break rules”, and I imagine they do have consequences when they are broken. However, it seems that the lack of structure and “rules” when generally speaking of the method of teaching is doing the children a great disservice. Instead of teaching kids that some times they *have* to do something, they are teaching them that they don’t have to do anything until they feel like doing it. As adults I think we all know that sometimes we do in fact *have* to do things, even when we don’t enjoy them or necessarily want to do it.

  30. barbara

    I am sad to read this and can only assume the limited experience you have of Montessori educations and the ‘schools’ you have visited have not provided the wonderful education Montessori offers children. #1 you should not put a non-Montessori child into a Montessori Elementary class. NO CHILD in an accredited or well run school leaves without knowing how to read. The teacher and the training should be examined. I have been a Montessori teacher for 30 years, worked in 4 schools, was a head in one of them, and have never experienced the situation you have described. Your description is biased and deceptive and dangerous not to mention incorrect. You are SO SO wrong, people do NOT subscribe to June’s ideas.

  31. aghast

    I applaud those who question the Montessori philosophy of education. Inquiry and questing of the world around you is a very Montessori thing to do. You are correct, there are many poor Montessori schools, as there are in public and other private schools. However, blinding rejecting it, and defaming it, without having first educated yourself is inexcusable and misleading for others.

    Montessori schools are not all the same. A school with Montessori materials, is not necessarily a successful Montessori environment. Any school can call itself a Montessori school. A parent, or citizen at large, MUST research and observe for themselves if a school meets the criteria of a traditional, authentic Montessori school and familiarize themselves with the organiziations that certify instructors and schools.

    I have found that the work of Maria Montessori is more than a system or method of education. It is deeper than that. It is essentially a way of life (which is why I suppose some view it as a religion, or toss around the word “cultish” in a mean-spirited fashion).

    The deeper goal is the cultivation of a new civilization with human beings who are both intelligent, and WISE. The current system of education, sure, is wonderfully efficient at the factory method of “information in, information out”, but just because it is what you have been conditioned to does not mean it is the only way. it does not and has not guaranteed success. Is there another way? Perhaps a better way to build our society while educating our children?

    In the Montessori approach, children are viewed as a promise for the future of humanity. It’s not just about knowledge, how many words you can spell, how high you can count at age 3. The philosophy is based on LOVE: A love of the child, a love of learning, a love of our world and of our fellow man.

    It is not a method that forces children into an idea determined in advance by adults. It is a method based on the scientific observation of children.

    Montessori teachers enter into a life’s work of trying to create an intellectual and human civilization one child at a time. Each child is viewed as an indiviual, not a a class boiled down to it’s lowest common denominator. Theirs is a big job. A job slightly larger than asking a child to memorize and reguritate information so they can fill in an “a”, “b” or “c” on a scantron form to please their parents or their State. The ability to spit out information is not a measure of intelligence, or a measure of goodness, wisdom, or the ability to think freely without bias.

    I myself researched and read endlessly before deciding on a Montessori school for my children. Indeed, some schools are awful. But I took the time to find out for myself. I did not take the gossip of others as fact. Is this not true of all other kinds of schooling? It is the job of the parent to make wise and thoughtful choices on behalf of their children. One should do the work before tossing around misinformation and hurtful comments based on anecdotes before presenting their feelings as facts.

    I know this blog is old, but I felt I must respond.

  32. Eli

    Just read the post on Montessori education. Daft musings is an apt title.

  33. JimmyC

    Have to comment here as just pulled my daughter from a montessori as she spent 6weeks. Sitting inside looking at the floor! The montessori teacher told me she was not ready to learn or play!!!!
    My child is 3 and can write her own name, count to twenty and recite her alphabet etc Yet this mini cult which appears to be hijacked by the scientologists tell me it is my daughters fault as she is the individual and is not ready.
    I asked for my $600 back so i could pay my daughter as clearly she had the autonomy.
    Montessori is a joke, a simple marketing joke. It is rife with “teachers” who have failed in most things but passed the easy montessori program, and still have the final ability to sit on their fat asses and blame the child for failing.
    Every time i think or see montessori now i throw up in my mouth at their incompetence,negligence,lethargy,ignorance and insolence.
    P.S only someone with the name Eli would make a comment like that.LMAO

  34. Tuffy Magee

    I worked in a Montessori school back in the 1970s. I can also spot a child or an adult that went to a Montessori school. The are entitled and self-centered and don’t understand that other people’s feelings and needs matter as much as their own.

