Will My Child Do Well in Montessori?

classroomPlease note: if you’ve found this blog post, you may be considering Montessori for your child, or your child is having issues in their current setting, whether Montessori or traditional schooling.

Since I can’t observe your child, the classroom, your home situation, or the school they are in, I give the same advice to everyone:

1. If you are considering Montessori for your child, visit the school, observe, and make sure it meets the guidelines for a quality Montessori school. The only way you can know if your child will do well there is to try it! Please read through this entire post as I address every question and concern that you might have.

2. If you have any concerns about your child’s current school situation, whether Montessori or traditional, please first schedule a visit to the school and observe your child on a normal school day, for at least an hour but preferably more. After that, schedule a conference to talk with your child’s teacher(s) and the school director to discuss your concerns and observations.

I cannot give specific advice since I don’t know your situation firsthand. Again, please read this whole post as I address every question and concern you might have. There is no need to leave a comment with the details of your situation – I give the same advice to everyone 🙂

How can you know if your child will do well in Montessori?

Montessori is the ideal way to learn, but it works best when:

1) The child starts Montessori at age 3 or soon after

2) The child stays in Montessori consistently

3) The home is run in a Montessori fashion (quality wooden toys rather than electronic ones; limited TV; lots of reading and outdoor time; children are taught to respect others)

4) The child’s school is an authentic Montessori environment

5) The parents understand Montessori and see their child’s education as long-term rather than expecting instant results or changes, and respects the teachers’ knowledge and training

6) The attitude of the parent: staying positive in spite of bumps in the road, volunteering at the school or PTO, and encouraging your child

Any variation from those 6 points will affect how well a child adjusts to a Montessori program and how much they will thrive in Montessori.

So, as a parent, you can see that you are in charge of many of these factors:

1) You can put your child in a Montessori school as soon as is feasible

2) You can keep your child in a Montessori program rather than pulling them out and putting them back in

3) You can run your home in a Montessori fashion (See: How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way)

4) You can check the school out thoroughly, including observation, feedback from other parents, and its reputation in the community (See my post about What to Look for in a Montessori School)

5) You can educate yourself regarding the Montessori philosophy (there’s so much information available online) and treat your child’s teachers with respect

6) Maintain a positive attitude and become involved at your child’s school

Here are a few characteristics of your child that could influence the outcome:

1) The child’s personality plays a role. A child who is flexible and adjusts easily to new situations will adjust more easily to any new environment, including Montessori

2) If the child has special needs, that may play a role in how well they do in Montessori (see my recent post about Montessori and the Special Needs Child for more information)

3) This is probably the most important one: if your child has spent any amount of time in a traditional education setting where they have received grades and rewards, where learning is a matter of “filling in the blank” with the right answer, and where the teacher is the ultimate authority, it may be very difficult for them to adapt to Montessori

Current brain research tells us that the Montessori method is the natural way to learn, one that follows the child’s own instincts and inner motivation. When a child starts Montessori at an early age, they are invited to learn with their hands, discover things on their own, and follow their own interests.

If that natural learning pattern is disrupted by time spent in a traditional education setting, it can be very difficult for the child to leave behind the grades and rewards and feel that they are in charge of their own educational journey. That is why we always recommend a child start Montessori by age 3, before grades and rewards become part of the curriculum.

You can’t know for sure how your child will do in Montessori until they try it. Even if you are doing your best to be the right kind of “Montessori parent”, things may not work out. Or your child may love it. So I recommend that parents become as informed as they can, and then try it! The vast majority of children love the Montessori method and thrive in Montessori.

What can you do if your child starts Montessori and seems to be struggling?

Sometimes the teachers have brought in “non-Montessori” things like rewards, worksheets, and too much homework. Other times there the child has a behavioral or learning issue that is causing a problem. Sometimes, unfortunately, there is bullying.

The first thing to do is sit down and talk with your child’s teacher, preferably one-on-one. Perhaps there is something they can change in the classroom to help your child adjust. Perhaps there is something you can change at home. Perhaps if they know more about your child and what makes them “tick”, things will improve. But nothing can happen until you talk to them.

