Montessori schools don’t work for young boys

Once you realize that school is a ridiculous place for your kids, you start looking for alternatives. Many people ask me what I think of Montessori as an alternative to public school.

To answer that, let’s first look at the reasons that public schools don’t work for young boys:

· Public school berates the things boys care about.

· Public school does not have enough outside time.

· Public school overemphasizes sitting still.

And here are the reasons Montessori-style schools don’t work for young boys:

1. Berates the things boys care about.
Boys like video games, they like violent games, they like screaming and they all look like they have ADHD. This is not appropriate classroom behavior. In any classroom. Montessori is about going from station to station, focusing on a task, and using indoor voices. None of this is what a little boy would choose to do if you gave him free reign over his learning.

2. Does not have enough outside time.
Boys could be running all day. They can do recess all day and stop only to eat and make a new sword. Sure there are exceptions to this generalization, but you know where the exceptions are? Playing with the girls. Have you ever asked a kid what their favorite time of school is? Every boy says recess.

3. Overemphasizes sitting still.
Every station is different, but every station is small motor skills. Which girls are great at. The stations encourage talking with friends, making alliances, and cooperative behavior. Girls do this very well. Boys don’t care. At least in public school, boys get diagnosed with ADHD and plied with Adderal to enable adjustment to this style of learning. But in Montessori schools, the boys are just tortured – they have all the pressure and none of the medication to alleviate it.

What I love about the picture above is that I have no idea what my sons are doing. Because whether they want to explore, or role play, or just talk, they want to do it while moving around, usually outside, always pushing and shoving each other as they go. This is a picture of what a Montessori classroom would look like if the boys in the classroom were allowed to learn in a way that works for them.



90 replies
  1. Mel
    Mel says:

    I can hardly go to the store with my boys, they have so much energy. I can’t even imagine what would happen if they were in school.
    My 6-year-old can read for hours, but he slides on and off the couch, twists around, and is moving the whole time. He is getting a lot out of the book, but I don’t think he’d have that freedom to be in constant motion while learning in a school.

  2. karelys
    karelys says:

    Before I knew what unschooling was I read somewhere about Unschooling schools. Essentially, a daycare for kids whose parents work. There are adults around to ask questions to and (mostly) to make sure everyone is in one piece. The teachers are well educated but there is no agenda. They are there and until someone needs help they offer their knowledge. Apparently this has been going on since the 70s. I had no idea they were that old.

    At the time having an amazing library was necessary because of no internet.

    One of the things that I was surprised to read was how kids would spontaneously learn to read at their own pace. But what I found so endearing was that they would help each other. Still, I thought it was so weird. I just kept reading and researching out of curiosity.

    And then I read the Jezebel post about your miscarriage tweet and that’s how I found this blog. It seemed so weird at the time but now it just makes sense.

  3. Marie-Eve B.
    Marie-Eve B. says:

    You got to the heart of it! Maria Montessori did great on finding that children love to work. It’s just that the curriculum is chosen by adults, and that’s limiting.

    But moreover, she based her findings on what she saw in the school (Casa dei Bambini was a place where the kids would go when their parents would work instead of wandering around in the building), not in all the kids’ lives. So she did not study, so far as I’ve read in her work, what they did after school – the kids must have gotten a lot of outdoors free play (she said she saw them very young playing in the streets freely) to balance and get rid of their energy, and love from their families too. The schools don’t account for that, and this is where they often fail, and unschool wins.

    • Hannah
      Hannah says:

      Casa dei bambini was what it says a home to the children. Yes it was while their parents were working but the children were initially given free reign to do as they liked in a home cared for by a housekeeper, gardner and cook; this staff was to go about their work and not interact with the children. As Maria observed the children she noticed their tendency to want to carry out the tasks being carried out by adults. So she had the materials they needed in their size to carry out the tasks of the housekeeper, gardner and cook as they felt the compulsion to do so. Maria closely observed the children in all parts of their day and in all their interactions; she experimented with many materials only some of which are now used in the classroom today due to Maria’s observations of their appeal to the children and the concepts they foster.
      Today the Association Montessori International continues this work of observing and refining the Montessori pedagogy. There is no education method that co pairs to the education of the whole child that is achieved in a true Montessori classroom.

  4. Mandi
    Mandi says:

    I’m sure this is probably true of modern Montessori schools based on the changes I’ve seen in the past 20 years, but I attended a Montessori school for more than 12 years that was run by a woman who trained directly under Maria Montessori, and we spent hours and hours outside from the time we were little. We took care of rabbits (and as we got older, horses), cleared ditches to prevent erosion, built lunch shelters, hiked, cleared gypsy moths off trees, etc. on the 26-acre campus. And all that in addition to actual recess and P.E. time.

    I think there were plenty of energy outlets for boys *and* girls that allowed them to then focus on the indoor, quiet activities as well.

    • Carrie H
      Carrie H says:

      I’d love to know what school that was. And, how did your 3 hr a block time of uninterrupted work time go?

  5. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    I am dying over the “using indoor voices” requirement because there is literally no one in my house that uses indoor voices during school. No one.

    It is so loud I take client calls outside.
    It is so loud I have Bose noise-canceling headphones to write.
    It is so loud that the silence is deafening when my kids are gone, making it strangely difficult to be productive.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Me, too.

      We actually have “phone drills” where we pretend there’s a phone call and everybody under age 20 has to go outside, silently. They can rampage out there as much as they want.

      I’m as bad as the rest, singing multiplication tables with the baby and yelling out cues for the dude in the living room reciting poetry.

      Even my hobbies are extra loud.

      We have a no-noise dishwasher, though, and a silent garage door opener.

  6. mh
    mh says:


    I totally want that tree.

    My kids want the tree house, but I am coveting your tree.

    Covet, covet, covet. I’ll bet it even produces shade. The leaves, they turn colors, don’t they? And fall off, so you get to rake them into a pile? Covet, covet, covet.

  7. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    One of the other problems with schools is that they are so frequently staffed and run by people who have simplistic, reductive views of humanity. They say things like “all boys are like this” and “all girls are like that,” and miss the people in front of them, who can’t usefully be sorted into little boxes but display a great diversity in their nature and development. It’s one tiny step from “all boys are like that” to “boys will be boys,” which is a phrase used to excuse and perpetuate bullying of boys. Schools run by ignorant, lazy-minded people like this end up particularly crushing for the children who don’t meet their preconceived stereotypes.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes, well, that’s a problem with all school, and all discussion of school. Because school is grouping kids and treating them as one. If you want to read about kids being treated as individuals than don’t read assessments of the efficacy of school programs.