  35. Proud to be a certified public school teacher

    I have to reply to this thread too, regardless of its age. I currently work at an AMI accredited Montessori school however I am not a Montessori teacher, I am a lowly master’s degree certified teacher in health/wellness; Which are NOT valued in Montessori ed (in case you care). .

    I ooooed and awwwed over the idea of a child centered education when I first started as well. I listened to all the “Montessorians” talk about the “method” and how I was not a montessorian so I wouldn’t understand. I quickly came to realize the “cultish” nature of this method of teaching. Many teachers at my school are not trained to be teachers, simply trained to be Montessorians. In fact, traditionally trained teachers are a hinderence to montessori training so they think. So, 1. you have individuals in a classroom who are not trained to TEACH. As a trained teacher I would be lost without my knowledge of child development, special education, classroom management and reward/consequence (all taboo in Montessori training). 2. The method was researched and implemented 100 years ago. When children needed to learn to pour water and polish brass. They DO THIS TODAY?!?!? They do not use computers for the most part. i was told they were for use as a last resort. This is not realistic and honestly quite silly. 3. They think this method is the end all be all for everyone. No method or theory is. A no boundaries, free environment is NOT a place for kids with learning disabilities/differences or behavior problems. There are no consequences for actions, no benchmarks for success, no method to assess learning except the 3 or 4 hand written practice questions given to a 12 year old and then the assumption that they will freely practice cubed roots, long division and binomial multiplication themselves. You must be kidding right? A pre-teen with the intrinsic NEED to do math? No way. Nice try. But we don’t live in the land of nod.

    You can SAY Montessori does this, it focuses on that and teaches grace and courtesy all day long. You can ask an adolescent child if they have done math and geography today and NOTHING stops them from saying yes so they can continue reading or drawing Harry Potter. But in reality these kids are missing SO MUCH. I have worked in inner-city schools, in other affluent communities, public and private schools. These montessori kids are the worst behaved, most disrespectful and MEAN children I have ever met. They way they speak to each other and treat each other is disheartening.

    This method, today, is unrealistic and not what Maria Montessori had in mind I wouldn’t think. It is grand for pre-school children because pre-school children do learn what is developmentally appropriate on their own. SO really, you could stick them in whatever school you wish with fabulous teachers and there you go. NO magic method needed. But as they develop so does their will. And most children do not just choose to do the hard subject, want to just DO a geography lesson. They need structure, instruction, REWARDS and consequences. They need to start to learn about real life, not a prepared environment. THEY NEED TO LEARN TO SPELL, READ, WRITE COHERENT SENTENCES even if they are not ready. Humans are capable if motivated; animals will just survive if left alone.

    I am currently doing a research paper on the validity of different teaching methods. I will say that I can not find a source/statistics on the Montessori method that was not written by a Montessorian. I will also say that my experience is mine alone and one has to make educated decisions. But don’t make my mistake, Montessori talks a BIG game but after age 6 leaves a child a rude student who has to now ‘catch up” with the real world-granted he or she may be able to write a colorful story or ask great questions. But you won’t be able toread the story because they can’t spell. Just find a place with great teachers…ask Bill Gates. He’s got the right idea!

  36. Montessori Madness

    OH I AGREE WITH YOU CERTIFIED TEACHER!! You must be working at the same place I am!! I am a certified teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education and I have worked at a Public Montessori school for the last four years and it has been a living Hell! I would never put my child in this horrible cult of a program. It teaches children to be rude ill behaved jerks. I have had “administrators” in this program openly criticize me in front of children for correcting them. I feel like I am working in ” Lord of the Flies” all day long. It is awful, and these children are learning a hundred year old curriculum. Their standardized test scores suck and all the “Montessorians” can do is criticize testing..Hello what is the SAT???
    I too tried to write a research paper on this program and could find NONE of the so called research they all boast about. This program is a cult and a scam. There are people laughing their way to the bank giving “trainings” on this “method” and it is nothing more than a brainwashing cult.

