Trusting the Montessori Method

The other day, my mom was taking care of my kids while we were out. As she was getting them ready for bed, my son (who’s 6) looked at her and said, “Grandma, my mom is a Montessori teacher, but you’re nothing.” My mom was kind of shocked, but then she replied, “Actually, I’m a nurse.” My son: “Really? Are you really a nurse, grandma?” She assured him that she was, and in doing so gained back some (well-deserved) respect from her grandson.

As we laughed about it later, I was reminded of the first Montessori directress I worked with. I remembered her telling me that that if you met someone who had worked in Montessori or whose child had attended a Montessori school, and you told them you were Montessori certified, they had immediate respect for you. Why is that? I’m sure it’s because the training itself is very difficult – only seven people in my original class of 20 completed every requirement – and because the implementation of that training is even more difficult.

When I was taking the Montessori training, I talked to my husband incessantly about Montessori theories. To his credit, he listened with interest. At one point, I asked him: “What do you really think of the Montessori method? Is it a valid way for children to learn?” His reply: “It really depends on the person doing it”.

In my experience, if a Montessori school – or Montessori-styled homeschool – isn’t working, it’s because of the person implementing the method, not because there’s a problem with the Montessori method itself. There’s plenty of evidence that the Montessori method, when implemented correctly, works and works well.

It can be hard for us as teachers and parents to always trust the Montessori method. The results are not always readily apparent. And, the usual metrics – grades, test scores, report cards – aren’t there to reassure us that everything is working. Also we teachers and parents practice the Montessori method imperfectly, no matter how learned or skilled we may be. There’s always room for improvement.

So, I’m issuing a dual challenge to myself and anyone reading: to trust in the Montessori method even when we don’t see immediate, quantifiable results; and to constantly strive to be true Montessorians, observing children closely, respecting their choices, and providing them with carefully chosen, beautiful materials. I know we can do it!

Last but not least, a very Happy Valentine’s Day to your and yours!