    • TLH
      TLH says:

      How is this different from Penelope’s blanket statements about boys? I don’t disagree, but it seems blanket statements about what boys, girls and kids’ want/need are driving both sides of the debate.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        It’s not different at all, TLH. If PT ran a school, it would be emotionally crushing for most of the children there, perhaps even worse than a typical school. It’s a good thing she doesn’t. One can only hope that her own children don’t chafe too much under her prejudices.

        This website is an odd combination of good ideas and shocking ignorance. It’s wonderful that she encourages so many people to homeschool and unschool. It’s sad that she has to construct so many straw men to knock down, and that she gets so defensive about her failures.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          All publications full of new ideas are a combination of good ideas and shocking ignorance. The only way to find the stuff that’s fresh is to be wrong sometimes. Your comment tells me on on the right track!


          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            Mission accomplished? But the failures seem to be such _old_ ideas…

            In fairness, if I ran a school, it would suck too – but for different reasons.

            Many schools seem to suck extra bad because they cater to a small group and ignore everybody else’s needs. Both our putative schools would fail in this way, but for different groups. I am far too impatient to be a good teacher for most kids.

            My girl would probably like Penelope Trunk’s School for Stereotypical Boys. My boy would hate it.

  8. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    So glad you posted this. We put my son into Montessori at 3 yrs. And took him out after 3 months. Super conforming culture where kids were pressured.

  9. amy parmenter
    amy parmenter says:

    quick story. my brothers kid, age 5, goes to montessori. he was given an assignment where you had to look at a photo and then circle the letter that the subject of the photo began with. for instance, if it was a flower, circle F. The photo was of a painting sitting on an easel. He circled E for easel. The teacher marked it wrong. She wanted P painting. I guess most 5 year old’s don’t know what an easel is…so he was wrong??

    Just sayin’


    • mh
      mh says:

      Wow, that teacher has creative limitations. Poor thing.

      I signed my (homeschooled) son up for art lessons at age 10. This child is NOT a classic artsy type, but he’s creative in his own way. He loved the teacher, loved the instruction, and each class was a new idea: line, negative space, shading, right?

      Every class, he drew tanks. Every. single. class.

      Other kids, it’s apples and dogs. My kid, it’s tanks. Tanks on rails, tanks with wings, tanks with camouflage, tanks with war paint, solar-powered tanks.

      And the teacher just went with it, helping him get straighter lines and more dimensional turrets. He just loved the classes, and I was very grateful to the instructor, and I know I got lucky on that one.

      Anyway, we’re done with tanks. Now it’s something new.

    • Kristin
      Kristin says:

      That actually doesn’t sound very Montessori. Was it an AMI accredited school? Any school can say its Montessori but not all follow it properly. You would never have that kind of material in a true Montessori classroom for a five year old.

  10. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I just want to say that I’m so happy you still have time to post here! I read your other blog as well, and I must admit when you said you were working on a new start up, I was so worried this blog would fall by the wayside! My son is almost 1, and this blog gives me so much motivation to homeschool. At the end of this month, our family is taking the next step toward that path… My year of maternity leave is up and I’ll be returning to work full time, and my husband will go down to working 3 days a week. Scary and exciting at the same time!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Guess where I am today? A hotel. Because I couldn’t work at home. So, the reality is that I am not totally sure how my life is working at all, and I’m really happy that my husband could take care of the kids today, with no notice, when I had a 10am meltdown and announced I’m leaving for the day.


      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        You are not the first mom to have to do that; won’t be the last either. We all have meltdowns… no biggie. Hang in there.

  11. Abby
    Abby says:

    This post makes me sad. Not that I have any idea about Montessori education, but I have three boys. None of them are remotely similar to the descriptions of boys in this post or in the responses. They are boys who love to draw and read and can sit still for several hours at a time. They are all boys. Boys come in many varieties. As a group of well meaning moms, shouldn’t we try to avoid the stereotypes that make it difficult for boys across the spectrum to express themselves?

    My boys are homeschooled because they had a hard time being in school with other children who didn’t fit in a focused learning environment. And because the wild playground was overwhelming. Their main complaint was that school was too loud.

    I think we all homeschool for different reasons, but my own inspiration came from not wanting my boys to have to apologize for who they are and how they are different from many of the other boys they meet. Nine times out of ten my boys preferred playing with girls when they were in their elementary years.

    I remember looking at a Waldorf school once with my youngest son. A group of kindergarten boys were playing in a large mud puddle on the playground. The Waldorf school kept the puddle going year round as a positive sensory experience. Seems like just what many of your children would love. Anyway, when we left the school my son said he definitely wouldn’t go to a school with a mud puddle. He was certain of this at age three. He said it would feel gross to have mud on you all day.

    I have taught art for many years. When I teach paper mache there is not a clear gender difference in who likes to dip their hands in the goop. Or who throws the goop.

    I am sensitive to discussions about how boys are. High testosterone levels do certainly play a factor in many of the behaviors mentioned in this post. But we all need to understand that testosterone ranges are huge in boys, and some girls can have more testosterone than boys. Even at age seven. (There is a great This American Life episode about this if anyone is interested.)

    I enjoy so much of what is talked about on this blog. I am thankful for a place to renew and gather new ideas. I write this for anyone else out there who feels frustrated reading narrow descriptions of what boys are. As always, I read this blog to help me expand — not contract.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Abby, thanks for bringing up this point.

      For us to function as a society, we need to make generalizations, and we need to generalize based on reality.

      And there is room to discuss social concerns with generalizations without berating people who are different.

      So, surely you agree that the majority of boys do not want to sit and draw all day. And, given that, it’s clear that the drawing boys, in a random classroom of 15 other boys, are statistically likely to feel left out.

      So whether or not your son fits the stereotypical boy patterns, it’s clear that boys will either a) hate school or b) hate being different from the other boys.

      I’m not sure why you would be upset by hearing that most boys are not like your boys. Surely you already knew that. And there is not really a way to talk about social patterns in our world if we don’t talk in generalizations.


  12. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    What a load of rubbish! You need to visit an authentic Montessori school. Boys really flourish there and are not indoctrinated or pressured into conformity. There are lots of opportunities for outside work, for big, gross motor skills work, for exploration and adventure, and are contrasted by the wonderful work with the equipment which can capture the interests of boys and girls alike for hours upon hours. Where Montessori is authentic, it follows the child. They need to learn concentration, self-discipline, self-control. They need to learn who they are, what their interests are. I have seen many girls in Montessori struggle because their minds are full of fairies and princesses, or popstars, all unrealistic things. Surely, this is more damaging to a child than to learn to be independent, to accomplish things for themselves, to learn to be constructive, to engage in their learning, to learn the skills that they need to be successful adults, and the knowledge to be able to deal with complex subjects they will come across in life. It is sad that some people here have had bad Montessori experiences. I was shocked to hear these examples, as they are not what should be happening in a Montessori environment anyway, or not a true Montessori one.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I sometimes wonder if “True Montessori” really exists. I know that all the “Montessori” schools around here are just the same as the rest of them, pushing “school readiness” down as far as it can go. “Montessori” just seems to indicate they think they’re better than other schools in some nebulous way. It’s like “Progressive,” devoid of meaning.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Oh, this is such a great comment. Sometimes when people start talking about Waldorf or Montessori or Democratic schools or whatever, I feel like we are debating Platonic ideals or something.