  37. Martin

    Everybody is entitled to their opinion and no philosophy or teaching suits everyone. My children attend a Montessori school in New Zealand and we are very happy with it.

    The sad thing is that anyone can call their establishment montessori without even beginning to adhere to the philosophies. While not know of the institution you are speaking of I would have to ask a couple of questions… 1. Are the teachers AMI qualified and is the Montessori method practised in the classrooms? 2. Why did this parent not take up the fact that her 9 year old couldn’t read with the principle of the school?

    At a Montessori establishment the learning desires of the children are taken strongly into account however the national standards (in NZ anyway) still have to be adhered to. Our children are continually tested and if they are not up to speed in a certain subject they are given extra 1 on 1 lessons by the teacher.

    In our school all of the teachers are qualified teachers, they then go on to do their Montessori training. Most of the teachers are training to do their Masters or have completed it.

    For the above comments, if you are a Masters qualified teacher why have you been working in a system you don’t believe in for the past four years?

  38. MollyJones

    I work in a Private Montessori school (for reasons beyond my control)that caters to children ages 3-10. I am ashamed of the educational farce I am forced to play a part in. I can’t speak of the preschool or Kindergarten experience, but my experiences in the Elementary classroom have left me with a list of criticisms. *) On the average eight hour school day,only two hours are spent on academic activities. That’s right -Math, Language and Science are given two hours everyday. That is forty minutes per subject. In the average public school ninety minutes is the norm. What fills the rest of the time you ask, an hour long lunch and an hour long recess. Sweeping floors, washing tables, folding towels. Some days when the kids are “too wiggly”, they will walk around the school community for an hour, picking up trash or play in empty fields. An hour is given at the end of the day so the children can read and write. They color and talk instead as their writing is not reviewed and they may choose whichever book they want *) The parents of the students are in denial and/or vain. I feel that most of the students in the classroom are in a private school because if they were to be enrolled in Public school, they would be identified as needing some sort of intervention. Eight year olds who cannot write their own name legibly, speech impediments,thumb sucking, chewing on clothing, nine year olds who speak in a “baby voice”, and really young behavior overall. Not a day goes by in my classroom without three or four inappropriate emotional outbursts. We cannot play any games where there is a clear winner and a clear loser. It causes way too many tantrums when a child loses or is about to lose. *) The school is a business, first and foremost. There are constantly people in touring, or journalists coming to write an article. The head of the school is a businessman by trade and a Montessori martyr by divine appointment. The student population is growing, the staff number is staying the same, and the costs are rising.$10,000 is the baseline tuition. After school programs, hot lunch, and summer camps are the cash cow.*) The curriculum is disjointed and to use my own words “more sizzle than steak.”The materials are beautiful but seem to serve as more of a crutch than a tool. It may seem that a child can add and multiply until you take away the manipulatives and ask them to add small sums in their head or on paper. The younger children do little to no paper work and the older ones can rarely string more than three sentences together. There is very little direct instruction and almost no way to confirm that a child has obtained and retained the intended lesson as quizzes and assessment are frowned upon. *) The behavior of the students is ghastly as there are no consequences and teachers ignore bad behavior rather than redirect or reproach the students. The volume of the classroom goes unchecked. Students are allowed to roam around chatting,running, singing, shouting and playing while their classmates attempt to work. The students freely interject comments and stories while adults are giving instructions or presenting material. The children discuss and act out violence like hanging,grenades, killing,bombs, and guns. Students are not at all held accountable for completing academic assignments.

    Overall, I feel like the Montessori school I am in is an overpriced daycare. I worry about the future of the students as they transition into middle school, high school and finally the real world.

  39. Kerry

    Goodness! Maria will be turning in her grave….

  40. Greg

    I find it ironic that Montessori teacher and teacher trainer Karen Higgins (2007) could not spell arithmatic(sic) and testamony(sic).

