Is Montessori religious? (Is it some kind of cult?)
According to Google, these are the two most frequently asked questions about Montessori. The answer is no. Maria Montessori was a deeply spiritual Catholic, but Montessori education does not in itself have a religious orientation. Religious Montessori schools do exist, and some Catholic Montessori schools use a Montessori approach to religious education called the Catachesis of the Good Shepherd.
As for being a cult, it is true that Montessori was founded by a charismatic leader and inspires passionate believers. Needless to say, it does not engage mind control, manipulation, exploitation, or any other cult-like behaviors.
Isn’t Montessori too rigid? Aren’t the children required to use the materials in a certain way?
Montessori was founded on the principle of liberty, at a time when education was much more rigid than today. In 1912 she wrote, “The fundamental principle of scientific pedagogy must be, indeed, the liberty of the pupil.” The hallmark of a Montessori classroom is children choosing their own work and working with it to their own sense of satisfaction and completion. It is true that the materials and lessons are given with a great deal of precision, and that a teacher might intervene if materials are being used inappropriately, but the goal always is to open the way for free exploration and learning.
Isn’t Montessori too open-ended? How can children learn if they just do whatever they want?
It’s curious that Montessori is thought of as “too rigid” and “too free” at the same time. Children in Montessori schools do have a lot of choice—but the choices available are exceptionally well thought-out, and based on over one hundred years of observation and refinement.
Is Montessori only for families who can afford it?
Montessori’s first classroom served poor children in Rome at public expense. Today, tuition at private Montessori schools is typically competitive with other nearby programs, and many schools offer need-based financial aid. Montessori is increasingly available in public and charter schools. Montessori programs are offered in very poor communities in Kenya, Haiti, Australia, and elsewhere.