        They don’t really exist. Kids are kids and teachers are teachers and we can’t perfectly implement any philosophy — just like no parent implements “crying it out” perfectly or whatever parenting philosophy they use.

        So then it becomes impossible to debate the merits of everyone’s philosophy if we are only discussing the perfect renditions of it.

        Maybe this is why I think the most useful discussion of homeschooling is when I tell you that I screamed at my kids. Like, today I am in a hotel room. All day. I couldn’t take the kids any more. I don’t even know what their homeschooling is today. I’m not there.

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          I can’t vouch for the existence of “True Montessori,” and I can affirm the widespread nature of the fake version. But a real Democratic School I can vouch for. Sudbury Valley is right down the road from me in Framingham, and is very much real and an option for people in my neck of the woods. You would probably find it interesting to read up about it or visit it.

          That there are far more fake Democratic Schools than real Democratic Schools I can easily believe, though.

          • Kaye
            Kaye says:

            Agreed! We were directed to a great Sudbury model school, Alpine Valley School, in Wheat Ridge, Colorado after a catastrophic year in a Montessori. Jeffrey Freed, author of “Right-brained Children Living in a Left-brained World” rescued us. At the Montessori, we experienced tests, drills, a huge homework load–that left me feeling like I was repeating 5th grade with my child whose very soul was being crushed. I think I dreaded school more than he did! Previous to grade 5, he was in a Montessori with much more freedom and never any homework in Australia. I suspect the educators at the Colorado school feel the pressure to please and reassure parents that their children will fit into the system after leaving in grade 8. The happy ending was the discovery of Alpine Valley School. I know the Sudbury philosophy works because of the success and happiness of the Alumni who return to support the school year after year. They are some of the most inspiring adults I have ever met.

      • Hannah
        Hannah says:

        These Montessori schools do exist and they have teachers who have gone through rigorous training and are accredited by the organization created by Maria herself called Association Montessori International.

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      Dear Sophie, I totally resonate with your comments. I’ve been a teacher in NZ education for over thirty years, first in Secondary School, then after having 5 children (2 of them boys) I retrained in Primary. I have recently gained a post grad in Early Childhood and completed my Montessori Diploma last year. I’ve been working in a Montessori preschool for three years now and have seen children, especially boys, totally transformed by a calm, peaceful and structured environment. Those who wanted to run wild and chase each other can now concentrate for long periods of time on a project that interests them. They do baking (on their own) make books about their favourite topics, garden, clean out our pets cages, carpentry and various other activities. Of course they still love climbing, kicking a ball, being in the sandpit, but everything they do has a purpose. I believe that an authentic Montessori environment is for all children, but like any education system there are variants, due to teacher’s qualifications (or lack of them) and the way the pedagogy/philosophy is interpreted.
      What Maria Montessori wanted was for children to become responsible, caring, independent and creative adults. Did you know that 33% of our inventors had some degree of Montessori education, including the ‘google boys.’ She was a real advocate for world peace and believed if children learned good social skills, including respect, compassion and tolerance (called Grace & Courtesy in our curriculum) the world would be a much better place.

      • Nicole
        Nicole says:

        Agreed, @Jane! Montessori has been a fantastic fit for my “oh-so-typical boy” (er, well, per PT’s description of what she thinks a “boy” acts likes anyway). The proof is in the pudding. For the last 3 years he’s never wanted to miss even a single day of his Montessori school. My son’s Montessori rocks!

      • Lana
        Lana says:

        Hi Jane, I liked your comment we are relocating to NZ next year. I have some concerns about Montessori, my son currently attends a Montessori school that I find very strict outdoor play time is limited. He does not seem happy at all. I would be interested to hear from you regarding NZ Montessori approach, of course each school is different but does Montessori in NZ have a governing board that checks on the standard maintained. We are either going to Tauranga or Cambridge.

    • Iuliana Calin
      Iuliana Calin says:

      I wonder why the Montessori philosophy, and it’s seems you agree with it, believes that fantasizing about princesses and fairies is that bad. It’s a fruit of imagination and play. I know Montessori emphasizes practical skills over pretend play. But there is also tremendous research that indicates pretend play, be that fairies, or playing like pirates and guns, it is how kids learn and make sense of the world around them. I am just curious as personally do not seem to understand why that is an issue and it should be discouraged.

      I am very familiar with Montessori, my daughter goes to a M program. She loves pretend play. She pretends she is a princess but also Bob the Builder, so she does both gender type activities. In her Montessori program she is allowed to do it although the method does not support it.

      On the other hand other methods of early childhood education, alternative such as Waldorf, or more traditional, very much encourage pretend play…

      So what should one believe? :)

      • Ed
        Ed says:

        Respect and self discipline are important traits to nurture in young boys to become men someday. Montessori education has these as it’s basis. Yes boys love to be active and roll around in the mud all day, but they also like ganging up on each other and eat candy all day if they could. Montessori done well helps instill respect and self discipline into kids. The more kids respect and feel respected as well as have self discipline and are able to do things for themselves and be trusted with their work and take responsibility, the less meltdowns and tantrums and bullies and back talk. My experience.

      • Grace
        Grace says:

        I don’t have much on this, but the thing that struck me about Montessori and imagination was her design of a very plain (compared to many current schools) environment, with activities that, though beautiful, are not over-embellished. Also, the materials are, for the most part, very old-fashioned.

        And why would this be good for the mind? I have noticed, when we get a new construction game, and I get so excited that I build something awesome right in front of my child. Something he cannot possibly do himself. His first reaction is: “Mommy do this for me!” and this persists, every time we bring the material out. I have made quantum leaps with the material that he in his current stage is impressed by and cannot conceive of doing yet. He will go around showing people “Mommy made me a car/robot!” But he will refuse to work with the material himself. If you constantly expose children to the imaginings of other people, their devotion is a worship, and lovely to see. But it will in fact discourage them from attempting any work of their own. What we believe to be their imagination, is really regurgitation of someone else’s fantastic creations. The true creative works of a child are in no way as impressive as, and frequently not observed. But then, they do not require our praise. They will do it for their own pleasure, if we just give them the space to believe in their own abilities, as their creation is New For Them.

