When we think of ‘Montessori’ we often think of preschool programs. However, unless your child falls into a school district offering Montessori alternative programs, or is enrolled in a private school, you may not be aware that Montessori educational theory can be applied to elementary and high school grades too.
So how is the Montessori adolescent program different? We’ll explain a few key characteristics in this article.
Montessori adolescent programs follow the designs of its early childhood learning, but with more advanced subjects
If your child attended a Montessori early childhood program, you may remember that the classroom set up was a bit different than a traditional school. Nowadays, it’s commonplace to have free-roaming daycares and a few age groups in a single room. But when you get to the elementary or high school levels of Montessori, this begins to stand out.
Contrary to the idea that students should sit in rows, do what the teacher says, and work independently, the Montessori adolescent program is different in the following ways, compared to other traditional school programs:
- Multiple age groups are in put in a single classroom. This allows for older role models to help the younger ones. It also allows for social environments that may mimic ‘real life.’
- Students are given a lot of freedom in choosing what they want to learn, within limits. The trained Montessori teacher can set out certain parameters for the kids to work within. But the student is responsible for directing their own learning – that can be by picking their own novel to study, for instance. They can also work on solving a math problem for as long as they need. The idea is to keep kids responsible for their own progress. It is also believed to translate into more motivation, and being able to reason and come to conclusions on one’s own.
- Students are not graded. This is a big difference in Montessori adolescent programs vs. traditional schools. Montessori teachers do evaluate kids and are meant to keep them on track, and to individually develop their interests. However, feedback is meant to avoid discouragement, because different children will have skills in different areas. In higher grades, to meet Ministry of Education standards, students are given tests.
- Students work in groups. The social aspect of Montessori teaching is instilled in students so that they learn to get along and work with others. Yes, sometimes they have to work independently, but groups are also encouraged, and sometimes necessary. It is also noticeable that a Montessori classroom may not have desks.
- Subjects are taught in segments. There is a typical 5-week rotation for learning. This provides less switching, more focus, and ample time to delve into a topic.
- Studies in subjects overlap. The idea is that one subject of study can bring about other subjects.
The Montessori adolescent program focuses on fostering independence
You’ll notice with Montessori methods in adolescent learning, such as with Montessori high schools, that the learning is meant to shape independence. The thought here is that kids need to develop life skills they will use in the ‘real world.’ They should not merely be given theory to study. Instead, a “holistic” approach is taken. It is important, for instance, that they know how to manage their own money, and learn what it takes to survive on their own. They should also have work skills.
You can see this in the encouragement of internships, the group assignments, and in the way self-directed learning means knowing how to budget your time effectively. Remember, Montessori high school students must still meet the BC Curriculum requirements. So while they can pick their topics and develop interests in a certain area, they must still complete the rest of the subject. They can do this by making a plan to complete their work, in conjunction with the teacher’s input.
This article from the Times Columnist describes Canada’s first Montessori graduating high school class, and demonstrates the above principles.
Montessori adolescent programs are considered helpful for gifted or special needs students
As some articles online, and linked to in this article will point out, the individualized approach of Montessori educational theory can be helpful for students who need a program that is non-standardized. By being able to work ahead of others, and pick challenging topics, a gifted student can excel in this type of environment. On the other hand, needing to go slower, or to have more time to absorb material can also help someone with a learning difficulty.
Is Montessori right for your child beyond preschool?
To conclude, we can see benefits of the Montessori approach. However, whether or not your child attends a Montessori alternative program in a Canadian school district or private school is something you’ll need to decide for yourself. You may notice that public school programs can incorporate some of the elements of the Montessori educational method, without being regarded as a full-fledged Montessori program.
Also remember that the term ‘Montessori’ can mean many things in different contexts. So not all Montessori schools will be alike. You’ll need to do research into each of their programs to find the right fit, if it interests you. Some associations provide more credibility to some than others, which you can also look into.