If communication with your child’s teacher seems like a struggle (for instance, it seems like they are treating your child unfairly, or are not committed to helping your child succeed), request a conference with the teacher and the school director. Talk things over before making a decision to pull your child out of school.

Another thing to keep in mind is to give it time. Children take time to adjust to a new school of any kind; it can take time to make friends, to feel comfortable in the classroom, to learn how to use the materials, to become familiar with that specific school and the way it operates. There’s usually a 1-3 month period of adjustment when a child starts any new school, including Montessori. Take a deep breath, stay positive, and your child will probably emerge from over that hump victoriously.

My last piece of advice is to remain respectful. Don’t badmouth your child’s teacher in front of your child. Don’t gossip to other parents. Seek out the teacher to clarify something that your child passed on to you that you don’t understand. Talk to the teacher on the phone or meet at the school during non-school hours, without your child present. You can let your child know that you are working on helping them feel better at school without giving them all the details.

If you are considering homeschooling with Montessori, you face a slightly different set of challenges, although much of this post is applicable to your situation as well. See this post about Homeschooling with Montessori for more info.

Parents, any words of advice on how to choose a school or how to help your child adjust to Montessori? Teachers, any advice for parents considering Montessori?

Other helpful links:

Top Ten Reasons to Be Glad You’ve Chosen Montessori for Your Child
Bringing Montessori Discipline Into the Home
What Montessori Really Looks Like
From the NAMC blog: Is It Too Late for My Child to Attend a Montessori School?

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77 Responses to “Will My Child Do Well in Montessori?”

  • Lori Bourne said at March 11th, 2013 at 10:55 pm :

    Hi! This sounds like a difficult situation but I really can’t give advice without being able to observe the school firsthand. I know I sound like a broken record, but please schedule a conference with the teacher(s) to address your concerns, and the school director too if you feel it is warranted.

    I would also take him to a medical doctor to rule out any health issues that might be contributing to the problem.

  • spjaar said at March 11th, 2013 at 11:25 pm :

    We had a conference with teacher this morning and she brought the topic of looking at alternate traditional school 🙁 She might be helping us to put us in right direction. But we are disappointed that all that he has done in Montessori till now is gone waste?

  • Lori Bourne said at March 12th, 2013 at 8:09 am :

    It’s true that Montessori isn’t a perfect fit for every child. So it’s okay if it didn’t work out for your son. I’m sure he learned a lot and developed many character qualities that will be helpful to him as he gets older.

  • spjaar said at March 12th, 2013 at 8:01 pm :

    Lori,
    I agree with you, he has a character built from MA program and I am proud of it. Teacher sent me an update today saying after discussing this with management they wanted to know if we are willing to keep the child in the 3rd grade again for another year for him to develop independence. I am surprised why the teachers couldn’t make out about my son in the beginning of 3rd grade at least. How do they think it will work out in this year if it did not work in past 4 yrs. My son love Montessori and may not like to come out of the school to another school. At the same time I don’t think he would be ready to accept that he will be left in 3rd grade with all his friends moving up to 4th, he would feel very discouraged if that happens so. I am really confused, please advice.

  • Lori Bourne said at March 12th, 2013 at 9:15 pm :

    You are in a difficult situation but I cannot tell you what to do. You should talk to your son to see what he feels. He is definitely old enough to give his own opinion.

  • Melissa said at April 12th, 2013 at 9:18 pm :

    Hi Lori,
    The site is great…thank you! My question relates to the amount of time a 3 year old should spend in school. At 2.5 my son started at a wonderful Montessori school 2 mornings a week (he had been at home with us/a nanny before that). I would like him to continue at this or another similar school in the fall when he is 3 and I really was hoping to have him go 3 days a week. I have found, however, that most of the Montessori schools have only a 5-day program at age 3. I am torn, because while I feel strongly that Montessori is right for him I also feel that going to school 5 days a week (even just mornings) is a lot at that age. I work part time and use some of his mornings off to go to classes and do special things together…it’s really important to me (and, I think, to him) to carve out that special time with him, and we will never get this time back…things will only get more complicated! It’s also nice to have a few days when we’re not rushing around to get out the door for school…again, he’s only 3 and will have years and years of doing that in the near future…sometimes it’s nice to have relaxed, unstructured time without the pressure of having to be somewhere. So my question really is about the philosophy behind the 5-day requirement and whether the entire educational process can be expected to fail if at age 3 he doesn’t have the consistency of 5 school days in a row (note that he currently attends school on Thursday and Friday mornings only and does just fine). I have found no alternatives that satisfy me and am considering signing him up but only sending him 3 or 4 days (and worrying that the school would be very upset with me for it). Again, the concern is not that he won’t be able to handle it, it’s that I also value time with my son and think that it’s equally important for him to have special mommy time…particularly with a new baby arriving just in time for the school year! Sorry for the long post, and thanks!