        While our current economical system makes it possible for some people to earn a lot of money without creating a thing, without actually making anything, and there is such a wealth of entertainment out there, for free, to tide us through our living days, I hope for something a bit more tangible for my children.

        I myself have to learn to not be so easily impressed by what people say, but what people do. I suppose this may apply to children too?

  13. Linda
    Linda says:

    My rough and tumble boy went to Montessori at age 4-6. It was a great fit for him because even though he was very active by nature, he also was very focused and was happy to work on the math materials for days on end. In public school kids are forced to shift gears frequently. What Montessori really has going for it is FREEDOM to choose one’s work and FREEDOM to move about the classroom and RESPECT for the child and his/her development. True, it’s not as free as homeschooling, but the learning materials are amazing and the underlying understanding of child development is sound. It is certainly a better choice than drugging the boys to allow them to cope with a public school or college prep private school setting.

    What I would like to see is a modernized version of Montessori such as Acton Academy in Texas.

  14. mh
    mh says:

    My son says the pictures above are OBVIOUSLY the popsicle-saber scene from Star Wars when Count Dooku fought Anakin Skywalker in the Separatist warship over Coruscant in Episode III.

    I mean, OBVIOUSLY.

  15. Tammy Chabria
    Tammy Chabria says:

    I can only assume that because the three points you make here, that you have never seen an authentic Montessori school (AMI-Association Montessori Internationale). None of those are true in an authentic Montessori school, and boys flourish in them. So, yes, true Montessori does exist, where children can spend unlimited time outside (our International Congress was just held and the theme was “Guided by Nature”), no one has to sit still unless they want to (many students choose to work standing up), and they are extremely interested in the work they can choose because it is all based on their interests (study the life cycle of a frog-yes, please). I do think it’s a sad life that you think boys are only interested in violent video games, because our boys are so much deeper than that (and our girls aren’t princesses, either!). I would invite you to spend half an hour in an authentic Montessori environment. It is life changing.

  16. David Ayer
    David Ayer says:

    Tammy above beat me to it, but I’m afraid this is the second prominent internet posting this month that gets Montessori wildly wrong.

    It’s true that the term “Montessori” is in the public domain, so anyone can use it with or without any training or understanding of Maria Montessori’s work. But well-implemented Montessori is nothing like what you describe. There are no “stations”, although you seem to have a vague sense of some of the work choices in the 3 to 6 year old Montessori environment. There is ample outside time. And there is more movement, and less sitting still, than pretty much any traditional education environment you will see anywhere. Why? Because Montessori, herself a scientist, developed her approach based on observation and experimentation with thousands of children, rather than on prejudice and pre-conceived notions of what children are like.

    Which brings us to your rather shocking stereotyping and mischaracterization of boys. It’s sad, mostly, and almost quaint in its narrowness, but also dangerous, especially considering the challenges boys face in education today. It’s clear from your work that you specialize in provocative statements and commentary, but there’s a difference between provocative and ill-informed, and your readers deserve better.

    Can’t help plugging my own blog—for accurate and up-to-date Montessori information, you might have a look at

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      Thanks for this, David. I’m reassured to think that a real Montessori does exist somewhere (just not, per the MIA’s school finder, anywhere in the city of Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Newton…)

      • Colin's mom
        Colin's mom says:

        So glad I found this thread because I’m at my wits end over my
        sons Montessori school. I so wish their was one of the outdoor focused schools here for my just turned 5 year old. Instead I just had a “meeting” with the director about how Colin can’t sit still and seems distracted. But there is almost zero outside time, only a quiet walk in a line in the neighborhood. No pets or greenspace to enrich their experience. She instead feels my son has sensory processing disorder and needs to be evaluated :( after taking my money for over a year:(

        • Zohra
          Zohra says:

          The same thing has happened with my boy…
          they say he may have sensory issues.
          He is said to be too imaginative and loud.
          I was shocked that this has happened after only about 3 weeks in school.

  17. Christine Carrillo
    Christine Carrillo says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I think that most of the parents who are posting about Montessori have never been to an AMI school. At an AMI Montessori, children have free reign to move as they please and can spend unlimited amounts of time outside. I know this is the case at the school where my children go, because I volunteer as an assistant there for 3 months a year 8 hours a day. The rest of the year, I work at a traditional school. The amount of movement, choice and freedom that occur in an AMI school is outstanding. Yes, some children choose to sit and read, but they are never forced to. The children at the school where my kids go are outside for several HOURS a day, cook, bake, play instruments, go on goings out to museums, overnight trips, camping trips, move physically throughout the day, plan their own program of study and are active, active, active. I encourage ALL parents to observe for several hours at an AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) school before you form an opinion of Montessori education.

    • Kristin
      Kristin says:

      Wow! Are you talking about the Primary level or elementary? My kids went to an AMI accredited school which also is accredited to train AMI teachers. When he got to first grade all that freedom stopped. Sure he could roam about the room and choose his own “work,” but nothing there interested him, except maybe the “racks and tubes” but he asked the teacher for months for a lesson in that before she gave him one. He was forced to look at that fun material but was not allowed to use it until he had a lesson and he couldn’t have a lesson until he was “ready.” Too many rules! And they had silent reading time every day after lunch where they had to sit with a book. My son was miserable! He hates reading! He told me he would just sit there for an hour and thumb through the pages. AND they only got 30 minutes of recess per day. Far cry from “free to roam.” And he had to speak in an inside voice while in the classroom and was not allowed to talk about things that interested him. My son was bursting at the seams, and so were most of the other little boys in that classroom. I can say from experience that it was always the boys who caused “trouble” in that class, not the girls. Sure the Montessori philosophy sounds great, but doesn’t match reality after primary. Maria Montessori never even taught students above age 7, to my knowledge. I could be wrong on that, but that is my understanding. I don’t think she actually had a tested plan or curriculum for children older than 7.

      • Kristin
        Kristin says:

        I’m sorry, I said “my kids” and then directly started saying “he.” I was referring to my 10 year old son. My 7 year old daughter actually loved her Montessori classroom.

      • Kristin
        Kristin says:

        Julia — something tells me you are being sarchastic since I re-read what I wrote and it is obviously not well-written. Plus, I can tell from your other comments that you do not agree with my point of view (even though I was just trying to convey my past first-hand experience). Just want to tell you that I do not intend to compose a literary masterpiece when I write these — only trying to get my thoughts out. If you noticed I composed that at 12:20 am so I was very tired. Most nights I get very little sleep since I have 3 children, I work, homeschool, and have a daughter with diabetes. So I could care less if my sentences are complete or if they necessarily sound nice. Perhaps I am only writing for myself.

