Monday, September 22, 2008

Rant about Montessori

**Warning: If you aren't interested in educational practices, you will find this post boring :) **
So Matias started preschool this month. He goes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and seems to really enjoy it. They do the usual preschool stuff: singing, playing, art, snacktime, learning the alphabet, playground etc. I love that it’s a place where he feels safe, gets some social interaction, is allowed to freely explore and learns some new songs and routines. No, I did not put him into a Montessori preschool and quite frankly, I am against their whole philosophy.
There are so many parents who seem to think that Montessori preschools are somehow a cut above; that the elite and most caring parents enroll their kids in Montessori. I think they are seriously wrong. But first let me say that absolutely any preschool can have the title Montessori, so the title itself guarantees/means nothing. In fact, I would argue that most preschools that use the Montessori title don’t follow the Montessori philosophy at all and are just using the name to draw people. Second, kids who attend Montessori preschools often do poorly in regular classrooms because the philosophies in most kindergarten (elementary) classrooms are completely opposite to the Montessori method.
Okay, so what’s my beef with the Montessori method? They discourage playing and the use of the imagination. Toys are not allowed. Objects can only be used for their “real” purpose. You can’t pretend a block is a car, because that is wrong. Technically, they are correct in that a block is not a car. However, I don’t think 3 and 4 year olds need to be corrected when they are using their imaginations.
Each object in a Montessori classroom is meant to be used in a particular way and for one specific purpose. This purpose is demonstrated to enforce this point. I find this completely inflexible and stifling.
To discourage play in 3 and 4 year olds is (to me) a crime. Kids already grow up too fast. They need to play, in order to have fun, but also in order to learn. Kids make sense of the world through free play. They need to be imaginative because it helps them think outside the box later in life.
In Montessori schools, the kids work. They actually call it work!! I think that’s crazy. The kids who had the hardest time in my kindergarten class were the ones who didn’t know how to play. They would ask me for extra work. If they had to choose an activity, they would stand in front of the sign up and pick nothing because free play was a foreign concept. Sorry to say, but these same kids were also the ones who had very few friends. So, even though academically, they may have been doing well, socially they were lagging.
I am sure that there are kids who thrive under such rigid structure and enjoy “working” independently. But at 3 years old, I want Matias to feel uninhibited by reality, letting his imagination run wild. I want him to explore things without having to limit his mind to their “real” and intended purposes. I want him to learn to care for others by playing and interacting with them. So, I would never put Matias in a Montessori preschool.

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