  • Lori Bourne said at April 12th, 2013 at 10:36 pm :

    Hi! There’s no one answer to your question. Yes, a 3-year-old doesn’t have to be in preschool 5 mornings a week, but Montessori schools do have a good reason for that policy. Montessori is different from traditional preschools, and the children generally do better if they are there more often because of the presentations they receive, etc. However of course you do want plenty of time with your son. I would either keep him home with you full time or enroll him full time – keeping him home one or two days would be confusing to the staff and cost you a lot of extra money. Either way, with such a caring and attentive mom, your son will be fine. That’s the most important part of it.

  • Sarah said at April 22nd, 2013 at 9:30 am :

    Is it too late to make the change from a private school to Montessori in 3rd grade?

  • Lori Bourne said at April 22nd, 2013 at 9:46 am :

    Hi, Sarah! As I talk about in my post, there’s no one answer to that question because it depends on the school, the teachers, the child, and the parents. Please read through all the factors that I mention and take those into account when making your decision.

    Also please read this post from NAMC that I link to at the end of my post: Is It Too Late for My Child to Attend Montessori School? Again, it can’t give you a definitive answer but it will highlight the factors that you need to take into account.

  • Jenny said at June 4th, 2013 at 7:49 am :

    Hi! I have a daughter who has started her Montessori school since age 2 (she is now 5). The thing about Montessori, I think is, not ALL children can be fitted into it, and also it really has to have the right teacher.
    My DD is a very strong willed little girl. She doesn’t like Math. And she seems to struggle despite the concrete concept from Montessori materials. She always negotitate with her teacher to not assign her to work in Math areas. She only get to work with Math material for once in a week.it is apparent that she is left behind from her peers.
    I have talked about this problem repeatedly with the teacher and also the school principal. But they can only blame my daughter for not hanging around the right peer (huh?), since they said that my kid enjoy working so much with younger children that she is not interestedto take an age proper materials.
    I am thinking to move her out from the school. True that she shows her language skills ahead from her peers. But also her Math skill is really lacking that I am worry she might not be able to catch up by the time she has to move to elementary school.

  • Lori Bourne said at June 4th, 2013 at 8:09 am :

    Hi, Jenny! It’s true, I don’t think the school should be blaming your daughter for this. The teacher is supposed to be the link between the child and the materials.

    That said, at 5, they are still free to choose work on their own and it’s okay if she doesn’t do a ton of math. You could do some math activities with her at home to supplement. If she’s otherwise happy and thriving, I wouldn’t take her out of the school just for that.

  • Jenny said at June 9th, 2013 at 8:21 am :

    Hi Lori! Thanks for your response. Yes, I do try to supplement her at home with math. Sometimes I ask her to play math games, by pretending I am a customer in her shop, and she is the cashier, so she has to count all my purchase and do very simple addition. She will eagerly do it until two rounds, and then because she is not interested in calculating anything, she will ask me to be the cashier instead (haha).
    And actually it’s not only about Math that I concern with. She has complained to me several times that she is really bored at school to the point where she refused to go to school. I told her that it should not be possible since there are tons of materials that she can master. But she simply shrugs it off and say, the materials all look the same to her. It gave me an alarm that maybe the teacher was not directing her effectively.
    Oh yes, when I tried to speak to the school principal about her problems in Math, she only recommend us to take an after school class (which means more income for the school). That’s when I thought this is pure business for the school management. This is when I think this is the time for my DD to move to other school.
    I am very sad actually to move her from her current school. I am a die hard fan of Montssori principles. I thought it was the best possible way to teach children. And yet I have to admit that maybe this Montessori school is not the right one. The other Montessori schools are either too far from home or too expensive, so it is not an option to move to other Montessori school. But I guess at leaset she has her 3 years of experiencing Montessori. I hope it will be enough for her.

