The Montessori approach to education has been on the rise as prominent figures including Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Taylor Swift reveal that they attended Montessori schools growing up. Is the Montessori method effective in educating and producing intelligent humans? Does the Montessori approach exclude important aspects of learning that are essential for growth?
If you’re debating on whether or not Montessori High Schools are the right choice for your child or family, we’ll help you understand both sides of the equation. Going through both the benefits and drawbacks of this way of education will allow you to broaden your understanding of what really happens in these schools and if they actually produce effective educating results.
Pros of Montessori High School
1. Curiosity and Independency
In the early 1900s, Dr. Maria Montessori developed her new method of education that involved a strict push for independence and the desires of the child. This method is based almost solely on the natural interests of the child instead of a structured curriculum that is offered in traditional public schools. (Source)
Because Montessori schools focus so heavily on self-directed activities and hands-on learning, there is a huge space for children’s creativity to foster and grow. Children are also taught based on their own will and typically act independently to learn the subject material.
Students in Montessori schools usually decide what the focus of their learning will be, based on their natural eagerness and curiosity toward specific subjects. Children are given almost full-fledged independence in their learning. They are encouraged to pursue the concepts that interest them and learn according to their own learning pace.
Learning to be independent is an important lesson that should be established at a young age. Self-discovery and governance help children learn they can complete tasks on their own and learn anything they wish to.
2. Intrinsic Motivation and Self-reliance
We all have days when we have less motivation to do certain tasks at hand. Within the set boundaries of a Montessori school, they cater to your child’s motivational drives and help produce quality learning no matter how uninterested your child may be.
Contrary to what occurs a lot of the time in public schools, children are not forced to a set curriculum that they must complete on a schedule. They have room to explore and take time. This does not mean your child will become lazy and slack in their learning. This tactic works in the opposite of what we may think. When children aren’t forced into learning and have a rigid and boring schedule, they are more likely to love learning and have a desire to participate actively in school.
Intrinsic motivation is driven by factors such as passion and care. External motivation is driven by factors such as money, force, recognition or status, etc. Montessori schools take advantage of the fact that internal motivation drives curiosity and eagerness.
Self-reliance in Montessori schools is profound. Since they are the designators of the concepts and subjects they explore, education and learning are brought about by their own means.
Montessori schools are a fantastic place for your child to learn self-reliance and accountability. They choose what to learn and how fast they learn. Because they are internally motivated, participating in schooling because they love it, they are more accountable for the pursuit of their own education. It becomes a personal matter of desire instead of something they have to do.
3. Individualized Learning and Analysis
Every child is different and therefore has a different way they learn. To cater to these differences, Montessori schools make education a personal matter rather than a group matter. Children govern their own pace and decide how fast they move through the curriculum. They determine their learning style and complete tasks according to their unique plan.
Students are given the freedom to pursue their individual interests and questions. The teachers, mentors, and other students in the classrooms support these queries and help to foster growth in these areas for each other.
As your student moves through the years in Montessori school, they mature and grow. They are given the opportunity to analyze and reflect on what they could do better and what they are doing well. They are taught to think about and critique their learning in order to produce progression through education in the future. As they learn to distinguish how to be better, they are given the freedom and space to adjust their paths and continue in new directions if they see fit.
4. Rarity for Homework
At Montessori schools, the instructors try to encourage interest in activities that the student can pursue in and outside of schooling hours. They recognize that learning doesn’t only happen within the classroom. The majority of our progress and development comes from what we do outside of the school atmosphere.
The homework that is typically given in public schooling are worksheets, notes, textbook readings, etc. Montessori steers away from the idea of “busy work” and strives to help the children desire to complete activities or responsibilities that will develop their language, cognitive, emotional, and physical skills.
Children are highly encouraged to spend time with their families and peers doing brain-stimulating activities that will help create strong neuropathways in their brains. Creating relationships and bonds with their families by doing fun experiments or projects driven by the child immensely increases their desire to continue learning.
Children are also asked to discover how and why things work the way they do. This out-of-the-classroom discovery counts toward what Montessori schools would classify as homework. Essentially any learning that the child does outside of the classroom is considered homework. Worksheets, if given, are rare and typically not anything like normal public schools.
Cons of Montessori High School
1. Difficulty Adapting to Further Education
Although a Montessori style of learning is incredibly beneficial in young, preschool-aged children, it is uncertain if this type of learning is helpful for older students in middle and high school.
