The Montessori community is a dedicated one. That is, parents and teachers who embrace Montessori do so whole-heartedly. They love the philosophy so much that they are completely convinced it will work for everyone. Although well-intentioned, this optimistic viewpoint sometimes falls short.
While it may be true that Montessori has the potential to work for every child, in reality, some children naturally flourish in a Montessori environment while others may struggle. The truth is, there are cases when Montessori doesn't work.
This is particularly true if the child is used to another type of curriculum or learning environment prior to being introduced to Montessori.
Let’s look at some of the personality types/traits that sometimes present problems in Montessori settings.
Personality types that Montessori may not work for
The Social Butterfly
If your child thrives on social interaction with other kids, then it’s possible he or she will experience some difficulty transitioning to a Montessori learning environment.
While the Montessori approach certainly doesn’t isolate children from one another, it doesn’t exactly emphasize interaction with other kids either.
Instead, Montessori focuses on a child’s independent growth and development. In doing so, it encourages children to work alone for extended periods of time.
That doesn’t mean Montessori children never work together or have time to interact. This is an unfortunate, but common misconception about the Montessori philosophy.
During the early years, children are given many opportunities to work alongside other children, interacting as they wish.
Because of their stage of development, however, these youngsters often become immersed in their own learning.
Montessori allows the necessary time and space for this immersive learning to take place rather than impose requirements that children directly engage with one another.
Do you often think your child has his/her head in the clouds (but in a good way)? Perhaps he or she is constantly engaged in fantasy-like play.
These children, sometimes referred to as “dreamers” might not thrive in a Montessori setting.
That’s because much of the work that children do in a Montessori learning environment is carefully planned and very much grounded in the “real world.”
Teachers thoughtfully prepare materials ahead of time and then guide children to engage in planned learning experiences.
Then, there is the practical life curriculum that is central to the Montessori pedagogy. Children learn to complete daily life chores and tasks like cooking, cleaning, and tending a garden, for instance.
Of course, it would be a falsehood to say that Montessori discourages creativity or that it never allows for imaginative play. That’s simply not the case.
If you’re looking for an educational approach that will actively encourage high levels of free thinking or invention, though, you may want to look elsewhere.
This might definitely be one of those cases when Montessori doesn't work.
Does your child move from one activity to another faster than you can keep up? Does he or she become bored with a toy after just a few minutes?
If so, then Montessori may present a challenge.
This particular pedagogy is structured to support hyper-focused attention on one activity at a time. It is not uncommon for children to spend hours or even days engaged in a single learning experience.
Children with short attention spans, even those with ADHD, can succeed in a Montessori environment with the right school and teacher, however.
It just may not be an easy transition, at least not at first. It will likely take some time for children to get accustomed to the Montessori way of doing things.
Likewise, it may take some time for teachers and caregivers to learn what works best for the child’s disposition.
The Child Who Craves Structure
Kids who do well in highly structured environments may not feel comfortable in a Montessori setting. That’s because Montessori practitioners are taught to “follow the child,” as opposed to leading them around.
Children in Montessori classrooms are given the opportunity to choose their own activities and schedule their “work” as they are so inclined.
What seems like freedom for some kids can be unsettling for others, though. Children with anxiety, for instance, typically like to know what to expect next as they progress through the day.
It is a misconception to think that Montessori learning environments are devoid of structure, though. Structure does exist, but it’s a different kind of structure than one might typically see in a more traditional classroom.
Whereas these environments apply structure to the student’s daily schedule or behavior, the structure in a Montessori setting is applied to the environment itself.
Activities and interactive lessons are carefully planned and thought-out, for instance, but students have the freedom to engage with these learning experiences on their own time and at their own pace.
If your child’s personality or disposition resembles one of the profiles listed above, then you might want to take some extra time to consider whether or not Montessori is right for your family. Are these examples of when Montessori doesn't work??
Not at all!
It just means that you should prepare yourself for some unique challenges that may arise when implementing some of the aspects of Montessori.
When considering Montessori, you would be wise to also take some time to think about how this approach will complement your parenting style (or if it will!). After all, the decision to embrace or reject Montessori is one that will impact you as much as it affects your kid.
If you consider yourself an authoritative (not to be confused with authoritarian) parent rather than a permissive one, for example, then Montessori will likely fit in nicely with your existing parenting approach.
If you have a unique parenting style, though, you’ll want to carefully think about how Montessori will work with your family dynamics.
As a parting note, you should be encouraged that it’s completely okay to decide that Montessori isn’t right for your child. After all, you are the parent here, which means you know your little one better than anyone else does.
There are many other pedagogies, philosophies, and educational approaches out there that you may find more suitable for your family or circumstances, and that’s totally fine. (Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, and Reggio are some other interesting approaches.)
Montessori is a great way to teach children and foster their development, but it’s not the only way! It's okay to acknowledge there may be cases when Montessori doesn't work.
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