Some Questions about Montessori Education & Answers from Clanmore Montessori School

1)  I thought that Montessori schools were just for young children?

Dr. Montessori established her educational theory on the basis of the development of the child from birth through to maturity (0-24). Throughout her life, she wrote many books, created materials and suggested optimal environments for the education of the child at all stages of development. In Canada, many Montessori schools only offer programs until the end of the Casa years (age 6). However, there are greater numbers of schools offering Montessori elementary and middle school programs and some are considering the development of a Montessori High School.

2)  Montessori Elementary and Adolescent classrooms have too few students. How will my child ever have a social life?

Ideally, a Montessori elementary classroom should have anywhere from 25 – 35 students in it. Elementary students are keenly aware and desiring of social interaction with their peers, and so the group must be large enough to accommodate this.

An urban Montessori adolescent program should contain anywhere from 10 – 30 students. Students at this age are learning to become adults and understanding social relationships is a key part of this learning. A smaller class size allows these students the capacity to become a part of a caring social group, and to safely to discover who they are in relation to that social group, how they fit in and what and how they contribute to that group. In a smaller social group, they receive immediate feedback on their role and contributions in and to that group, which is critical to their development at this stage.

Recall your own experience in middle school. It may have been a school with more students, but how many friends did you have in the group that you chose to associate with? Likely you had two or three really close friends and then a larger social group of people that you associated with. Likely that number did not reach more than 30. So within this range, there is ample room for an active social life for these students.

 3)  If the school curriculum ends at age 12, my child will only have two years before he/she needs to move to a new school. I’d rather move him/her to their permanent school after Year 3 so that he/she has established friends for the critical Grade 6-8 years.

This may have been a concern in the past, but as Big Box schools now offer education from preschool through to Grade 8, so too do we need to offer that for our students. In the fall of 2013, Clanmore implemented a Grade/Year 7 & 8 program so that for those parents who would like to have their children complete their middle school education at Clanmore, the option exists.

4)  What about testing and homework? My child won’t manage in the real world if he/she doesn’t have experience with testing and homework.

While it may seem that within a Montessori classroom, testing does not take place, it actually does. Dr. Montessori built self-testing into the use of her materials so that when a student uses the materials in an incorrect manner, they are able to detect the error and may then self-correct. Additionally, the teacher guide in a Montessori classroom is constantly observing each student, taking notes and assessing the student’s progress and need for additional presentations or work. The guide knows the child’s work so intimately from this experience that they can assess first hand whether the student has mastered the piece of work or area of knowledge and is ready to move on. This happens every day in a Montessori classroom.

Additionally, while traditional forms of testing are not implemented in a Montessori school, we recognize that eventually our students will have to take tests as they move on to high school or college/university. Montessori curriculum at the middle school level provides seminars in test taking and exam preparation so that students will be prepared for the process of taking a test or an exam. Anecdotally, students who leave Montessori education fair well when they are required to test. Recently, a year 6 (grade 6) student who had never taken a test before was required to write an entrance exam for one of the most prestigious private schools in Oakville. Without test preparation, that student scored above a Grade 12 level in areas tested. Despite the absence of traditional forms of testing during the student’s Year 1 – 6 experience at Clanmore, this student excelled.

5)  Without things like a rotational schedule of classes and homework, how will my child learn about time management?

In a Montessori classroom, time management is encouraged from an early age. In Year 3 (and sometimes earlier depending on the child), each child is introduced to a journal that they use to record their daily and weekly work, plan for the week ahead and outline what work remains to be completed. Students are responsible for completing this each week, and in doing so, time management becomes second nature to the child at a very young age.

6)  My child needs more technology and sports in his school environment. Why doesn’t a Montessori classroom offer these key subjects?

At Clanmore, technology is introduced when it is developmentally appropriate. While today’s technological society requires us to be knowledgeable and adept at using technology, there is a specific time for this to be introduced to the child so that they can engage it in an appropriate way.  Additionally, because technology changes at such a rapid pace, we need not be worried that our children will be unable to catch up. What is critical is that they have the tools that will allow them to learn to utilize technology effectively and safely when it is developmentally appropriate for them to do so.

At the Elementary level, technology is introduced to support the acquisition of keyboarding skills as a path toward the utilization of the computer to complete work reports/presentations. Technology is more fully integrated into the program at the Adolescent level, because this age group requires the technology to complete and present their in-depth study. Additionally, because adolescents are fundamentally learning what it means to be an adult in society, we must provide students with an understanding of the role of technology in our society and how we most effectively use it for the betterment of our world. Seminars on technology are introduced at this level.

In terms of sports, Clanmore offers students instruction in individual and team sports as well as non-competitive and competitive sport. Clanmore students regularly take a 30 minute “brisk walk”, an informal experience of nature that physically works the growing body. With respect to a more formal physical education program, Clanmore takes the students to local off-site gym experiences when required (e.g. to the ORC for tennis or to Canlan Ice Sports for skating). The school also uses the outdoor soccer field and baseball diamond for instruction and training. Furthermore, each year, the students in Years 4 – 6 compete in the Private School Athletic Association (PSAA) Cross Country and Track & Field meets. With limited indoor space, our efforts at providing the students with a variety of physical education experiences that meet their needs at the Elementary level have been very successful.

With the addition of the new building, Clanmore students now have greater space for indoor sports. The addition includes a gymnasium which can be used for pick-up basketball, floor hockey, volleyball and other indoor sports. The same great outdoor space also remains.

7)  What happens when these kids enter the “real world” of education? How are they going to adjust?

There are a number of researchers who have tracked the outcomes of Montessori students in comparison with other groups of children and as they leave the Montessori environment. Overwhelmingly they suggest that Montessori students are able to adjust with little or no trouble. In fact, research points to the fact that Montessori students are very well prepared for the “real world” and are able to adjust to new and different contexts easily. Please refer to a number of key pieces of research that support this notion including:

  •  Biello, David, “Students Prosper with Montessori Method”, Scientific American, September 29, 2006. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=students-prosper-with-mon
  • Hughes, Dr. Steven, “Good at Doing Things”, found at http://www.goodatdoingthings.com
  • Rathunde, Kevin (2003): A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional Middle Schools: Motivation, Quality of Experience, and Social Context; NAMTA Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3.b.
  • Stoll Lillard, Angeline, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, Oxford University Press, New York: 2005.

8)  Montessori education is so expensive. Is it really worth it?

If one considers that the Montessori approach to education was developed based on the fundamental needs of the child and that it is implemented with an utmost respect for the child, it is absolutely worth it. Additionally, the entire point of Dr. Montessori’s approach is to educate the child for life so that the mature person that emerges has the capacity to contribute their skills, knowledge and talents to the betterment of their communities and the world around them. This makes it all absolutely worthwhile.

Despite this, Clanmore recognizes that it is a difficult financial decision to choose to keep one’s child in a Montessori program into the Elementary and Middle School years. We are continuing to keep our fees competitive to make sure that our programs are accessible to as many as possible.