Montessori educators commonly hear people remark that “Montessori is only for preschool students,” or “Montessori students won’t be able to transition to traditional public or other private high schools easily.”
Both comments ignore a core Montessori’s pillar: to develop independent, self-reliant young citizens.
To be fair, if a child’s education has been entirely Montessori, we understand some parents might naturally develop anxiety about the transition to a traditional, public high school. There, classes will likely be larger and more structured, and teachers will lead classes in which all students are expected to maintain the same pace.
But, while a public high school environment will surely be different, the Montessori approach prepares its students to thrive within it. Culminating in the Middle School experience, Richmond Montessori students have been given the tools and practiced the skills needed to succeed as leaders and contributing members of their communities.
Let’s take a deeper look at how this is achieved.
Montessori Develops Self-Reliant Students
The Montessori approach rests on the credo that students’ unique talents and skills will drive their learning. In Montessori Middle School classrooms, students engage in research-based projects, which they often choose to start based on their own interests. Working in groups and on their own, they gain experience making decisions, solving problems and delivering presentations to both small and large audiences.
At RMS, the Middle School science curriculum is intentionally focused on hands-on learning. Because students can administer and practice the scientific process, to include mistakes, re-configurations and restarts, they are able to understand what their independent work can contribute to their community. As a result, they grow in their self-confidence.
This is an example of the general Montessori approach to entrust students with much responsibility in their education. The result finds highly motivated students with a great sense of ownership of their studies.
Plus, students develop a sense of self-reliance that is crucial for navigating the larger, more demanding waters of public high school. When the responsibilities there become more intense, students’ first instinct won’t be, “I can’t handle this.” Indeed, because of Montessori, it will be, “I can figure out the way.”
Montessori Students Engage in Collaborative Learning
An important facet of Montessori Middle School is its project-based learning, in which students collaborate with others of varying backgrounds, knowledge and skills. While working in teams, Montessori students gain experience being the leader and being the follower, which helps them understand the usefulness and best practices of both roles. Within groups, they learn how to “debate, defend, share, assert, converse, and challenge” in deliberate, respectful ways.
Collaborative learning will serve Montessori students well when they transition to public high schools and begin practicing critical thinking skills more deeply. Challenged to exercise critical thinking skills on homework assignments, classroom discussions and group work, Montessori students will find that they draw on skills they’ve been practicing for years. Because Montessori Middle School programs challenge students to think deeply about highly complex subjects, these same students will be able to assume leadership roles in public high school classrooms, leading peers in thoughtful discussions and contributing to group projects in meaningful ways.
Montessori Nurtures Culturally Aware Students
At the heart of the Montessori philosophy is a celebration of each student’s individual talents and skills, couched in a respect for the contributions each student makes to the classroom community. As students collaborate, help each other and deliver presentations, they learn that everyone brings different strengths and knowledge to the classroom, and they grow in their appreciation of this diversity.
At the Middle School level, as projects become more complex and students engage in deeper critical thought, students gain an appreciation not only of one another’s diverse skills and knowledge, but of the classroom’s cultural and ethnic diversity, too. Students see these differences not as divisions but as dynamics that enrich the whole.
As a result, when Montessori students transition to high school, they instinctively experience diversity as an opportunity to learn and grow. When they work alongside their peers, who will range in cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, Montessori students will find common ground and develop relationships in which each person’s contribution is respected. Valuing each other’s differences, and indeed celebrating the general diversity, is a unique and strong quality for young high school students to have. Beginning high school with this awareness and sensitivity already in place will make them a great role model in any classroom.
Montessori Promotes Active Citizenship
Montessori’s fundamental approach rests on the student’s curiosity. At the Middle School level, students engage in a complex, interdisciplinary study of their world. They explore real-world issues, events and ecosystems, cultural evolutions and historical milestones, seeking to draw connections and understand humans’ roles as active participants. At RMS, Middle School students participate in four multi-day Field Studies, in which students and their teachers live and work in a natural space. Here, students build community, gain independence and learn how, as budding adults, they can become agents of change.
When students transition to public high schools, they have experience not only in studying the function of active citizenship but also in participating in it. Many students will have already identified needs in their school or local communities and, with a group, developed and implemented ways to address them. As a result, Montessori students are able to bring this experience to their high school communities and beyond.
When Montessori students transition to public high schools, parents often refer to it as “entering the real world.” We understand what they mean – Montessori education isn’t the norm.
But, what’s interesting is that the Montessori education has been more like the “real world” than a traditional school will be. In a mixture of ages, talents and skills, students have engaged in projects as teams or on their own. They have adjusted to differences, made compromises, asserted their independence and learned how to manage their own responsibilities.
So, are Richmond Montessori students prepared for public high school? You bet.
Get in touch to find out more about our programs for ages 18 months – 8th grade.