Hi all. Can you tell me your thoughts on Montessori pre schools please? Did your children thrive or did they have too much freedom to do as they please?
Montessori all the way but I am a little biased as I was Head of a Montessori School! Are there any specific questions you want answered? Have you been to visit any schools yet? I always encourage parents to visit as many as possible (Montessori and traditional) .
My dc2 is at a Montessori pre school, dc1 attended one attached to his primary school. I haven’t seen much difference in them tbh - they are both lovely and dc’s were/ are both very happy there.
No specific questions other than the ones I asked. Why did you both choose Montessori for work or your kids?
I would say Montessori all the way, provided you get a proper 'child education' one with accreditations and trained teachers etc. Dc1 went to one and thrived but then we moved and I more or less feel guilty everyday that dc2 is off to a state nursery (where she is perfectly happy).
It will all depend on the specific nursery - we looked at a few when we were choosing, and unless something has changed to enforce one particular style, the nurseries we saw varied quite a bit in their Montessori ethos / practises.
But we did choose one and it was lovely. Very child oriented, lots of choice and interesting, stimulating activities. Very good staff to kids ratio.
Why I believe Montessori is right for all children:-
Each child is on their own journey, we plan/ provide activities/work to suit each child rather than a one size fits all.
The environment is carefully prepared everyday to ensure that activities look attractive to the children and make sure it’s neat and tidy.
We work from concrete to abstract especially within maths and language.
Every activity/piece of equipment has it’s own control of error. We would present the activity to the child and then observe them over a period of time. We may need to present an activity 2 or 3 times over at a later stage if the child doesn’t get it after the first few tries.
Respect is a big part of the philosophy ( respect the environment, other children, teachers and yourself.)
Our aim is to foster a lifelong love of learning and enquiring for themselves and not do it to please the adults.
It’s an ‘education for life’ in that while they are doing their everyday activities they are also indirectly learning valuable life skills such as order, organisation of resources and taking responsibility for their own things.
Independence and the confidence to keep going until you get it are instilled from the start.
Their are lots of misconceptions about Montessori- namely that children are free to do anything they want to all day long. Yes, children are free to choose their own activities and work with them for as long as they want to but there are also boundaries such as not distributing others work if they are busy, working respectfully. The teachers will also know when to step in and introduce new activities.
What to look for when selecting a school for your child?
The children should all be working either alone or in groups. Usually it will be a lot calmer and quieter than a traditional nursery but it’s because the children are engaged in their activities, they are not forced to sit quietly!
Usually it’s tricky to see the teachers because they will often be sitting quietly observing the children. Yes of course they work with and interact with the children but a big part of the job is observation, in order to know how what to present to the child next to move them on.
Do they have an uninterrupted work cycle? (As much time as they want/need to complete their activities)
All the activities items used by the children should be real and child sized as far as possible such as real crockery for snack. If they are preparing their own snack they would use a real knife (a child sized butter knife before anyone panics!)
When looking for a school please go to the Montessori Schools Association website where you can search for an accredited school in your area. Unfortunately Montessori is not copyright and any old person can call their school Montessori. We now have an accreditation process which I guess is a bit like ofsted for Montessori, looking at their environment, practice and staff. Please please please make sure you do this as there are many nurseries out there using the Montessori name which are nowhere near Montessori.
Op if you are in London I would be happy to help you with schools as I know many in the area.
Now that was my longest ever MN post but it’s something I am so passionate about!
Totally agree with Pp. We live abroad where all state nurseries are MS. I absolutely love it. They have brilliant personal skills, are really good at self-directed play and are keen to participate in daily life.
Would definitely recommend!
My ds went to a Montessori. We were very happy with the provision and it really suited him and his style of learning. He is 23 now and has Montessori Facebook friends that he has caught up with over the years. I think it was a very happy time for him. He is and always was a fiercely independent child.
These are great information. Thank you sooooo much for the effort you’ve all put in to answer. My next step is to check out the accreditation. 👍😊
My DS goes to a fabulous one, most staff are Montessori trained. He is very kind, considerate and independent, all traits Montessori encourages and supports. Same price as the other nurseries in the area and I feel like it was one of the best parenting decisions we made. I looked at a ton of nurseries and while most were fine I couldn’t not send him to his current one. It was perfect. However as with all nurseries, there will be the odd setting that isn’t great so trust your gut and read up on it all. Good luck!