  • Nazanin said at June 21st, 2013 at 2:48 pm :

    Hi Lori,

    We have a 4 years old son who’s autistic. currently he’s going to a regular preschool with his aid. it looks like the busy and loud environment of his preschool bothers him. his aid says, he’s covering his ears, most of the time! we recently have visited a Montessori preschool, it looks much more quiet and kids look more mellow and calm. we are in the middle of negotiating with them about our needs for our son there. I would appreciate your opinion about it.

  • Lori Bourne said at June 22nd, 2013 at 5:57 pm :

    Hi, Nazanin! Montessori is a wonderful environment for almost any child. As I state at the beginning of my post, I cannot give specific advice because I have not observed your son or the school you are considering.

    Please use this post to evaluate the school you’re considering: Top Ten Things to Look for in a Montessori School (also look at the comments on that post as there are some good additions by blog readers).

    Then, be sure to read through this post in its entirety: Montessori and the Special Needs Child.

    Thanks!

  • Siri said at June 25th, 2013 at 8:03 pm :

    Hello! I’ve been battling this question for a while and just found this forum. I’m hoping someone will be able to help me with a response. I decided to switch my 5 year old son’s school recently from a Christian school to a Montessori school. I was concerned that the school he attended only focused on Math and English and not other areas the Montessori school focused on. He had attended Montessori in the past from 16 months till 3. I changed jobs and unfortunately, the location was not condusive and we had to switch his schools. I however changed jobs again, and in addition, his baby brother came along. I did not want to drop both kids at two seperate locations, so I moved My 5 and a half year old and my 3 year old sons back to the Montessori school. My 5 and a half year old is now the oldest in his class and he simply can’t understand why he’s in thesame class with the babies. Given the two year gap he was away, he really does not remember the Montessori system. My concern is whether or not he’ll actually be ready for 1st grade by the end of the year given the fact that he’s actually the oldest in his class? He tells me the jobs are boring, as he’s obviously not used to this method of learning. Given that it’s summer, I still have time to move him back to his district school for regular Kindergarten. Thoughts on whether or not to keep him at the Montessori school given that he’s the oldest in his class would be sincerely appreciated. PS: All his former classmates who were in the same class with him before he left the school have all left to begin Kindergarten at their local schools or other private schools, hence more of my confusion. The Montessori schools program goes from 18 months – 6 years old though.

    Thanks,

  • Lori Bourne said at June 25th, 2013 at 9:23 pm :

    Hi, Siri! Any quality Montessori school should be able to keep a child busy and challenged in the 3-6 class all the way through 6 years of age. I find that frequently the parents’ issues are with the school, not the Montessori method itself.

    I know I sound like a broken record, but you need to talk with the teachers/director and share your concerns. Find out just how much they care about your son’s welfare and involving him in the class and preparing him for 1st grade. Not all Montessori schools are good schools, unfortunately.

  • Lorena said at September 27th, 2013 at 3:52 am :

    Hello! I have a situation regarding my son’s new montessori. He started the primary 3-6 years old class three weeks ago. He turned three the week after classes started. I did not hear anything from the lead teacher until she call me in for a conference with her and the director. They said that after three weeks they felt that since my son has never been to a preschool or montessori before then he should go to the toddler class (18 months to 36 months) so he gets to learn the materials offered in montessori. When I went to see the toddler class I got upset because the average age is 2 years 3 months and their schedule as far as eating lunch and nap time is not similar to my sons (they do everything much earlier) Also, at that level they don’t offer the classes he like which are music, gym, library time, etc.
    I don’t know what to do. It seems absurd that they make this determination based on three weeks of classes, and if he does not know how to behave and handle materials that is what the guide is there for.
    I don’t want to take a step back in my child’s development by putting him in a lower class. Thanks!

