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  • FAQ: I’ve heard that Montessori schools don’t have textbooks, homework, or even grades. Can this be true?


It is true that Montessori classrooms do not emphasize the use of textbooks, grades, or homework. This is because Montessori students are encouraged to take ownership of their own learning. This is an essential step in fostering the child’s natural, in-borne desire to soak up knowledge. Why take this approach, you ask? Because children who are internally motivated are far more likely to become responsible, self-disciplined, confident, initiative-takers, with strong academic skills and a lifelong love for learning. This is the key to education as it should be: developed to teach the way children really learn.

Textbook Troubles

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The Montessori method teaches children how to find information for themselves.

Textbooks do not fit into this design because they can be limiting. When children are taught to rely on textbooks for answers, they will not know how to find information once you take that textbook away. For example, it is standard practice to have children fill out worksheets that follow the exact order of the information in the textbook. Often, the answers are even highlighted in bold text or italicized. This simply teaches children to copy what they see in front of them. It does not teach children how to find information for themselves. The Montessori approach uses hands-on lessons, movement, object manipulation, information-gathering, and many other ways to teach children how to think, process, and learn independently, a lesson that will serve them well for a lifetime.

“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” ~ Maria Montessori

Another limitation with textbooks is that everyone in the class is expected to be on the same path and proceeding at the same rate. Maria Montessori knew that children learn at different paces and have different interests at any given time. Children experience many sensitive periods during their development. During a sensitive period, children are receptive to specific information and will have specific interests as a result. The Montessori approach taps into these sensitive periods and maximizes the child’s learning experience. Children are able to access the right information, at the right time in their development.

Homework Hitches

Homework is another rarity for the Montessori student. Maria Montessori teaches us not to mandate the work of the child at school, or at home.

“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child’s spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its’ intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.” ~Maria Montessori

Practical life activities such as helping to set the table or folding laundry can develop math and/or language skills, increase dexterity, and increase confidence.

Parents are encouraged to continue with the idea of following the child’s lead at home. This is not to say you shouldn’t have rules or boundaries at home, or that you should allow children to do whatever they please. But parents can provide a safe and discovery-rich environment that encourages the child’s natural interests. Therefore, the child may voluntarily choose to continue his or her “work” at home.

Keep in mind that there are many everyday household activities that can represent homework. Practical life activities such as helping to set the table or folding laundry can develop math and/or language skills, increase dexterity, and increase confidence. Reading with children every day is another language-boosting activity that doubles as a pleasant way to interact and relax with family.

Gradebook Griefs

Instead of focusing on grades, Montessorians focus on “mastery.” In Montessori classrooms, children work toward the complete and thorough understanding of a concept.

“A child who has become master of his acts through long, pleasant and interesting activities in which he has engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline. ” ~Maria Montessori

Elementary Education
What if you actually enjoyed the learning process?

This is quite different than memorizing what you need to pass a test. To illustrate the difference, let me ask you this: how many times have you crammed for an exam, passed it with a good grade, and then forgotten the whole concept soon afterwards? Most of us have memorized material to pass that class and move on. But how different would it have been if you had actually gained life-enriching knowledge for your time and efforts? And imagine this: what if you had actually enjoyed the learning process and wanted to learn more? This is the difference between a GPA-focused education and a Montessori education.

In short, Montessori students learn more comprehensively, more joyfully, and more naturally through the Montessori method, and they do it without a bunch of textbooks, homework, or grades. Would you like to learn more about the Montessori Method? We welcome you to visit Age of Montessori’s information-rich website, watch our powerful webinars (free and professional development,) join our discussions on blogs and Facebook, and participate in our many online courses.

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  1. Good read! I totally agree. I would also add tests to this list. We truly need to educate people about this points, because I like it when you give parents a list of proposed books to read with a Child, then parents are very serious to follow it. In the end they claim why don’t you check whether children read it or not, why dont you ask questions. My answer is because it is not for checking, it is for children to enjoy

  2. My grandson attends a Montessori school, at the beginning we were very happy because he loved his school. But after two years there half of the class can hardly read and write and they continue drawing birds and houses like in K and they are finishing 3rd grade. Several kids have left the school and their admisión evaluations – including ours – have tested with horrible results, they are 8 years old and they hardly could be accepted in second grade because the reading and writing area. Is that something normal for the Montessori education? I am very worry!! I know he is extremely happy in his school, but they can hardly read even less write, some of them, including our grandson, have no idea how much is 2 plus 2, seriously! I’m wondering if this is a problem with the teacher or is a Montessori way. Thank you!

    1. Hi Elisabeth, There are some children in every setting who are “late bloomers,” but we definitely expect children to be reading substantially before eight. I’d look into the situation a little more closely and see if there are any issues that need to be addressed either with the child or with the teacher’s ideas of what to expect when. — Mary Ellen Maunz, M.Ed.

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