Misconception: Montessori Classrooms are Unstructured- There is no organization to their curriculum
Montessori was a constructionist; an educator who believes that children construct their understanding and knowledge of the world through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. Constructionists also believe that children develop this understanding in a progressional sequence or order.
Montessori Schools therefore employ a number of different teaching practices that adhere to her philosophy. Predominantly this includes a varied and rich environment for children to explore at their own developmental rate, in a systematic sequenced manner. In our public program, this order follows the California language and math standards, integrating the Montessori science and history curriculums.
During the 80’s and 90’s there was a strong movement in the many parts of the world towards “academic immersion”. The belief of this method was that if children were immersed in a rich environment, they would naturally develop understanding and knowledge. The “immersion” method taught in themes, usually the personal choice of the teacher. (dinosaurs, rain forest,..) with concepts that the teacher deemed necessary integrated where the teacher saw fit. In this ad hoc situation, prior knowledge was rarely built upon and new knowledge was rarely taught in a developmental or sequential manner.
Because of the lack of order and structure in the”immersion” model, many children graduated with holes in their knowledge and abilities. This led to a much needed reevaluation of the teaching methods that were used and new programs implemented that today teach the concepts in a more focused and explicit way.
At first glance it is easy to see why people might confuse the Montessori Method with “academic immersion”. Both share rich environments. It is also easy to see why the new systematic programs are so much more appealing than the immersion model. In the systematic programs, we are insured that the children are receiving knowledge, and that that knowledge is given in a way that builds upon their previous knowledge.
Yet the problem with most of these new systemic programs is that although much more comprehensive, rarely do they take into consideration of the individual student and their needs. Designed for whole group instruction, there are just a few hours a week devoted towards adapting the instruction to the individual needs of the students.
Montessorians believe that the Montessori Method is actually a combination of the best of these two programs. It has a rich environment for the children to explore, but concepts are taught in a sequenced manner, allowing each child to move through this sequence, and fulfilling their academic needs, at their own rates and level.