  18. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I just wanted to say my 2 youngest attend a Montessori charter school, my youngest and only boy(age 9) thrives at his school and LOVES it! I agree that young boys are not made for nor should be in a traditional setting. This is why I chose the Montessori initially and both kids have just blossomed there (they are the youngest of 5). This year they have been going on daily hikes around the park their school is in(there is a forest, pond, creeks,lots of wildlife and trees that grow fruit ect). I don’t know if I am just that fortunate to have found a great school with awesome teachers or what but I have to disagree based on our personal experience with your article that Montessori is bad.

  19. Laura Shaw
    Laura Shaw says:

    It is clear that you don’t understand Montessori at all. Stations? There are no stations in Montessori. Not enough outside time? Children work both inside and outside ALL DAY LONG. Overemphasizes sitting still? You have clearly never seen an authentic Montesssori classroom.

    Finally, “all boys look like they have ADHD” is a gross over generalization.

    Before giving information to others, it is important to do your research first!

  20. Grace Vella
    Grace Vella says:

    Hear Hear, Laura Shaw! I read this article with interest, and agree that boys’ energy levels are not addressed appropriately in many (but not all) mainstream schools.
    Yes, boys need to move; yes, they learn best when moving; so do many girls. Kinesthetic learning is embedded in the Montessori curriculum. Penelope Trunk seems to be saying that is acceptable for boys to be boisterous, loud and rambunctious ALL OF THE TIME, as do many of the replying readers. Why is this ok? Do you not consider that stilling the mind and learning to control one’s body are also necessary for balanced development?
    I have worked as a Montessori guide and as a Teacher Mentor for the past 25 years in Australia. The enrolments in our schools from my anecdotal observations are always skewed towards the boys typically because they are not given the opportunity in the mainstream to move while they work in the classroom. What does that moving look like though? Is it running up and down the corridors, standing on chairs and tables, swinging from the rafters? Of course not. The boys I have worked with enjoy laying on the floor while completing work, building 3D structures to work out Geometry concepts, playing card games to learn how to spell. In the past week I had boys making paper planes and launching them across our assembly room for a lesson in using centimetres. Outside, I encourage activities such as cubby building, ball games on our oval, digging,
    Penelope Trunk, the boys I know do not all look like they have ADHD, but they do love being outside and they do love being physical. There is room for that in a quality Montessori Environment.

  21. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    From the comments I see here I can tell that AMI schools are not all alike when it comes to outdoor free play time. Our school only gave 30 mintues. Perhaps the accrediting institution should work on coming up with a standard for that.

  22. Julia Kohlberg
    Julia Kohlberg says:

    I do not know what Montessori class you visited. Boys are doing lots of gross motor activities like sweeping the floor, mopping, rolling rugs, and distance lessons. Dr. Montessori observed the need for movement for all young children. Yes there are fine motor lessons, at the correct development of the child. This is part of why the children are with the same guide for three years. I worked with a number of boys who did a distance lesson and then could sit for a short time and concentrate on a fine motor lesson–writing a math problem. Most of the lessons in the preschool have lots of movement with concrete items. This is developmental spot on for this age.

    • Kristin
      Kristin says:

      I did not simply visit. My son attended an AMI Montessori school from age 5 (Primary) through 3rd grade. He was in a non-accredited Montessori from 17 months to age 5. Primary has much more freedom, though still in those classes children cannot simply pull work off the shelves if they want it. They have to wait till they have a lesson, and can only have a lesson if they are ready for it. Primary (the age you are speaking of) has more free outdoor time. My son could open the door and work outside if he wanted to. HOWEVER when he got to 1st, his recess (free outdoor play) got cut to 30 minutes per day and there were more rules about what he could work on. Of course, all the other schools in my city are the same way, not just the Montessori ones.

  23. B
    B says:

    I have a daughter who is not a typical “girl” with respect to the generalizations outlined in many of PT’s posts on this blog, which is one of many I read addressing education in some capacity or another. She goes to a small Montessori school that really is more like a summer camp. All the time. She absolutely thrives there. She goes to school every morning greatly anticipating what the day will bring and she comes home delighted. The community there is like something akin to a church congregation. Parents are very involved on every level with all the children, not just their own. I know this school is a special place, a bright exception to many seemingly dull rules. I also have no doubts about the exceptional experience my daughter is having at this school, although it’s my personal belief that nobody is really responsible for educating her except for me and her father. We just happened to find the one place where we’re comfortable sending her every day to learn and experience and explore…

    I’m also a homeschooling/unschooling advocate and have several friends who have chosen this path for their children with great success. The Montessori school that my daughter goes to only goes up to high school, at which point we imagine she’ll stop going to school altogether and we’ll opt for an unschooling model or homeschooling model, depending on whether or not she wants to go to college or just continue on some other path, whatever that may be. I also have friends with kids in public school and they’re doing quite well there too.

    I know this might not be a popular point of view here, but I think that there are many possible paths that achieve the same “educational” objective for our children. We just have to be open to finding the right fit for our kids. When I read many of the posts here that rely on generalizations in which to counterpoint, I think to myself “my daughter must just be an exception.” I find myself doing the same thing reading PT’s career blog, even though I relate to much of what is written in both places. In fact, I think that I am an exception to PT’s “Blueprint for women” in almost every single way possible, yet I’m still very successful in my career, make plenty of money, happy in my marriage and other relationships, lead an interesting life, both personally and professionally. The path I followed (and continue to follow) contradicts nearly every one she advises for women, and it’s a path infused in lots of instances of luck and chance, and just being at the right place at the right time. I bring this up because when we’re talking about things like our kids’ education, parenting in general, our career choices, etc, many of us feel like we’re the exception. We feel like our children are the exception. We come to this discussion believing that we’re the exception to the rule. PT writes these posts with the assumption that we’re not. Some folks get offended, some don’t, but the discussions that ensue are always so thought provoking and engaging, that we come back again and again.

    I do feel though, and will continue to feel despite what’s written here (or anywhere), that my daughter is the exception. Like many of you with young boys who thrive in their Montessori school will think to yourself “my son must be the exception.” Or maybe “our school is the exception.” Or maybe still “PT is flat wrong.”

    Personally, I tell my daughter that she’s exceptional. Every day. I tell her that in our lives there’s always something that we have to “overcome.” For some, it’s a shitty time in public schools, for others, it’s their crazy parents or oppressive religious upbringing. I’m not sure what my daughter will have to overcome, but I do not believe that her Montessori education, or her education in general, will be on the list.

    All of this may make me sound like an impractical fool, but interestingly, I’m an INTJ and am data-driven, empirically motivated to a fault sometimes. And it’s also may be interesting to note, that in my career (forensic linguist) I rely on my expertise to spot and exploit “exceptions” to rules on a daily basis. The exceptions are where all the fun happens.

