Ten Lessons that Montessori will NOT teach (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 please read it here...

6. Montessori will not teach your child that;


"You are not good enough, smart enough or quick enough.”

What Montessori does instead...

Montessori educators and parents are aware that children are incredibly perceptive to the subtle implications of adult behaviour. If we spend too much time trying to present a lesson on number recognition to a child who just clearly does not recognise the numbers yet then that child will most likely learn the lesson “I’m bad at numbers” long before learning the lesson “that symbol represents number 4”.


This is why we do not push or rush children to learn something which is not yet of interest to them. We trust that each child will be ready and we value the work they are doing to prepare themselves for other areas of life in the meantime.


7. Montessori will not teach your child that;


"The most important thing in life is being 'smart' academically"


What Montessori does instead...

Montessori schools resist the huge amount of pressure from people who believe that “high standards” equates directly or exclusively to high levels of “academic achievement” in narrow areas such as literacy and maths. We absolutely value these areas as a part of our curriculum, and many children adore embracing the lessons we offer in these fields, but they are simply that - an equal part of the curriculum – not the most valuable and certainly not the only elements. If we find that a child does not have a natural love of letters then we will still offer lessons and learning opportunities in this area but we will also respect that child’s other interests and talents. We won’t make any child feel inadequate by continually pushing them to ‘achieve’ at something which is uninteresting or overwhelmingly challenging to them.


Some people argue that at some point in life a child will have to be ‘pushed’ to achieve in areas that he or she finds difficult. However it is hard to justify why this should be true of a child who has only been alive for a few years. Remember when your child was born and could barely move their head? Only a few years later they are walking, talking, interacting, understanding, exploring and participating in a world which is brand new in so many ways. We should be incredibly proud and awestruck at how much our children know and do! We should not be disappointed that they are not, for example, writing yet because to a child that immediately sends a message that “most of the things that matter to you, and that you are proud of, are meaningless to me because I just want you to be good at academics”.


That is why the Montessori Curriculum does not consist of only 2 topics – Maths and Literacy – but instead consists of 5 – Practical Life, Sensorial, Maths, Literacy and Culture. So each child will have a rich, diverse learning experience at Montessori – and will have opportunities to learn everything from how to mop the floor (Practical Life – care for the environment) to why a candle will burn out if it is covered by a glass (Culture – science).


8. Montessori will not teach your child that;


"There is a ‘child world’ with one set of admirable traits and expectations and an ‘adult world’ where all of those things change.”


What Montessori does instead...

Montessori education will always aim to “prepare the child for life” so the lessons we are teaching, and the personal qualities we are promoting, are important throughout life not just in ‘childhood’. Many schools, and traditional thinkers, demand that children sit still, be quiet and listen to the teacher for the majority of the lesson, work hard or behave primarily to achieve grades or other rewards, learn about what the teacher decides, do so at the same time as all peers and follow the a set timetable. If you equate these lessons to the personality traits they are teaching (forgetting the age of the individuals involved) then you might end up describing each individual as: inactive, passive, focused on material gain, lacking initiative, a follower. Do those characteristics feature on a list of traits you would like your child to possess in life? Or would your list look more like this: active, joyful, expressive, enthusiastic about learning and achieving regardless of gain or notoriety, a creative thinker, independent. We cannot expect a person to suddenly possess admirable traits as an adult if we teach them the opposite throughout their childhood.


This is why we encourage independence, decision making, exploration, lateral thinking, problem solving, self-correction, self-expression and learning for the pure enjoyment of the process. We hope that these traits will stay with a child for life.


 9. Montessori will not teach your child that


"You are better than some of the children in the class and worse than others. You should change yourself until an adult says you are better than all the other children.”


What Montessori does instead...

The Montessori method avoids any and all measures that would imply that message. You might have read that and thought “That is ridiculous - who would ever say that to a child in any context?!” Yet what do you think a ‘star chart’ on the classroom wall says to children?
Let’s say Tom has 6 stars, Jane has 8 and Peter has 2. Tom is better than Peter but worse than Jane. Regardless of what he is doing now he might feel he should change it until he is better than Jane. Jane is better than Peter and Tom so she has to be careful not to make any mistakes or help anyone else to achieve because if she does her sense of self – ‘being the best’ – might be taken away from her. Peter is worse than Jane and Tom, perhaps the worst in the class. He is such a long way from the top that it seems impossible to ever get there so he doesn’t bother trying. It is likely that he needs the most help and encouragement but what he feels is public shame, resentment towards the teacher who vividly reminds him of his ‘flaws’, jealousy towards his peers and a sense of hopelessness about himself.


Perhaps you see that scenario as an exaggeration. Perhaps you have children who love rewards systems like star charts (although if you do then it is a likely assumption that your child is “Jane” in that scenario – and if so you might like to consider that unseen anxiety that might be brewing about staying at the top). Perhaps you use them in your home. If you do then we are not here to judge that, or make you change it, but we are here to offer your child a Montessori environment where they are entirely free and protected from judgement, competition and comparisons.


This is why each child is seen as an individual with their own unique timeline and why we never compare the children. It is also why our classroom walls are free from rankings, ratings, or display boards that imply that some art or work is better than others.

Read the conclusion - Part 3 of the Ten Lessons - here!

1 comment

Oct 28, 2016 • Posted by Irene

Our school doesn’t “do” Naplan. For this I’m grateful!

Leave a comment: