“At what point do you burst the Montessori bubble?” a friend recently asked. She has two young children in Montessori, but is considering enrolling them in a traditional private school after they finish Primary.
My first thought (as a former Montessori child and current parent and teacher) was, Why would you want to burst it?
But my friend is not alone in her concern: many parents feel that Montessori shelters children from tests, grades, and competition. Based on their own childhoods, these parents believe that only a conventional approach to education can provide the tough experiences that will prepare children to be successful when faced with the hardships of real life.
Finding myself at a loss for a coherent answer, I posed the question to pediatric neuropsychologist and Montessori parent Dr. Steve Hughes over dinner. He looked at me from behind his glasses for a moment, and then asked:
“Which is the real bubble?”
His question was all the answer I needed.
Because the truth is, success in life is not built on a foundation of standardized tests, but on the freedom to make difficult choices and experience their consequences.
Success in life is not built on grades and percentages, but on self-awareness and self-improvement.
Success in life is not built on artificial competition among same-aged peers, but on genuine collaboration between generations.
Success in life is not built on cheating the system, but on having the wisdom and courage to transform it.
In Dr. Maria Montessori’s words…
“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?… The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.”