  • Lori Bourne said at September 27th, 2013 at 5:40 am :

    Hi, Lorena! I do find this situation puzzling, as most children who enter the 3-6 environment have not been in a toddler program and need to be introduced to the materials from the beginning. So, maybe there is more to it than that? I would sit down with the teachers and school director and share all of your concerns just as you’ve outlined here. See what they say and go from there.

  • Lorena said at September 27th, 2013 at 9:32 am :

    Hi Lori, thank you for your prompt response. They agree that it was premature for them to make that determination since he just started. We will try this Monday in a primary class with a different teacher and see how he adapts. I am sure he will do fine as in this new class there are more children that are on the older side and he should imitate that. I will let you know how it goes, in the mean time I will try to apply toys and methods at home where he can start to relate.
    Thanks!

  • Eurianya said at September 29th, 2013 at 11:00 pm :

    Hey.
    I found out about Montessori last year as I was expressing my concerns with my daughters AWESOME 1st grade teacher about my then 5th grade son, need less to say I looked into and am sooo glad I did. However now that my son will be starting Montessori School next week(hopefully) and he’s been in public school from k-6 I’m a little concerned how well he will do. We took the tour, he spent a half day in the classroom, got the scholarship and everything was set to go. Then after they reviewed the teach recommendations from his 5th grade teacher (with said he’s very smart jist lacks organization and self motivation) I got a call saying they want him to spend a full day just to see how he does. I know that montessori is the perfect (as perfect as you can get in an imperfect world) fit for him but I am a tiny bit worried. Have you had or know of children starting Montessori at 11yrs old and doing well?

  • Lori Bourne said at September 30th, 2013 at 7:05 am :

    Hi! In my experience it generally does not work out for a child that age starting Montessori for the first time. Not just because of the materials, although they have missed hundreds of presentations that are built upon each year which puts them way behind the other kids, but because of the difference in mentality compared to traditional (public) education.

    They almost have to be “deprogrammed” from the grade/test/competition mentality and it can take a very long time. However, it does depend on the child and the teacher, and every situation is different.

    Please read this post that I linked to at the end of my post, as it’s very helpful: Is It Too Late for My Child to Attend Montessori School?

  • Karen said at October 6th, 2013 at 9:38 pm :

    Hi! I am returning to work next September and my son will be 2.5 years old. I have looked into traditional toddler day care settings but have found a Montessori preschool that I am particularly fond of. Typically the school accepts students at 2.9 but the director seems to think my child may be ready and will meet with us next august to evaluate him. My son would have to attend five mornings a week from 8-12:45 or so. If he is deemed ready by the director do you agree that this is an appropriate setting for a child his age? It’s hard to know what he will be like in a year but I have to select a child care option now! Currently he is a very bright and fun child who does not have any problems with separate anxiety and we actually call him the “worker” because he enjoys projects and honestly cleaning and copying everything we do around the house!

  • Lori Bourne said at October 7th, 2013 at 7:07 am :

    Hi, Karen! It’s not unheard of for a child that age to enter a 3-6 environment. However, if you look through the comments here, you’ll see that I typically do not give specific advice as every situation is different and I can’t observe your son or the setting. You know him best, so you’ll need to work with the teacher(s) and school director to observe him in the classroom and talk through your concerns. Best of luck!

  • Jessica said at October 7th, 2013 at 9:35 pm :

    I was initially SO EXCITED when my child got into a FREE Montessori Magnet School. She started just shy of two weeks ago and it has been a VERY rough transition. The very first day, she had several bruise finger imprints on her arm. My daughter (who is very well behaved at home) said her teacher squeezed her arm really hard because she wasn’t being a good listener and that she put her (basically) in a time out for three minutes. My daughter isn’t put into time out at home and has never been in child care prior to this school. I showed it to the principal and the principal had the teacher come down and speak with us. The teacher conceded that she did have to speak with her and remove her from a group activity but you know, she isn’t going to say she ACTUALLY put her hands on my child… I believe my child. Since then, the teacher has given me attitude and been just weird. Not to mention that she is mostly unavailable, since I pick up half day and the teacher has to stay for their full-day program. I get NO information about her progress, what she has done or eaten that day, nothing! It frankly is making me very angry!

