How are religious holidays and questions handled ?
Religion is a touchy subject no matter what your beliefs. That’s one of the reasons I think you need to ask about it when looking into a school, Montessori or not. You need to know what the school you are considering putting your child into does about holidays and other religious situations (like death), so that you can make sure you comfortable with their philosophy. Don’t put your child in a school that deals with religion in a way that you completely disagree with. It will just end up frustrating everyone, most of all, your child.
As opposed religious schools where children are taught the precepts and beliefs of the sponsoring religion (and where those precepts and beliefs are often integrated throughout the curriculum), Montessori education is based on respect for all cultures and religions Public schools are non-sectarian, but their way of handling religious holidays and questions is often the opposite of the way they are handled in a Montessori classroom.
In most public schools today, there is simply no talk of religious activities or beliefs. In all honesty, I understand why, they are afraid of being sued.
Montessori schools on the other hand take a completely different approach, even in the young grades. The festivals, holidays and beliefs of each child’s culture and religion, as well as the predominate ones in the world, are explained to the children in age appropriate, multi-modality ways. Children learn to enjoy the exciting array of multi-cultural beliefs and activities, while learning to respect each other and their personal opinion and beliefs.
Some people worry that teaching children that not everyone has the same religion or culture will confuse them, but I can tell you that in over 16 years of teaching Montessori, this has never been the case. Children realize that their peers dress or do things differently, and kids talk. It is when they talk, and we don't help them learn about the differences that misconceptions start and fear and ignorance begin to take hold.
Additionally, children at this age have so many questions. I feel that when children start talking in class about the big picture, they then start wondering about their own. This then becomes a wonderful time to really explore and learn about your family's own religion and beliefs.
Articles and Websites on Teaching About Religion
Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law
The Religion and Public Education Resource Center
The Importance of Teaching About Religion in the Public Schools