  41. Tomas

    I have to unfortunately agree with couple of comments here. Our favorite kindergarten closed couple of days ago and we were about to look for new one for our 3 years old son.
    When we find out, there is a Montessori nearby, we decided to give it a try.
    Of course, we wanted to see, what the system is all about and how the kindergarten looks.
    We left after 30 minutes totally shocked. The classroom was full of robotic-zombies without any traces of life, emotions etc. Serious sci-fi thriller.
    We seriously had a feeling, we are in “The Stepford Wives” movie.

  42. CJ

    This is the best blog on Montessori that I have seen. I wished I had this information years ago.

    The Montessori school we were in is AMI certified. The teachers called me one day and told me that my son was not behaving due to psychological problems. It appeared to me to be a lack of dicipline or lack of communication between the child and teachers. After much miscommunication, we (our family) finally agreed to hire a child psychologist. The psychologist said there was nothing wrong with the child. He suggested he be in a more structured preschool. After 3 weeks in a structured preschool, his behavior went from horrible to great, he learned all his letters and sounds, and loves going to school.

    There is no discipline for the children in a Montessori school. The children there behave by the grace of God. Not due to any teaching method. If you drive by the playground you can see the teachers reading books (novels), knitting, or socializing among the adults. Now ask yourself, if you were put in charge of 10 toddlers, would you be able to read a novel?

    Talking to parents who take thier kids out of public school to go to Montessori, they usually cite social problems that the child had (getting picked on, etc.). I wonder if this is just something difficult that some kids need to work on, instead of putting them in a Montessori school where they can be completely self-absorbed.

    The self-absorption also extends to the teachers. I notice they are very self-absorbed, overly sensitive people. They do not know how to communicate with children or with parents. They cannot work as a team to address problems that may be occuring. In trying to figure out my son’s problems, it was very difficult to get any information from them and it was always a one-sided conversation. All the explainations and advice I gave them for helping with my child were ignored. They seemed to be completely convinced that they ahd all the answers.

    I think the Montessori schools are just a way for uneducated people to get a cushy job with children without having to go through a proper college program on child development.

    If you are trying to do research for a paper documenting the effectiveness of Montessori you can start with the AMI handbook. I found that right there in the handbook it states that if a child for some reason does not “respond” to the Montessori method it is due to psychological problems with the child. They leave no room for proper teaching methods or other ways of reaching the child.

    It is very hard to research the “cons” of Montessori. There is not much available information. I hope my experience can help another parent out there. Montessori is a mistake.

  43. No more Montessori

    I yanked my children out of Montessori this week and are putting them in traditional school. I tried it. It was not a good fit. Both of my children are now behind their friends of the same age. We never really had horrific behavioral problems and but this Internationally Accredited, certified (and very expensive) Montessori school created problems we never knew our children had. They are emotional basketcases and their favorite phrases include all topics of what they are NOT allowed to do in school. Like pretend to be superheros or play with toys in a way that they are not sepecifically intended to be played with. We gave it a shot, not a fan.

  44. Mommy Adventures

    Hahaha, I find it funny that “Ahhh I see your American” is insulting you, but used the wrong your in his title. Bahahahaha! It’s you’re. In case you were wondering Mr./Mrs. “I see your American.”