  24. Vickie C.
    Vickie C. says:

    First, let me say ‘Thanks’ to PT for giving place for such a lively discussion. Next, I want to disagree with one commenter who suggested that PT is defensive about her failures. PT, I find you nakedly honest. i get the impression that conflicts of opinion are an expected and welcome element to your site. I can only speak for myself here, but I don’t read your work because I perceive you to be an expert. Rather, I read because it makes me more honest with myself and allows me more freedom to be flawed. I am a bit flummoxed by some of your critics on this thread. You certainly hit a nerve.

    I am conflicted on this topic. I see that my boys are wired. Even my son who could sit for hours at the age of 2 still gets a major case of the wiggles from time to time. I think it’s immature neurology, but whatever it is it shouldn’t be treated as unnatural. I have the same wiggle problem with my girl, but she seems more focused than the boys even while wiggling. On the other hand, the idea of my boys developing self-control and being purposeful sounds quite appealing. A well-mannered boy who is content to be so is a joy to his mother. The atmosphere at a good Montessori school makes me giddy at the thought of a peaceful home life. Calm children. Patient teachers. No drama. Yes. I want that. But can I have it? Is chaos really necessary for learning? Don’t we, in fact, learn more when we have been trained in focus, concentration, and patience? Or is it unhealthy to put burdens on children who are not mature enough to master those traits? I am so very conflicted.

    This article reminds me of another I read where you said we should stop letting people off the hook by telling them that home schooling isn’t for everyone. Your displeasure with Montessori seems to be strongly affected by your overall opinion that kids need to be home. Your post on Waldorff had a similar undertone. But what I can’t yet nail down is what my philosophy is as a home schooler. Do I believe in the power of order or do I embrace chaos? Does it benefit a child to be instructed in self-control or is it best to let them figure it out when they are ready? I have little conflict over whether academics need to be rigorous to be effective. My heart is oriented to unschooling. But character development is not something I am willing to be hands-off about. The self-education I desire for my children seems like it needs a strong foundation of integrity, responsibility, perseverance,fortitude, compassion. Montessori provides character-based self-learning (at least in the philosophy of Montessori). I guess that’s why I am attracted to it as a model for my own home schooling. But I remain conflicted because I know that I am affected not only by what is best for my child but also what is easier for me and what has at least a modicum of social acceptability.

    • Kristin
      Kristin says:

      It sounds like you think that unschooling does not lead to developing self control and purposeful pursuits. I just want to say that when my 10-year-old son is doing something that he loves, he can focus all day long! And when I let him do what he wants to do, he is calm and happy. Our relationship has absolutely blossomed this past year since I have been letting him do basically what he wants to do all day. However, if I make him goto the library with me to pick out a book, he is on his worst behavior! So maybe it’s making kids do things they don’t want to do that creates the lack of focus. My son is ex-Montessori. It was great for him up until 1st grade when things got too serious and they imposed many more rules. Teachers were no longer allowed to give hugs and they were called by their last name rather than their first. I think Montessori tries to allow children to follow their passions, but simply cannot due to the classroom environment that must maintain order. I mean, what if the thing that your child loves cannot be found in the classroom? Then they are stuck wandering around all day trying to pass the time until they can finally come home to the work they love. Perhaps PT is trying to say that more often it is the boys who cannot find their passion in the classroom. For my boy, this was certainly true.

  25. Marie-Eve B.
    Marie-Eve B. says:

    Hi Vickie,

    maybe this article by Peter Gray could help you, on children needing undirected and illimited play:

    “Such play must always be self-directed, never forced or even encouraged by an authority figure”.

    “In school, and in other settings where adults are in charge, they make decisions for children and solve children’s problems. In play, children make their own decisions and solve their own problems. In adult-directed settings, children are weak and vulnerable. In play, they are strong and powerful. The play world is the child’s practice world for being an adult. We think of play as childish, but to the child, play is the experience of being like an adult: being self-controlled and responsible. To the degree that we take away play, we deprive children of the ability to practise adulthood, and we create people who will go through life with a sense of dependence and victimisation, a sense that there is some authority out there who is supposed to tell them what to do and solve their problems. That is not a healthy way to live.”

    The whole of the article is very convincing for playing, for unschooling. He says we are the most playful animal when young because that’s how we learn best.

    I think the Montessori system doesn’t allow for illimited, self-directed play because it’s doesn’t allow an illimited range of playing, only what adults think must be learned, mostly writing and counting (Maria Montessori wasn’t deschooled when she created her model). When we let the children play freely, mostly in natural settings, the high level energy they have is used for having fun and intensive learning, and they “normalize” (to use a Montessori term) by themselves, becoming peaceful and having a great self-education.

  26. Jane NZ
    Jane NZ says:

    An article that is really worth googling & reading is ‘Five Characteristics of Play and Montessori work’, it explains the whole concept so beautifully, and for those who are unsure about Montessori education, this may give you a deeper understanding of how it works.

    As an educator, the more I learn about Montessori education, the more passionate I become. It’s easy to get caught up in the words/semantics used in children’s learning and development and understand them from an adult’s perspective, not a child’s.

    Jane NZ

  27. BC
    BC says:

    I started an authentic AMI Elementary Montessori school and it has all but turned into a boys’ school!! They love it with all the outside work, the freedom to move, the active lessons, the incredible earth science curriculum and the math manipulatives…it is boy heaven. The classroom is electric! AND they play violins, AND they sew, AND they sing …such remarkable boys they are. I just LOVE it.

    Now… if I could just get more girls. : )

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      Brilliant BC! What a wonderful experience your boys are having. if I’d been able to 30years ago I would have trained as an elementary/primary Montessori teacher, but at least I’m in a Montessori preschool now and loving it!


  28. Margaret Sisson
    Margaret Sisson says:

    This is such a false statement about Montessori! I have been teaching for 23 years in a Montessori school and administrating for 6 years. Your statements are so far from the truth. Please go visit an AMI school so you can see what is really going on.It might surprise you!

    • mh
      mh says:

      Margaret Sisson,

      It’s pretty clear that not all Montessori schools are run according to Maria Montessori’s highest ideals, although I’m sure yours is. I can read that in the comments. It would be difficult to discount the experiences of all these various people.

  29. Heather
    Heather says:

    So true! We thought that perhaps Montessori would be a good fit for our son, but then we came to our senses. First of all the whole indoor voice thing was going to be a BIG problem. Also, if you dig deep, you may find some unsettling philosophical issues. The big one for us…the distinction between imagination and fantasy. According to the Montessori philosophy, imaginative play (imitating mommy cooking in the kitchen) is good. Fantasy is bad. Since my daughter insists on being called Olivia the Pig and my son can’t get enough Star Wars, we knew it wasn’t going to work out. I find it odd that a school known to be so flexible is, in reality, very rigid.