I used Montessori pre school. It suited mine very well indeed. One took longer to adjust to main stream reception than the other but I don’t think that was down to the Montessori method. When I go in non Montessori childcare settings I am overwhelmed by the noise and manicness of it all. The quieter less overwhelming environment at our MNursery made me feel better about returning to work. I did find it funny seeing 2-3 year olds wearing aprons chopping cucumber with plastic knives and making sandwiches for the rest of the nursery. I’m sure there was some kind of cottage industry going on haha! Seriously I have no regrets and I thought Montessori was a cult before I researched more
I viewed two Montesorri schools for DD - one "proper" Montessori as in it sticks to the original concepts. The other used a Montessori set up but incorporated some aspects of EYFS (early years foundation stage) also.
I thought I'd love them. I really didn't.
The whole premise is learning through play, which was revolutionary at the time, but now the rest of the system has not only caught up but overtaken it IMO. When the Maria Montessori started teaching her method at the beginning of the 20th century I have no doubt it was revolutionaly and light years ahead of the rigid school system of the time.
But times have changed. EYFS is all about learning through play.
I found Montessori surprisingly structured. I stayed and observed for an hour and a half and I saw children encouraged to explore for themselves - but only within narrow confines.
The tables were for one. Children could choose their own activities but then they were encouraged to site at a table or on a mat by themselves to do thier "work".
Twice I saw children come together to play but they were gently discouraged. Once two girls started playing a peek-a-bo game with one of the mats. They were encouraged to stop this and return to their activities. I felt sorry for them that they weren't allowed to just be, they were having a lovely time and learnign about socialisation o thier own terms.
Another time, two children started dancing. The teacher said "everyone, let's dance" and got the children to stop what they were doing - including the two who were dancing. They formed a circle and got all the children to take turns in going into the middle to dance. Which was fine for the others, it was a nice thing to do - but again the children who were expressing themselves naturally on their own terms, were prevented from doing that and their play was formalised.
In the other school, the non-purist one, they explained that they blend EYFS, introducing things that "pure" Montessori schools don't to like role-play and allowing books with animals characters in.
They pointed our that Maria Montessori was a pinoneer of her time and they believed that were she alive today she'd update her philosophy accessing the latest research, not stick dogmatically to ideas that are 100 years old.
I was disappointed that neither of the settings offered the DCs free access to the outdoors - playtimes happened in a structured way. That's not up to date thinking for early years.
There are some awesome state nurseries and reception classes out there. EYFS really is a child-centered structure, with learning through play at the centre. A lot of the things Montessori claims to be, you will find done better if you have an exfcellent nursery or school near you that embraces EYFS IMO. (Or whatever the lasted incarnation is called!).
Letting children be independent and cut with knives for example, isn't new or revolutionary. My state-run nursery made a big deal out of that kind of stuff too (so my parents tell me) and that was 40 years ago!
children are free to choose their own activities and work with them for as long as they want to but there are also boundaries such as not distributing others work if they are busy, working respectfully. The teachers will also know when to step in and introduce new activities.
That all sounds lovely on "paper" but this is the bit that I am very uncomfortable with. When I saw it in action, it amounted to the teacher stopping children from coming together to play with each other on their own terms and manipulating them back to working on their own, or in a very structured way. Children were not allowed to just be, with each other.
At 4 years old, I think it's absolutely essential for my child to learn to socialise and play with others, not to only do that at playtime.
It's not genuinely child led. From what I saw, the adults set narrow confines that the children have to stay within. Yes the class was calm and quiet. But - what do they do with the noisy children I wonder? Are they welcome?
That should say. "There are some awesome nurseries and state
reception classes out there"
I was surprised to learn at the non-pure Montessori school that "pure" Montessori schools discourage role play / pretend play.
Can anyone explain to me why that is? I feel very uncomfortable about sending my child to a place that stiffles her imagination and creativity in this way and that teaches her not to explore role play with her friends.
My DD loves the "home corner" at the excellent nursery she went to. I'd often have to "eat" a pretend pizza (or whatever) that her and her friends had cooked up, when I came to pick her up from nursery. It was a richly inventive game full of learning opportunities. I feel very uncomfortable about a childcare setting that discourages this kind of play for early years.