  45. balestri

    I, like some other teachers here, have an MA in early childhood Ed…which is also pretty much regarded as not so impressive or important in the montessori preschool I am working in,and I have been told that I should observe and learn about their methods. I don’t agree with comments that montessori is not good for older children but ok for toddlers/preschoolers. Why? because the early years are a period when the children are becoming social beings, they seek connections with peers and other adults, they learn to play,share,and just be with others. They need to learn and practice their new social skills and need adults who can guide and model positive social interactions.
    Unfortunately montessori preschools do not believe in and are not set up to offer these social interactions which young children NEED in order to be successful in life and their future relationships! children, as others above have said, walk around the room and do “work” for long blocks of time ALONE on trays or mats, the room is silent! They have a ‘circle time’ sometimes but that is teacher led and children must listen to the lesson being taught. For some reason maria montessori believed that a child became a social being in the elementary years,not the very early years of life. I think she was a great woman and did a lot for poor children in the slums of rome,but that was over 100 years ago. We know better now…a mother knows instinctively that her newborn baby is a very social being! He/she communicates with mom/dad through cries and facial expressions which are modelled and learned from mom/dad. We have so much research on the social nature of children, and all the important social ‘lessons’ that they learn through PLAY(which is also not regarded as important in a montessori school) that it is just incredible how they continue to pretend that their method is the most beneficial for children.
    I have seen children after a long day of “work”(they are 3,4,5 years old!) get outside with mom and dad and run around a huge track outside about 10 times! they need to release all that energy that has built up during the day,because they have been inside sitting all day working!
    in summary…my cons for montessori in early childhood:
    – lack of understanding and importance given to play
    – anti-social environment
    – unhealthy habits(ie sitting for too long,not enough outside physical activity)
    – lack of communication with parents, parents are basically not allowed to observe the classroom almost at all except on rare occasions if a meeting is set-up ahead of time, and in any communication the parent is wrong and teacher is the ‘expert’ who knows best
    – ‘materials’ are not to be ‘played’ with and need to be used or ‘worked’ on in a correct way over and over again….so no room for creative thinking or imagination!
    – children who are not doing well, not quiet and sitting still must have some psychological problem, or the parents are to blame…but the teacher is never called into question. Although I have noticed that if a child is excelling,then all merit goes to the teacher(ahhem,i mean ‘montessorienne’) for the positive results of her work with the child. Children who are too ‘difficult’ are often asked to leave the school.
    – the ‘materials’ are really expensive, and make teachers life easier,because they will never have to ‘create’ anything new…they use materials for children to learn pouring,over and over again. But never will they think to maybe bring new and different containers,from home,of different sizes and shapes, or maybe pour different liquids besides water,or even colored water, to give children a different experience.No,just pouring plain water over and over again in the same pitchers every day.

    I hope mine and others comments may help people make the right choice for their child. As others have stated, it is very hard to find any literature criticizing the montessori method…although I suspect we may soon start to see more research done on this topic as these schools become more and more popular, they cannot keep their doors closed forever though they may like not to be interfered with. I can also say that many of my professors in my MA were VERY critical of the method, and I really hope to read some of their papers on the topic in coming years.

  46. Ryan

    Here is an article from Science Magazine about a long-term study that followed a cohort of children selected by lottery to attend a public Montessori school. Lottery losers served as the control group, with most of them ending up in ordinary public schools and few going to other voucher or charter schools.

    Unfortunately, the sample size is small. With that said, when administered standardized tests the Montessori students on average did better than the control group students. These better outcomes were not only true of academic test results, the Montessori children also showed better executive function and less instances of rough play.

    I wish I could find a larger study. That said, the results of this study found the Montessori children to be more learned and better behaved than their public school counterparts.

  47. Kay

    I’ve just taken my 3 and a half year old out of a Montessori school in Australia. It was ridiculously overpriced – one term plus entry fee was $2500, for 3-4 days of just 3 hours per day. It was basically similar to a day care but my bright little daughter was extremely bored there. On observation I found it lacked real fun, creative imagination, games and laughter, It was too serious, the environment really lacked joy. After ten half days in total of Montessori, and me deciding that was enough – they actually asked me to pay $2000 fee to “exit”. All I can say is this place is a huge rip off. My daughter is out and very happy.

  48. jimmy

    Ryan- i think your study is not based on montessori vs public, but private rich vs poor, and on the whole private rich are more learned and better behaved. I think if you did montessori vs private traditional, you’d find that the montessori are lacking drastically.
    Kay, sorry to hear you learned the hard way! I had the exact same problem about the exit(gratuity tip for abusing/neglecting your child-i called it.) Hope you did what i did and told them to swivel.
    Montessori is 150 years out of date and whilst was revolutionary back then, today it is bordering on Child Abuse-by neglect.

  49. ABF

    I am seeing a lot of comments on here that seem to be assuming that early childhood learning is valuable and an accurate measure of lifelong success. Most developmental psychologists would disagree. The most successful schools in the world, in Finland, do not begin academics until age 7.

