Common Misconceptions

Montessori is just for special learnersthe gifted or the learning-disabled.

Although the methods used in Montessori classrooms are effective with learning-disabled and gifted learners, they are designed to ensure the success of all children.

Montessori schools are religious.

Maria Montessori was Catholic and some Montessori schools early in the 20th century reflected that. Today, however, only a few private Montessori schools in the United States have a religious orientation; the vast majority of Montessori schools do not.  Maria Montessori said that her schools were for all children.

Children in Montessori classrooms can do whatever they want.

Montessori is based on the principle of free choice with purposeful activity. The children have freedom, but it is within a prepared environment. There are many activities from which the children can choose, and the teacher will intervene with guidance towards an activity if they are not choosing any work.  If the child is being destructive or is using materials in an aimless way, the teacher will step in and gently re-direct him or her either to more appropriate materials or to a more appropriate use of the material.

The Montessori method isn’t structured enough.

The Montessori Method is not opposed to direct teaching when required by the child. The entire method is focused on the child and his or her capabilities. A teacher will direct a child as much as necessary. Some materials, such as in language and math, require more direct lessons that will involve new skills and vocabulary.

Montessori classrooms are too structured.

The teacher is careful to clarify the specific purpose of each material and to present work in a clear, step-by-step order. The child, however, has the freedom to select his or her own materials.

Montessori classrooms push children too far too fast.

Montessori education emphasizes the importance of allowing each child to develop at his or her own pace.

Montessori is out of date.

While appropriate changes have been made to the original Montessori curriculum (including the introduction of computers and modifications to the Practical Life exercises to keep them culturally relevant), the basic pedagogy has not changed much since Maria Montessori’s lifetime. Current research is still confirming Montessori’s insights.

Montessori doesn’t allow children to play; they spend all their time “working.”

Children between the ages of 3 and 6 do not really distinguish between work and play. Their work in the Montessori classroom is their play; they are enjoying themselves and interacting with others. The teachers, however, observe the children’s activities and keep track of their specific academic and social progress and milestones so they can be guided to even more in-depth work.

Montessori discourages children from working together.

Children between the ages of 3 and 6 will often want to work alone. As long as they are not disruptive, however, they are allowed to work together.

Montessori is against fantasy; therefore it stifles creativity.

The freedom within the prepared environment encourages creative approaches to problem-solving. While teacher-directed fantasy is discouraged, fantasy play initiated by the child is viewed as healthy and purposeful. In addition, art and music activities are integral parts of the Montessori classroom.