I often find it very interesting when interviewing and touring new families through the school. Hearing what people believe Montessori education to be, and sharing with them what it is, is often a world apart. Here are some of my favourite myths that I’ve collected over my 30 years as an educator.

#1 Montessori Classrooms are a “free for all.”

Nothing could be further from the truth! The Montessori classroom is a carefully prepared environment equipped with materials designed and arranged in a way that meets the needs of the children. Montessori guides/teachers are prepared through specific teacher education training programs that give them the skills necessary to plan these environments and prepare their spaces based on the needs of their students.

These environments empower children to move freely and choose the work (jobs) that they would like to explore under the careful observation of the Montessori guide. The classroom has clear boundaries to support the children in their choices and understanding.

Dr. Montessori based this design on her scientific observations that children are more motivated to learn when they are given the freedom of choice. It is during the three-hour work cycle that we see the variety of self-directed activities intended to develop concentration and independence taking place.

#2 Montessori classrooms are over-structured.

Yes you read that correctly, it seems that many believe that our classrooms are either free range chickens running amok or little toy soldiers being trained for battle.

The Montessori environment does contain a structure and order in how it is designed. However, the guides provide beautiful presentations of the materials, demonstrating the step by step process to the child. The child is then free to choose that job deciding when, where, with whom and on what they would like to work with daily. The guide, through careful observation will note the child’s skill development and concept mastery as the child uses the material.

One of Maria Montessori’s best-known quotes is “follow the child”, the trained Montessori educator meets the child where they are at as an individual.

#3 Montessori schools do not promote social engagement

Montessori environments are designed with a three-year cycle, this means that the classroom is a mixed age grouping (ie. 3-, 4-, and 5-year old’s together). While our focus is most definitely on meeting the child where they are at, this does not inhibit their movements or their desire to work with the other children.

In our classrooms, the children refer to their activities as jobs or work. The young child does not distinguish between work and play, what they do seek is meaningful activities/work where they gain a sense of accomplishment. When the children are engaging in their daily tasks, they are free to work on their own or with others, the choice is theirs.

The three-year age cycle supports peer modelling, social engagement, and leadership opportunities and invites a host of experiences through rich interactions and observations led by the children themselves.

#4. There’s no evidence that Montessori works.

Angeline Lillard points to a large and growing body of research that supports the Montessori model for all ages and across populations. “The data speak,” she says, “I go with whatever the data tell us.

A few studies worth noting:
• Montessori Preschool Elevates and Equalizes Child Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study. (Frontiers in Psychology, 2017). “Montessori children fared better on measures of academic achievement, social understanding and mastery orientation, and they also reported relatively more liking of scholastic tasks. They also scored higher on executive function when they were 4.” Elevating and Equalizing Outcomes
• Examining the Literature on Authentic Montessori Practices: Multi-Age Groupings (AMS Research Committee White Paper). “Evidence of the benefits of mixed aged classrooms can be organized into the following categories: its impact on children’s cognitive development, its impact on their social development and the pedagogical advantages it affords teachers.” Authentic Montessori Practices
• The research continues, within and beyond the Montessori universe.
Evidence Brief: Ideal Learning Environments

Evidence Brief: Ideal Learning Environments

#5 Everything is Montessori now.
Given the sheer number of Montessori schools, on top of those that profess to offer a Montessori-inspired curriculum, it’s tempting to think the Montessori revolution is complete.
Lillard disagrees, saying, “Our whole model of education in this country is still based on this Cartesian input-output model, which we know now is not how the brain works. There are so many things about education today that don’t correspond to how we know children learn and how we know the brain works. Montessori is an alternative that does correspond to brain science.”