Common misconceptions about Montessori education
There exist many misconceptions about Montessori education. Let's take this opportunity to clear them up.
Misconception: children are allowed to do whatever they want
While children do have a high degree of "freedom" in a Montessori classroom, this interpretation is far from the truth. Freedom does not mean that children can do whatever they like. Rather, children are encouraged to think independently and act as respectful members of a social society. This is achieved within clearly defined boundaries.
Freedom comes from unrestricted movement, through interaction with peers and environment, and through the ability to choose their own work in response to their needs and interests.
Misconception: Montessori education does not allow for fantasy and inhibits children from using their imagination
Imagination is often confused with fantasy, as it is widely known that fantasy is discouraged in the Montessori pedagogy. Maria Montessori understood that children could not differentiate between fantasy and reality until about the age of 7 years old.
To a child, what they see is what they perceive as reality. Maria's focus was therefore based on providing children an environment which reflected everything that was real.
Whilst fantasy is undesirable in the Montessori classroom, children are given many opportunities to engage in imaginary play. Imaginary play differs from fantasy as it is created by the child as a means of expression. Role-play and other creative outlets help the child make sense of the world around them.
Misconception: children are not encouraged to be creative in the Montessori pedagogy
Maria Montessori placed much emphasis on the importance of nurturing the child's creativity, with many opportunities for music and art to be explored and enjoyed.
"We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, not all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry." Dr Maria Montessori
Misconception: children are left to fend for themselves
In essence, children are left to work things out for themselves, however a guiding parent or educator always offers support and guidance if they observe the child experiencing frustration or defeat.
The Montessori educator understands the importance of allowing children the opportunity to develop skills for themselves. If the parent or educator intervenes too quickly, the lesson is taken away from the child. Thus, children are given time to develop skills which will pave the way towards independence.
Children are not hurried to complete a task, as it is not important for the job to be completed quickly, but the child is given time to work through the required steps.
Misconception: Montessori education is for children with special needs such as giftedness or learning disabilities
This misconception likely stems from the success that children with special needs experience in Montessori environments. The reason for their effectiveness, however, is that the learning environments have been designed to ensure success for all children, at their own level and pace of learning.
Misconception: Montessori classrooms push children too much and too fast
Central to the Montessori pedagogy is the idea of allowing the child to develop at their own pace. The many stories of Montessori children being far ahead of traditional expectations for their age level reflect not artificial acceleration, but the possibilities when children are permitted to learn at their own pace in a specifically developed environment.
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