    • Kristin
      Kristin says:

      Montessori is not very flexible at all, other than during work times there are some choices for the kids, but there are also lots of choices they are not allowed to make. In particular, they cannot choose to work with material that they haven’t had a lesson in, and the teacher decides when a child is ready for the lesson, and the child must do the activity in a very particular way every time, then they must restore their work to its proper place. Schedules are very rigid in Montessori schools and rules are very strict. Within those boundaries, there are big chunks of time where the kids can choose work, but it better not be the same work every time! They still have to do everything, they just get to choose (kind of) when that work will be done. The big problem occurs when there is actually very little material in the classroom that your child is interested it. Normally that doesn’t happen with the little ones, but when they get to elementary school, things change. Homework happens as do reports and reading things that are uninteresting. I think in the primary class most everything is bright, fun, enticing, and learning academics is new. But in elementary, if your child doesn’t enjoy reading books or writing or doing things that he sees as pointless, then he is basically out of luck and is miserable in the classroom because he will have to do them often.

  30. Sheryl Watson
    Sheryl Watson says:

    I agree that boys will be boys, but there is a time and a place for everything. Boys and girls must both learn how to behave within society’s norms. You can’t do whatever you want, when you want to do it. You can’t hit, You can’t bite. You can’t steal. You also can’t yell or run around crazy in the classroom. Learning to control ones impulses is a valuable lesson that will serve children well into and throughout adulthood. Run crazy in the playground and talk in a quiet voice in the classroom. I have a 5 year old who literally climbs walls (doorways), jumps down 5 steps on our staircase, hangs from the refrigerator handle and pushes himself up to hang his legs down from the granite countertop in the kitchen. He is not allowed to do these things, but they are just so irresistible and he forgets. He is also enrolled in a Montissori public school and is always impressing us with what he is learning: names of states, some reading, writing letters, simple math (greater than, less than). He is proud of himself, asks me if he can do his homework and is eager to learn to read. He is also learning social skills, making friends, solving problems when conflict arises with other kids and rejection when a friend does not want to play with him. Important lessons for real life.

  31. Iuliana Calin
    Iuliana Calin says:

    Actually the same things apply to my almost 4 year old girl as well. She has been enrolled in Montessori for a year now. She is a very active and highly creative kid who loves rough play and dramatic enactments. Although if you ask her she only likes playing with girls no boys :), typical for the age.

    I think you’ll find that 20% of girls ( a stat I saw on PBS parenting site) act more like typical boys. I don’t think it’s as much a question of fit for boys or girls, but rather for individual kids. I agree with your observation about Montessori.

    Have you looked at Waldorf schools? They have a lot of outside play.

  32. Maria B
    Maria B says:

    So what would be the alternative? Everything you mentioned is exactly what is happening with my son! It’s not for him and we are lookin for alternatives! I’m a SAHM with my 19mth old daughter anf have my son at the school from 8:30-2:30pm and I feel like i am wasting $$ while my sob is interrupting the kids on top of what you mentioned above :/

  33. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I am amazed at the blanket statements made in this article. Montessori not good for boys?? Perhaps you have not observed a well managed Montessori classroom or rather a well managed traditional classroom. I can only speak for myself- and I think Montessori is a system of philosophy that can work work ANY child- for the underlying pursuit is to follow the child’s holisitic development. What is key however, is that Montessori is not for every parent.
    As a primary Montessori teacher at a public school I have seen first hand how children are screaming down the hallway, throwing themselves on the floor, etc. but when they get to the door step of my classroom they compose themselves. I have clear expectations in the classroom that we are respectful. We do not use inside voices just becuase- we use them so we can allow others to fully concentrate. These children are learning compassion and cooperation while using a softer voice.
    Young children are sensitive to movement- this is an underlying principle in Montessori education and recognizes this sensitive period in children- boys AND girls alike. Lessons incorporate movement as an aid to sink in concepts.
    If you research about Maria Montessori her philosophy of education was so closely linked to nature and outdoor activity. Perhaps certian schools do not have this luxury or a green space, but a authentic Montessori classroom spends an exorbant amount of time outside learning. I take my children outside daily- even in Wisconsin winters.
    Lastly- Boys that like violent games is not typical. I think so often parents and our society forgive boys for such beaviors, brushing it off to boys will be boys. Then bam we have problems with bullying, fighting, and extreme problems such as school shootings. Children are hands on, they sometimes hit- they are learning their boundries. Perhaps some boys like pertending to be fighting and holding swords/guns. However it is our duty as teachers, parents, and society members to teach our young generation that violenece is not acceptable.
    I wish that before you made such generalizations that might poorly influence people’s decisions you would do some more research.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Sarah, I appreciate your response — it is soft-spoken and yet firmly stated.

      Where I disagree is in teaching children that violence is not acceptable. Plain and simple, sometimes you have to fight. Better to know how: First with your wits, like our 1960’s Civil Rights leaders, and as a last resort, with your fists, like Koreans with rifles on the rooftops of their businesses and homes during the 1992 L.A. riots.

      Humans are evil by nature, and not every person in America has been well-civilized by their parents or their martial arts training or their government institutions. People are, quite simply, bad. Leaving children defenseless in the face of evil is wrong thinking.

      Preparing children to think through defensive situations and to know when they MUST fight is good. Letting them “pretend play” it is fine. Dealing with violence and death in pretend play is a good way for children to internalize that they have a duty to be brave.

      Good and decent people have a duty to teach their children how to fight.

      And we teach our children not to do violence to innocent others.

      And we practice marksmanship at the firing range.

      I simply disagree with your theory that young people must be taught that violence is unacceptable. Violence is inevitable: be prepared.

      Interested people might want to check out the Survival Mom webpage:

    • Paxton
      Paxton says:

      Sarah, you are incorrect, of course boys like play violence. As children, my brother and I used to beat each other up every day and play cowboys and indians where we would pretend to kill each other…and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think bullying, fighting, and shootings are largely due to poor parenting and neglect. Which goes to Penelope’s point that homeschooling is a better option to any school because a child needs thier parent’s love and attention.