Because these children aren’t typically exposed to the types of materials taught in public schools, they are often unequipped for the rigorous schedule and curriculum that is offered and implemented in the college and university setting.
These students often don’t have the academic background that is needed for the type of education and classes that these upper-level schools have to offer. Montessori classes are based on a hands-on learning approach whereas public schools are more passive. They involve textbooks and lectures and have smaller amounts of hands-on learning opportunities.
The struggle is especially prominent in students who have been in Montessori schools for three or more years. This would prove especially hard for Montessori high school students because high school is the most significant time for students to prepare for a college education. The ways of college life would be completely new to Montessori students and it can be extremely overwhelming and tough to adjust and even function in these settings.
2. Limited Access to Montessori Schooling
Unfortunately, Montessori schools have very limited access. There are roughly 5,000 Montessori schools in the United States. Only about 500 of those are public and federally funded. The majority of Montessori schools are private schools with an “elitist” nature.
Oftentimes, despite the original goals of Montessori schools to be diverse both economically and culturally, spots are filled by children from privileged (and typically white) backgrounds. If these schools aren’t federally funded, they often come with steep tuition prices falling between $12,000 and $15,000. (Source)
The Montessori schooling approach programs are typically the favorite of wealthy families. They will often start getting on the waiting lists when they are only pregnant with a child. The competition to get into private Montessori schools is insane and relatively unfair to those of poor economic backgrounds.
Montessori schools are also hard to find. There are about 27,000 public high schools and only about 150 Montessori schools that go all the way to 12th grade. Typically, these types of schools are just for preschool and elementary-aged kids. It will prove to be difficult to find a Montessori-organized high school for your child and if you do find one near, you will most likely have a long waiting list and hefty tuition to encounter. (Source)
3. Loose Curriculum
Many parents criticize the amount of independence given to children in the Montessori method. It is believed by many that the more leisure children are given, the less likely they will be to actually learn and retain important information and skills. Parents are also concerned that Montessori schools won’t provide enough education on certain subjects because the child isn’t innately interested in them.
For example, a student may want to learn about art and not even touch science or history. While students aren’t given complete freedom in this way and there is some sort of curriculum, it is very loose and “unstructured.” It can be hard for students to learn important skills such as perseverance and diligence in their studies when they only get to pursue what they like. If students never learn to do hard things or uninteresting things, they will not be adequately ready to function in the real world or in further education settings.
Normal public high schools are beneficial for students in a lot of ways. They learn standardized material that is essential for success in college and life, and they also learn how to establish routines and cover difficult subject matters.
Montessori schools often combine age groups in one classroom. One class could have students spanning an age range of three years. This is believed to stifle learning in the older kids because they will inherently get no stimulation from the younger children. This is criticized as harm to development and a muffler of academic learning.
4. Minimizing Opportunities for Friendships and Relationships
Many people believe that the independence factor of Montessori schools will take away from their child’s ability to foster good relationships with their peers. When classrooms are small and have a diverse age range, students can often feel isolated and have difficulty relating to anyone within the room. Students are taught according to their desires and interests, and as those differ from other kids, they are separated from any form of learning that would encourage similarities.
With this method of learning programmed into their brains, students will find it hard to fit in (socially and academically) at upper-level institutes that don’t follow the same methods.
5. Collaboration and Teamwork Inabilities
This method of teaching and learning is highly centered around each child’s own independence and accountability. This leaves very little room for fostering collaboration and teamwork skills. Children learn what they want in an individualized program. This can take away from the need to work in teams on certain subjects. The praised individuality and independence features of Montessori schools may go overboard when these skills are found lacking in adults who attended these schools.
In any setting, especially in the workplace and post-education, people will need to know how to work together and get along with others. After years of being taught that you are the only person that matters in your education and lifelong learning pursuits, you are prone to difficulties relating to teamwork and working with others.
There are often not many group projects or learning lessons in Montessori schools. This discourages children from problem-solving that involves more people than themselves. Public schools help teach collaboration skills that are vital for success in college and life.
Hopefully, these pros and cons gave you an idea of what the Montessori method of schooling is like. If you are considering a Montessori high school for your child, we encourage you to pursue research and options that could be a great fit for your family. There are downsides and benefits to every model of learning, so consider what would work best for your child in this situation.
Overall, Montessori schools are just another way to educate your child, the choice is ultimately up to your child to establish what they want from their education and how to accomplish their future goals.