This post is brought to you by another blog that got my mental wheels turning. The author was comparing costs of preschools for his son and contemplating sending said son to a private Montessori school. The author then posed the question, “Is Montessori worth it?” The real question he was asking was, “Is private school worth it?” because the sad fact is that in most parts of the country Montessori = private school. He then goes on to conclude that it is not, in fact, fiscally reasonable or responsible. I agree with the premise and conclusion and also commend the author on dispelling the overstated benefits of private education…
BUT the question in the beginning of the post kept nagging at me, “Is Montessori worth it?” In Houston, we are lucky, and potentially overwhelmed, with all of the school options for our children. As a parent, you have private, public, charter, and magnet schools to explore, apply, and choose from. As a parent of two children in a public Montessori magnet school, I wanted to share 4 of the many reasons that I believe that Montessori is worth it (and almost none of them are academic). These reasons are based on my experience as a Montessori parent and teacher’s assistant:
1. No one is afraid to ask for help: One of the first things I noticed when working with the 7th graders this year is how willing everyone was to ask for help. Whether they were advanced or struggling to stay on grade level there was no stigma to asking for clarification or assistance from peers or teachers. This was very different from my experience working at traditional schools where it was like pulling teeth to get students, particularly the “smart” ones, to reach out for help!
2. Peace Education: Just imagine a classroom where two 5th grade boys were having an issue with one another that was leading to a lot of tension and could have easily spilled over into an argument or fight. Now imagine that before that tension got to the boiling point, one of the boys brought up the tension to the class and enlisted the help of a peer mediator or “peacemaker” to solve the tension problem. Then the three students spent, maybe, 10 minutes working it out and everyone was able to move on. I got to witness that bit of awesomeness last week while helping in an Upper Elementary classroom. And you know what was even more awesome, that was normal! That is what you do when you have a conflict. You work it out. You don’t tattle. You don’t need to involve adults to solve your issues. Talk about a life-long, marketable skill.
3. Approaches to Math and Literacy: I am confident that my children would learn and be academically successful in just about any school, but the Montessori approaches to math and literacy continue to impress me in both my children at the Children’s House level and with my students in the Adolescent program. The emphasis on the “why” in math no doubt would have changed my own relationship with the subject altogether.
4. Encouragement of Non-Academic Work: I get obsessed when I see a Montessori classroom humming along during a work period. Students might be hunched over on rug or desk plugging away at an academic pursuit and some might be sewing a pillow or knitting and someone is always engrossed in a book. Love it. Kids sitting in rows, listening to a teacher at the front of the room does not bring up the same emotions. I mean, c’mon, the level of patience and concentration it takes for a ten year old to hand stitch a pillow closed trumps a test prep worksheet any day. Also, if you have never seen an often “too-cool-for-school” thirteen year old boy tenderly pick up a hen and administer eye drops to her infected eye you should, it is quite epic.
These are just a few of the many, many reasons to love Montessori. To love public Montessori. Don’t you want to promote, expand, and protect it? Me too. You can do this by supporting wonderful organizations that are fighting to expand public Montessori access like Friends of Montessori and Montessori for All. You can also register for the Public Montessori Educators of Texas Conference taking place here in Houston on March 7-8 and hear me and a bunch of other awesome, passionate people present.