That is what I would have told you about Montessori schools, had you asked me about it five years ago. Because that’s about all I knew when I started looking for preschools for my son.
We didn’t have any specific educational method in mind at the time. We just wanted a place that was safe and fun, where the teachers really cared about the children and where our son would find friendship and make new discoveries.
Myth 1: "It’s chaos. There is no structure."
Walk into any Montessori classroom and you’ll immediately know this isn’t true. First of all, it’s rather quiet. Quieter than you’d expect in a room with 20 or so children between the ages of 3 and 6. Because the children are busy. The room is set up with projects that support the practical and sensory skills the children need to learn at this age. In the Montessori vernacular, those projects are called “work” and “materials.” They do have freedom to choose what works they want, but with guidance and support from the teachers.
Myth 2: "It’s too structured and kids can’t use their imagination."
It’s funny to think that these two myths exist side by side. Perhaps it’s the well-ordered shelves of works (see above) that give people the idea there is too much structure. Children are allowed to move freely about to access all the materials they need. Additionally, for children, play and “work” are often the same thing. For example, think of how your own child can happily spend time stacking and arranging toys or blocks. The two experiences are similar, but in the Montessori classroom, the child is actually working toward mastery of skills and subjects.
Myth #3: "It’s too outdated."
It’s true that Montessori is over 100 years old. But the traditional method of schooling as exhibited by most public schools is even older. And today, the Montessori method is being talked about in the same sentences as innovation, particularly by identifying famous people who went to Montessori schools: Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com; both founders of Google; chef Julie Child; Dr. Brazelton, renowned pediatrician; former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis; actress Helen Hunt; and Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, just to name a few. And here is a really neat article in the Harvard Business Review about Montessori concepts coming into the business world.
So if any of this sounds intriguing, I strongly encourage you to go see it in action. I now have two children there, and have served on the board. Pinewoods Montessori has a toddler program, preschool classes (they call it primary at Montessori) and an elementary program.