Also - banning books that anthrophomorphise animals / objects - what gives?!
There may be sound reasons in the theoretical plane - but back in reality, in the culture we live in - so much of our shared culture of childhood has animal characters. For me, imagination and good children's literature win out over ideas about realism any day!
So, just to check I've understood correctly, the following wouldn't be allowed in a Montessori school, is that right?
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
Where the Wild things Are
The Very Hungry Catepillar
The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and most Julia Donaldson books
Each Peach Pear Plum
Lost and Found
The Ugly Duckling
Etc etc ...
It seems deeply ironic to me that a method that markets itself as letting children follow their own path is in fact so dogmatic in a way that limits free expression, imagination and good literature!
I don’t recognise any of the issues posted by those concerned about Montessori. Mine played closely with friends, role played, read the tiger that came to tea etc etc.
dowsabel there are two Montessori schools in my town. At one of them, you can do all those things.
But not at the one that is keen to tell everyone that it's following the Montessori method correctly.
The one you can role play and read books with animal characters in openly says it's not "pure" Montessori - even though it's name is "<my town> Montessori school" and these were two of the reasons the teachers gave that it's not.
From the website for Montessori Administrators (no idea how credible it is but it fits with what I was told)
"Play, as opposed to didactic learning, is a big deal in the world of Early Child Education.
Montessori has been generally considered anti-play (when it is considered at all).
Which seems strange, since freely chosen, open-ended activity is what we do!
In fact, Montessori has many of the elements identified as part of playful learning (to wit, structure, objects, interactive lessons, free choice, peer interactions, intrinsic rewards, and fun).
What Montessori doesn’t do is pretend play, such as dress-up, toy kitchens, and fantasy.
When you look at the research, the evidence for pretend play (as opposed to play in general) isn’t all that strong one way or the other.
Consequently, we don’t really know if adding pretend play to Montessori environments would help or hurt."
I'm very keen on evidence based parenting. However I don't need evidence to tell me that role play is almost certainly good for kids! If there's no evidence then let's let them do it unless we find out it's best not to, not the other way round please!
A comment from a Montessori teacher on that link above, who changed her mind on Montessori's after having her own DC:
"One of my biggest concern and observation during my years as a Montessori teacher is social behavior. Role plays are the best role modeling for good behavior. Waiting for a material does not seem enough to me. Children getting closer to three years of age are seeking for friends, partners or groups to play with. I don t think the one on one is the best way to learn for children age 3 to 6.
Where is the creativity and the imagination in a Montessori classroom? One day I observed a child starting to play with animals according to a language work. The teacher kept redirecting the child to the “real sense” of this material. Is that our goal? Is this following the child s deeper soul?"
That same teacher said:
"I have been a montessori teacher for 8 years. I was totally fascinated to see the work of the children in a montessori classroom! I thought there was no better way to learn for children until I got my own children. My first daughter who is know 4 was in a montessori school since she is half a year old. The circumstances made it that my second one that is three in August just went to Montessori for a very short time.
My conclusion from the last 4 years: Both children are developing in the same way. There is nothing the younger one is not able to do, even without the montessori training. Same stands for her friends by the way.
I agree with Maria Montessori that children are carrying everything within them selfs. Children half a strong will to learn and do what adults are doing. But as they carry it all in them selfs I now see and believe that this learning approach is totally possible in a free environment where the children can play. Everything will come out in the play! And I am missing the possibility for children to play in the montessori classroom!
Montessori said: Give the children the freedom of choice! Well than, go and do it put some building blocks, play silks and dolls in the classroom and see what happens! The time changed. Children are not the wild ones on romans streets who wanna have responsibilities and know how life works. Children are asked too much these days give them their freedom and let them play!"
This teachers critisims back up the concerns I had when I observed a Montessori school.
I'm sure there are a range of schools that interpret the teachings in different ways. But the one I really didn't like, did claim to be following the method to the letter, and fits with this stuff. I've not looked it up before. It's interesting to be able to easily find the same critisms online that I had when I saw the place. And I so wanted to like it too.
My dcs went to a Montessori preschool and had both unrestricted access to outside space and did role play etc (there was a home corner). Yes it was a “proper” Montessori.
They also had children socialising together.
I liked it because they worked to nurture both my dcs and really knew them well.
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