With heavy eyes, I read the same paragraph for the third time in a row. My last dose of caffeine was definitely wearing off. I needed to do something – anything – to push through and continue studying.
Montessori teachers and school administrators often hear versions of the following questions from parents who are wondering how well their children are being academically prepared in Montessori programs: How does the Montessori curriculum compare to traditional curricula? Are Montessori elementary programs usually academically “accelerated” in relation to their traditional counterparts? How do Montessori graduates compare to other students?
The definition of fantasy is: “ideas that have no basis in reality”. Fantasy can be a great tool for escape and entertainment for those of us who have a strong grip on reality. However, young children (before the age of 5 or 6) are not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality; a phenomenon that has dire repercussions on their ability to learn and problem-solve.
Here, as always, the child’s liberty consists in being free to choose from a basis of real knowledge, and not out of mere curiosity. He is free to take up which of the “radial lines of research” appeals to him, but not to choose “anything he likes” in vacuo. It must be based on a real center of interest, and therefore motivated by what Montessori calls “intellectual love.”
Peter and Margaret had heard that children in Montessori schools were precocious learners. Their neighbor’s five-year old daughter, Jenny, began to read and write while she attended the local Montessori school. They didn’t know much about the method, but when the time came to enroll their three-year-old son Wyatt in a preschool, they decided to give Montessori a chance.
Dr. Maria Montessori discovered a brilliant and elegant solution to the challenge of meeting every child’s needs. She created, tested, and refined the through observation auto-didactic (self-teaching) materials to convey particular knowledge to children. Today’s Montessori teachers rely on the same materials and do very little direct instruction.
It reminds me of a presentation I made several years ago to the “Men’s Business Breakfast Club”. I asked, “How many of you like learning something new?” and every hand went up. Then I asked, “How many of you liked school?” and almost every hand went down.
One of my jobs is to meet with prospective parents after what is often their first observation in a Montessori classroom. My first question to them is simply, “What did you see?” Here are the actual quotes from observers in toddler and primary classes with whom I met this November, in response to that question