Montessori education: Mother explains choice for her kids


A lot of people ask me why I chose a Montessori education for my kids – lots of people have this misconception that it’s a ‘hippy’ option of schooling, where the kids just roam around doing whatever they want.

People think because it is primarily student-led learning, they figure that the children will just stick to the easy, fun jobs. But we’ve found the opposite has happened, because the kids get to choose their own subject and activity area to focus on during teaching session, they tend to pick something they are currently inspired about and will therefore put real effort into – as opposed to putting in the bare minimum because they are expected to do a specific topic at a specific time, at a pre-set level that suits their age group.

All our kids have grown to love learning and enjoy the process, precisely because it’s self-led – learning is more of a pleasure, and less of a chore.

We first decided to try Montessori when Claire, our eldest, was almost three. She’s really bright, and I noticed she was developing an obvious desire to be taught and learn at a level that I just couldn’t provide with day-to-day home life and activities. She took to the Montessori education really quickly and soaked up everything they offered. My three other children have all followed her into the Montessori system, all three of them starting at three years of age, and have all enjoyed and benefitted from it.

The educational side

The teachers work one on one with the kids, and they let them progress at their own speed, as opposed to sticking to what’s in the curriculum, or what their age group ‘should’ be doing. So because Claire’s gifted at maths, for example, she was given lessons based on what she was achieving – which was much harder than what she’d be allowed to do in a regular class.

This doesn’t mean they are left to fall behind at the stuff they aren’t as good at, or don’t enjoy as much though – the teacher works as ‘guide’ to encourage them to set goals and achieve in areas they struggle with, while making sure the day-to-day work is student and not teacher-led. The students all keep their own work journal as well, which is shared with the teacher weekly, and the kids self-evaluate how they are doing, and what they think they need to work on next – which is guided, but not dictated by the teacher. This journal and the discussions are then shared with us, the parents, on a regular basis, so we can stay on top of their learning as well.

Something that is fairly unique to Montessori is that they have children of different ages and stages in the one class.

This is really helpful, especially when it comes to picking up their skills in areas they are less confident in – seeing the older kids achieve in these areas inspires them to master new skills, and because Montessori is very community minded and not competitive, the older kids will help out if someone is struggling. They all have a turn at being the youngest and the oldest in the class, so they get the benefit of learning from their peers, and they later get the chance to mentor younger kids, which is a valuable skill in itself, and it also consolidates what they’ve learned.

What do they do all day?

The classrooms are set up with various job ‘stations’ for different skills areas with specially designed toys and resources, and the children are able to choose what they feel like working with at any given time. You might expect them to only do what they are good at, but because they want to learn, they will often work really hard to master a tricky skill – and while the teachers don’t dictate what they do, they do guide them.

The education itself is very practical and play based. All my children are very independent and have many practical skills (learned from the practical job shelf) from balling socks to cutting food with a knife properly, setting a table washing dishes.

The practical job section in each class is great. Thankfully, many public schools are now incorporating Montessori teaching into their schedule.

Grading and the national curriculum

Montessori doesn’t use a traditional grading system, and they don’t give rewards – even praise is very specific to the tasks and not the overall child, so they won’t say things like, “Well done, you’re a very clever girl”, rather “You did it!” when they achieve a task they’ve struggled with. This gives the kids a sense of pride in themselves, but they don’t grow to expect praise for everything they do – or measure themselves harshly when they go out into the real world, that doesn’t high five you for everything.

Another misconception is that kids that go to Montessori struggle to achieve outside the Montessori environment, which we’ve found to be completely untrue.

My eldest has just transitioned to a local private school in upper primary, where she’s fitting into her class at a high level academically. We recently moved the youngest three to a public school that is much closer to home, and the teachers for all three have told me they are quite advanced in certain topics for their ages, and certainly on par for the rest.

The kids did initially struggle to do things in a traditional way – doing maths at class time, and doing exactly what everyone else their own age is doing, but they’ve now all got their head around that side of things and are doing well.

One thing I really miss about Montessori is the sense of community, and I miss the friendly faces I used to see each day at drop off. I was also very involved in the school on various committees and as a room representative, so I got to know a lot of families well – this is pretty common in the Montessori community, parents are encouraged to take part in various activities throughout the year, so you get to know each other really well.

I would highly recommend Montessori to anyone – the education is on par with private school because it is so one on one, and they are encouraged to go above and beyond where they can, and guided into learning in the areas thy are less strong/ interested in. I think it’s given my kids a really practical start to life that traditional schooling would not, Montessori is, as they say, “learning for life”.