    She was initially very excited to be going to school, but now she has drag out fights and freaks out when it’s drop off time. I am not allowed to walk her top her classroom, of course. I feel like I am sending her in with some awful teacher! They won’t let me go observe her because they think it would be “disruptive to her adjustment period”. I am about to make some “adjustments to them… period!” I don’t want to bring her back, but I cannot afford to put her into ANY program at the moment and she NEEDS to have socialization and preschool. I am very upset and concerned. I feel like because I have been so open about my concerns that I have been labeled a “problem parent”. I also get the impression that they do not like my attachment parenting approach. I listen and nurture and respect my child and my instincts are screaming that this is not good for my child. I want her to be independent, but she NEVER had separation anxiety until she started there. I am supposed to have conferences on Wed (which I wanted my husband to go to, but they only notified us three days ago and he cannot take time off from work- and they only offer one day). I desperately need some advice about what I should reasonably expect. Thanks in advance.

  • Lori Bourne said at October 7th, 2013 at 9:53 pm :

    Hi, Jessica! Sadly, you have discovered what many parents do – just because a program calls itself “Montessori” does not mean that it is. I cannot give you any idea of what to expect in your conference because I have never heard of a Montessori school being run in this manner. Montessori schools run in a true Montessori fashion emphasize respecting the child and treating them kindly. Clearly that is not happening at this school.

    What I can tell you is that if you have any concerns about your child’s safety, that takes precedence over any kind of socialization or academics that she might need. Also your child cannot thrive in a school if she or you (or both) are not comfortable in it. So you need to make your decision based on that, not whether or not your daughter needs preschool.

  • Jessica said at October 8th, 2013 at 6:15 am :

    I’m not sure if I should just switch teachers? The teacher won’t let her have anything from home either and while I understand the montessori approach about toys and a prepared classroom, she’s a young child who feels dumped into a strange world. She wanted to bring a little stuffed dog and she was told no- it was her very first day! I had prepared her for the past six months and mistakenly read a book about what to expect at preschool and it mentioned being allowed to share special thugs from home with your friends (such as show and tell). She’s only been there a little over a week and she is feeing increasingly upset. Also, this school is on track to be AMI certified by next year (The sister school is already certified and the principal from that school moved to this one once the cert was complete). The principal is great but this teacher (she’s been doing this for 30 years) seems to be a problem.

  • Lori Bourne said at October 8th, 2013 at 7:19 am :

    Hi, Jessica! Some of the things you’ve mentioned (not bringing a toy to school, no show and tell, no information from the teachers about progress, eating habits, etc) is pretty typical of Montessori. There are reasons behind it, but the bottom line is that the teachers should still be kind and respectful to the child.

    Some parents are bothered by these practices but they should ALWAYS be able to observe – I would run from a school that doesn’t have an open door policy. Every Montessori school I’ve ever worked at had two-way mirrors so the parents could observe without being in the room and disturbing the children. I do agree it’s too early in the year for a parent to be in the classroom observing – it’s definitely distracting.

    The reason that parents are okay with most of these practices is because they see the quality of the environment and how much their child loves it. So, they don’t worry about getting daily reports. The teacher should be working to introduce beginning Montessori materials to the newer children so that they have something they can be doing right away that they enjoy and look forward to, so they don’t need toys from home, etc.

    The thing that concerns me most isn’t the strictness of the school’s policies (except for “no observations” – that’s not right) – it’s the possibility of physical abuse. If you do keep your daughter there, she should definitely not be in that teacher’s classroom but the school board needs to know what that teacher did. If it happened to your daughter it could happen to someone else.

    Also, if you do keep her there but she switches classrooms, I suggest adjusting your expectations. As long as your daughter is treated respectfully, I would have a cheerful attitude and not complain about things like bringing toys to school, not getting daily reports, etc. Your daughter is definitely going to pick up on your own feelings towards the school and reflect them. Again, even with the strictness of these policies, most children thrive in Montessori if it is done correctly, and things like daily reports and toys from home aren’t necessary for the parent or the child.

    There is definitely a “hump” for some parents and some kids in adjusting to a Montessori environment. Usually after the first month or so it’s much easier. But physical abuse should never be tolerated.