Why Montessori Is Bad…Or Good! (Pros and Cons)

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Are you considering enrolling your child in a Montessori school? This type of school typically sparks debate among parenting groups and neighborhoods. The Montessori approach is certainly different from a “typical” public school. But in a world where standardized tests and high expectations put immense pressure on some kids and unnecessarily put other kids in a restrictive box, it may be helpful to look less into why Montessori is bad, and look more into why Montessori is good. 

Below are some pros and cons, along with some basic information, about Montessori schools. Not all Montessori schools are the same. If you are interested in enrolling your child in a Montessori school near you, visit that specific school and talk to parents whose children attend the school. Most importantly, remember that what works for your child may not work for others. 

What Are Montessori Schools? 

Montessori schools follow the work of Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician. As she conducted research on child development, she created an approach that encouraged children to lead their own education. She founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which opened over 3,000 Montessori schools in the USA. 

Montessori won multiple Nobel Peace Prizes for her work. Her ideas about collaborative play in the classroom and hands-on learning were innovative in her day. Although Montessori schools are still a controversial subject in parenting groups, they have certainly made an impact on education and childhood development. 

While most Montessori schools are set up for children up to 15, there are some Montessori high schools available. Parents may choose to put their child in a Montessori preschool but switch back to a “typical” grade school. This decision may depend on the accessibility of Montessori schools in the area and how the child fares while using this different approach to learning. 

How Do Montessori Schools Differ From Other Schools 

Montessori schools don’t look like your “typical” classroom. They are not set up with rows of identical desks and not all children are expected to hit the same milestones. At any given time, a Montessori teacher may be working with an individual student or directing an older student in the classroom on how to teach others. Grades are not distributed. Homework is rarely given! All of these factors allow children to take charge of their own education. 

Children Lead the Way

Children are in charge of their own learning. If they want to focus on spelling, they can focus on spelling. If they prefer to nurture a doll and play, they can do that, too. Montessori believed that children should lead the way, and teachers will follow. This doesn’t mean that children run amok all day long, but the curriculum is much looser in a Montessori school than in traditional schools.  

This is why teachers don’t typically administer grades - they are a form of external motivation. Rather than teaching a child to do well for the sake of others, Montessori schools foster intrinsic motivation

Teachers Interact With The Same Students for a Longer Period of Time

In traditional schools, children attend first grade with a group of other six-year-olds, then second grade with the same group of now seven-year-olds, etc. All these students may develop at different paces, but only if the students on the extreme ends of the spectrum may skip a grade or be held back. 

Montessori schools work differently. Children stay with the same teacher for three years, not one. They are also grouped with children of different age groups. This provides benefits and drawbacks. Older children are encouraged to help younger students with the material, but if you know kids, you know they aren’t always leading with empathy.  

Montessori Is a Lifestyle

A lot of parents put their kids in Montessori schools and live a “Montessori lifestyle.” They apply the principles developed by Dr. Montessori to the home. This looks like: 

  • Being patient with a child and letting them develop their itinerary for the day.
  • Giving them simple, naturally-made toys (as opposed to plastic toys with a lot of fancy buttons and distracting lights) 
  • Offering hands-on instruction (rather than just telling a child what to do) 
  • Giving the child space to complete tasks in their own way, on their own time 

That being said, you don’t have to run your home like a Montessori school for your child to succeed. Not all parents live the Montessori lifestyle. But that option is available to you if you think your child is benefitting from this approach to learning and development. 

Pros of Attending a Montessori School

Fostering Independence

When you give a child opportunities to be independent, they may run with it and discover interests and tasks that they wouldn’t have had access to in traditional schooling. Teachers run a traditional classroom, giving the same instructions to at least a dozen different children. Montessori schools see each child as an individual. Whereas one child may be interested in reading and writing, another may spend their time working with their hands and building things. Both of those children can find success in the areas that interest them.    


Children who find themselves bored by traditional schooling may thrive in a Montessori school. On a Reddit post in the Nashville subreddit, a parent reflected on their experiences in traditional schooling: 

“I went to very good suburban schools in Memphis growing up, and then to private school 10-12, and I really wish that I'd had a Montessori option when I was younger as it would have better fit my learning style, which now consists of intensely researching anything that interests me online. A really structured system works for some kids, but for creatives especially I think, being told what and how to learn things causes you to shut down.”


Montessori’s “follow the child” philosophy doesn’t just apply to able-bodied, neurotypical, or gifted students. All children lead their development and growth. For special needs students, this freedom can give them room to grow in their own ways. Montessori teachers also have more time to get to know the student. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean all students with special needs will thrive in a Montessori environment. A child with special needs may benefit from having strict routines and rules to make days in the classroom more predictable. 

Cons of Attending a Montessori School

Cost and Accessibility 

Only 560 of the 3,000 Montessori schools in the country are public schools. Most Montessori schools come with a high tuition that many parents cannot afford. This will vary by school. Unfortunately, this also means that Montessori schools may not be accessible to a diverse group of students. If exposing your child to diversity is important to you, a public school may be a better option. 

Transitioning Back to “Normal” School

There are 150 Montessori high schools throughout the United States, meaning it can be hard to find one in your area. No Montessori colleges or universities exist. That means, at some point, children will have to “transition back” to a traditional school. These schools offer more structure than Montessori schools, and this transition can be hard for many kids who solely attended Montessori schools. 

Having to Explain Montessori to Everyone Outside the School System

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Montessori schools are misunderstood. People attach a lot of labels to the school and lifestyle: “hippie,” “cult,” etc. On a small Reddit poll, people who didn’t attend the schools were more likely to think it was “culty!” When you enroll your child in a Montessori school, you will likely have to explain the philosophy behind the approach to your family, neighbors, and friends. 

Is a Montessori School Right For Your Family? 

Research the Individual Schools in Your Area 

A school can open up without proper accreditation and still call itself a “Montessori school.” Often, these schools use this title to advertise to interested parents and are not held to the standards and practices of “real” Montessori schools. If you are interested in enrolling a child in a Montessori school, ask about their accreditation. Are they associated with AMI or AMS, the parent companies that started Montessori? If not, they may not be a “real” Montessori school that you are looking for. 

That being said, even a “real” Montessori school may not be a good fit for your child. Be sure to visit the school and ask plenty of questions about how each child receives attention from staff. At the end of the day, Montessori schools are great for some children and not so great for others. You, as a parent, know your child better than anyone else. Go with your gut. If you think one school is a great fit for your child, even if it’s not a great fit for the neighbor’s kid or your sister’s kid, follow your gut.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, November). Why Montessori Is Bad…Or Good! (Pros and Cons). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/why-montessori-is-bad/.

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