I am always very excited when a friend or acquaintance approaches me asking about Montessori. This can also be an intimidating situation, though– how to explain Montessori in a way that is both concise and thorough? I’m afraid of overwhelming them with too much information all at once, or giving them a dense book that they start reading but then set aside and forget about.
I expected her to ask, ‘What’s Montessori?’ or to disdainfully say something like, ‘Oh, isn’t Montessori where children do whatever they want?’ Instead, she almost jumped out of her chair and exclaimed: “Oh my goodness, I LOVE MONTESSORI!!!” Before I could get a word in, she began to tell me her story, and I realized that I had to share it with the world.
They are surprised by the children’s independence, and by the overall atmosphere of calmness and happiness in both environments. They are also brimming with questions and reactions. As Mr. S phrases it, “Although I was very impressed by the children’s purposefulness and engagement, it’s just not what I was expecting. It’s not what I’m used to. How on earth do you accomplish this?”
One unfortunate aspect of Montessori is that, since no one “owns” the name/title, anyone who wishes to can open up a preschool, put a pink tower in the corner, and call themselves “Montessori.” There are many wonderful and amazing Montessori schools… and there are also quite a few not very good ones, and unfortunately it is these lesser schools that help spread confusion and misinformation of what Montessori is and how it works.
It’s not that Montessori only works with exceptional children. Rather, from our point of view, every child is blessed with exceptional potential, your child included.
More recently, this morning I found ‘Montessori’ too, more than 40 years later, when, as I straightened up my office I pulled off of my bulletin board a postcard I sent myself in 2009 from Mt. Vernon.
With this recent publication Maren Schmidt gathers upon her full-range of Montessori experience to help parents better understand what, how, and why a Montessori education is the appropriate choice for children of all ages.
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