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?