      The other major problem is the dis-information that you are spreading which is continuing this damaging PC campaign to try to get boys to act like girls. It is wrong, and it is psychologically damaging to boys. So I wish that people would do some critical thinking and research before making generalizations about what is “typical”

  34. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    The interesting thing about Montessori schools is that they vary very, very much. A true Montessori school that follows Maria Montessori’s philosophies and practices would “follow the child”, which means that they do not try to change the child. Rather, the whole idea is to allow the child to be who they are. Maria Montessori understood that children need to move and do, and that’s why she didn’t have children sitting at desks–they move all day from activity to activity and go outside and explore the world and run and jump and yell and throw things and climb and build and just do whatever comes to mind. They garden and make forts and care for animals. When they are inside, something special happens, the child finds peace and becomes very focused on their work. Sure, there are times when the child will talk loudly or need to move, but they do not discourage this with a reprimand or try to make the child feel bad about himself.. They say, “let me show you a new work” and the child is engaged again. I have seen this over and over at the school where my children attend. Every day, even if it’s raining, the children go outside to use their bodies and be free. And they get SO SO SO SO SO SO muddy and come back inside with red cheeks and grubby clothes and change into new clothing and begin to work with the materials. It’s a beautiful thing.

  35. Kamila
    Kamila says:

    That is the most ridiculous article I have ever read about Montessori approach. It works wonderfully for boys and girls and you do not sit all the time. You work with an amazing equipment that works magic. Montessori children are far better educated. Montessori is definitely not for every single child, and you as parent should be well informed and make a conscious choice. Coming to public schools and looking at the children running around like crazy animals is a view to be sorry for. There are lots of opportunities for outside activities to use the excess of energy stated in their bodies. School is for learning across all developmental areas not a zoo. Children should learn how to relax from a very early age. Montessori is great.

  36. Heather Harvey
    Heather Harvey says:

    I am sorry you have had bad experiences with public schools and/or Montessori schools. I am a Montessori teacher who has worked very hard to make sure boys and girls get to be themselves both inside and outside of the classroom. I have also successfully advocated for increasing our outdoor play time. Montessori schools, like any other type of education environment, are not all the same. You have never met me so I’m not sure how you came to your conclusions. I can say that I do my best not to generalize about schools, unschooling, homeschooling, boys, Montessori, advice columnists, or hard-working and well-spoken moms who blog. Best of luck to you.

  37. LoisB
    LoisB says:

    YES!! I am so glad that I found this post. I enrolled my 5 year old at a Montessori pre-k last year to give myself a little break while I spent all day handling his little brothers (yes, I have three boys aged 5 and under and yes, my house is insane 24/7). It was HORRIBLE. We left after two weeks. My son was incredibly frustrated throughout the day. The only thing he like was recess. He thought the work was dull and uninteresting and the stations he was interested in were frequently occupied by other kids – the teacher would just tell him to find something else to do. I felt kind of inadequate as a parent, or like maybe there was something wrong with my kid as I watched his other little friends be Montessori all-stars. But you know what? Every one of those Montessori all-stars is a girl! So now my boy spends his days playing in the woods with his brother and their dogs while I hang out with the baby, no one harasses him about focusing on his “work” (which, in retrospect, sounds like a ludicrous thing to tell a child) and he gets to do what he enjoys.

  38. Laura
    Laura says:


    That does sound like a terrible experience! But it also sounds like the school wasn’t truly Montessori. True Montessori schools don’t start children at age 5 because in a 3-6 year-old program (which is what true Montessori schools have), the children aren’t set up for success if they start at age 5. Just after age 4 is the cutoff for admissions. Also, true Montessori schools don’t have “stations”. There are individual activities, each with a purpose, and each child chooses their own activity, once they’ve been given a presentation in that activity — which won’t always be occupied because of the mixed-age range and every children being at a different point in the curriculum.

    I write this only to let you and others know that what your children might experience may or may not actually be Montessori. From what you describe, your child experienced – sadly – a Monte-something school. And please know that that’s not your fault! There are so many schools using the name, which cannot be trademarked (no name can!). In fact, if you wanted, you could open up a school tomorrow and call it “Montessori,” and most people wouldn’t know the difference.

    If you ever hear about a true Montessori school in your area, I encourage you to take a look, because seeing the real deal is amazing.

    My son is going to be 11 this summer and my daughter is 9 1/2. They’ve been in Montessori since around 2, and it’s served them both incredibly well.

  39. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Your topic shows a gross misunderstanding of the Montessori method. Yes Montessorians are generally anti-video game; however this is because they believe children should be immersed in their natural world not one artificially created for them. Also it does not restrict outside time, for goodness sake the secondary model is called the farm school! It would be next to impossible to be part of a farm school program without near constant outside play time. And to play devils advocate if these boys are playing so hard outside when do they have time to play their brain rotting video games? Finally as for sitting still I can tell you a child who is truly engaged and in concentration upon their work is never sitting still. Also many materials and presentations give great emphasis to the child gaining control of movement, which would be a challenge to achieve while sitting still. The primary classroom has entire lessons on movement! As a trained AMI primary teacher I find it so sad that our philosophy and pedagogy is grossly misinterpreted by the general population.

  40. Ruby
    Ruby says:


    I have to disagree with you. As a Montessori teacher, the part of the educational philosophy that I take most to heart is the idea of child-centered education. It is part of our training that we observe and adapt to the needs of the child, the whole child–mentally, physically, and emotionally. I’m sure there are schools that don’t implement Montessori in this way, but I hardly think you can say that Montessori schools don’t work for boys, period. Especially since no two schools are the same, whether or not they claim to share philosophy. You’re making a huge, unwarranted generalization based on the assumption that all Montessori schools are the same.

  41. Sarah Danielski
    Sarah Danielski says:

    Wow, indeed.

    Thank you to Ruby for saying exactly what I was feeling as I read this post. Penelope, you clearly did no extensive research before you made this ridiculous claim. I have two boys who are wild and crazy, just as you describe yours to be. I am a Montessori directress, and my boys are at the same school I am working in. They don’t have “stations”, where did you get that information from? On the contrary, they are moving constantly: working like busy bees, choosing their own work, and feeling a sense of joy and accomplishment when they have completed something. I want them to learn that running around like madmen for the majority of the day is not acceptable in our culture. They are going to have to learn to direct their energy in constructive and respectful manners. I would be doing them a disservice to let them act that way ALL the time. In Montessori, there is FREEDOM with RESPONSIBILITY. It’s something more adults need help with: yes, you may choose this or do that, but you need to use it in a respectful manner and you must make sure it’s ready for the next person. I expect my husband to do that for me in our home, and I will expect my boys to do so at whatever level they can physically help. They have plenty of time rough-housing with their friends, with me, with their dad, their cousins, their uncles. There is a time for that and then, there is a time for more focused work. It’s true that the education world, in general, is dominated by women and therefore the expectations are skewed, but that doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s posts like these that make me so upset that just anyone can go on a rant online. I would respectfully ask you to take down this post. Do your research. Observe at five or ten different schools, then get back to us with some actual evidence-based opinions. Or, rewrite the post with a huge disclaimer: “I don’t know what I am talking about, but I will go off on this anyway…”

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