    I was interested in the case of the 9-year-0ld girl who couldn’t read. Everyone is assuming that this is a sign of poor schooling, although nobody is likewise assuming that precocious reading ability (at age 3 or 4) is due to excellent schooling. Such discrepancies are usually due to either innate learning ability or some kind of developmental problem (dyslexia, for example). Have any of you heard about right-brain learners? Approximately 1/3 of the population is more right- than left-brained, and right-brain learners learn in sort of the “reverse” order of left-brain learners. Left-brain learners learn in a very linear style and thus are able to easily learn spelling and math at the ages most public schools teach them. Right-brain learners usually struggle in this environment, because these their brain processes information differently and these skills are not easily acquired until much older… ages 8 and 9, for example. Here is a discussion about how right-brain learners learn:

    So the Montessori method is actually correct that children learn at different rates and shouldn’t be pushed to learn before they are ready. This is, of course, different from not being challenged, and I would urge any parents who feel their child is bored or underchallenged at a Montessori school to choose a different environment. Some children thrive in a public school environment; many do not. I would likewise counsel any parents who feel their child is underserved by the public system to consider Montessori or other alternative learning methods.

    Ultimately, it is irrelevant if a child learns their letters at a certain age or learns to read/do math at a certain age. And everyone will have gaps in their knowledge, so arbitrarily holding up one fact as something everyone should know by a certain age (e.g., the Bill of Rights), is not going to accurately measure the breadth of someone’s knowledge and is of little value, unless you only want to puff yourself up by how you know something the other person doesn’t. What truly matters is what a child knows by the time they graduate high school and how competently they are able to acquire knowledge for themselves. Learning is a lifelong process.

    Those of you who have expressed concern that children in Montessori schools are “undisciplined”… I think you have told us more about yourselves than about Montessori. That is, you feel a certain type of behavior or discipline style is the “correct” one and that others are inferior. That’s fine; what it means is that Montessori is not for you. Acknowledge that and move on without criticizing an entire program and philosophy. We don’t all need to be the same, do we? People parent their children in many different styles, for example, and their children can still grow up to be respectful, productive citizens. I wouldn’t look at an undisciplined 7-year-old and assume that they are going to be that way as adults. Life doesn’t always work out so neatly.

  50. Pia

    Interesting that the comments by those concerned about the lack of discipline in Montessori schools were in fact, the rudest of them all. Perhaps we could blame public education this time.

  51. Gigi

    I decided after a month of my daughter attending public Montesorri charter school to take her out. It was a nightmare experience for me because I’m a hands on mom who likes to be involved in my daughters school. I like to come into her class help out with the other kids, like once a week and go to the library, walk her to class, give a hug and kiss wish her a happy day. Now at this new school I’m only able to walk her the front office. The staff is rude, the kids are mean and snobs. My daughter got hurt on the playground by a larger older student and fell on her back went behind a trash can and cried while the teacher was notified and did nothing. All and there were other instances of theses kids being mean. Her hand writing and reading digressed, she took only one library book home in one month. The no homework was very hard for me because I could not see her progress and I was told your not going to see any paperwork home but not to worry. Next time I’m not changing school based on a philosophy .. I learned if your child is doing well and is happy to remember the grass isn’t alway greener on the other side. I do think its fairy tale land for the kids and parent. I believe children need home work and structure. Thanks everybody for all your comments above or helped.

  52. Marie T

    I was a Board member, then president of a Montessori elementary and middle school for 3 years and have had my children in for 7 years. I just transferred my children to a Montessori Catholic school. A few years ago, I would have been a blind support – and I still believe that the philosophy is superior, HOWEVER . . . education is always about the teacher in the room and the support she/he is given. The problem is that nearly all small private schools run into the same problem – unqualified administrators, high staff turnover, lack of supervision of free time, etc. An additional hurdle for Montessori schools is the lack of testing, which often serves as a minimum standard of quality control in traditional schools. In Montessori, testing is supposed to be replaced by the administration’s observation of the teacher and the resulting feedback, which often does not happen. Thus, it is not the Montessori philosophy that is the problem, but the difficulty in properly implementing it.


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