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Why Montessori Is Bad – The Pros and Cons In Preschools

Montessori education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907, emphasizes self-directed learning, multi-age classrooms, and unique educational materials, promoting independence, confidence, and a love for learning. It offers self-paced learning, hands-on experiences, group learning opportunities, and support for special needs, nurturing children’s self-motivation and cognitive skills without using grades, homework, or tests.

However, Montessori education faces challenges such as inconsistent research results, variability in implementation fidelity, and pedagogical choices that may limit student collaboration and creativity. Additionally, concerns about transitioning to traditional educational settings and the accessibility of Montessori schools for lower-income families are noted.

Despite these issues, the effectiveness of Montessori education largely depends on the quality of teacher training and the school’s adherence to Montessori principles.

Two pre-school children build a plastic tower.

In searching for preschools, Montessori is inevitably one of the first options parents consider.

While several studies have shown positive outcomes in preschoolers who have received Montessori education, there are still criticisms and doubts.

Let’s review the main pros and cons of the Montessori philosophy.

Is Montessori good

Montessori education is good for young children. This self-directed learning style allows them to gain independence and self-confidence quickly. However, it is unclear whether this learning method for students is better than regular schools.

Across the country, the spread of standardized testing has caused teachers to feel pressured to “teach to the test” so that students will learn mandated subjects.

Montessori education provides the antidote needed for this negative trend. 

Is Montessori bad

The Montessori method has some drawbacks, including the lack of consistent quality implementation, difficulty transitioning to higher education, and high tuition.

However, the Montessori method itself is not bad as this development-focused education fosters independence and a love for learning in children.

Let’s first understand what this education approach is.

With that in mind, we can examine some of the common disadvantages of Montessori school and what you should do if you enroll your child in a Montessori program.

What is the Montessori method?

The Montessori method was implemented by Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907​.

This method (also called “scientific education” by the doctor), is based on the belief that children learn best when actively involved in the environment and may choose what to learn according to their own needs​1​.

Montessori classrooms are divided into multi-age classes with a difference of fewer than three years between the students.

This arrangement provides different education periods for children from birth  – birth to age 3, age 3 to 6, etc.

Children at school can choose among a unique set of educational materials to work on.

Teachers in the Montessori classroom guide and help students individually.

They may show how to do some activities, but they do not conduct adult-directed lessons.

The actual learning happens when the child is figuring out how to complete project tasks.

Children are given long time blocks to complete the activities and can move at their own pace.

Also unique to this educational process is its absence of grades, homework, and tests.

The pros of the Montessori method

Here are the advantages of learning the Montessori way.

Self-paced learning builds confidence and promotes independence

Skills development in children varies from child to child.

Montessori students learn at their own pace and pursue their interests.

Children have free access to activities and are allowed to explore without boundaries.

Providing opportunities for students to figure things out on their own can foster independence and self-confidence in them.

Montessori preschool is a system of education that is focused on the idea of fostering independence, competence, and confidence in children. 

Hands-on learning through an absorbent mind

Montessori believed young children had absorbent minds.

They learn differently from older children by taking in everything in the environment.

They also gain basic learning concepts through hands-on learning.

The activities help young children develop fine motor skills, visual-spatial awareness and skills, and eye-hand coordination​2​.

Group learning can teach kids communication skills

Learning in mixed-age groups allows older children to guide younger ones when they struggle, enhancing their communication skills.

Younger children also benefit as they learn faster from watching their older peers.

Support special needs

Montessori’s “follow the child” philosophy allows children to receive individualized early childhood education and achieve their unique potential.

This approach to education was originally derived from her psychiatric clinic work with disabled children who had special needs. 

Dr. Montessori believed these children’s challenges were caused by deficiencies in their interaction with the environment, as opposed to actual medical problems.

Learning materials were intended to teach children to master interacting with the environment, regardless of their needs​3​.

Nurture self-motivation and love for learning

Students view learning as an enjoyable lifelong process instead of a chore they want to get rid of.

They develop intrinsic self-motivation to learn. This love for learning becomes a lifelong benefit to children.

The cons of the Montessori method

Here are the most common criticisms of this learning model.

Inconsistent research results

Despite several studies boasting of the superior outcomes of this educational model, the results cannot be consistently replicated.

Some studies found that students in Montessori schools had better outcomes than those educated in traditional schools.

However, other studies found that this type of education produced the same or worse outcomes.

Because of the inconsistency, no reliable conclusion can be drawn regarding the efficacy of this learning model​4​.

Inconsistent implementation

One criticism of Montessori schools is that not all schools follow exactly the educational methods developed by Dr. Montessori.

Although most schools adopt the basic program, many adapt it to their local needs.

Common adaptations are shorter work periods, special classes, extra activities, supplementary learning materials, grades, and homework.

Some researchers have noticed that implementation fidelity of the Montessori method is associated with different outcomes in children​5​.

Many small adaptations are made in today’s Montessori schools, but Dr. Montetessori explained extensively in her book why she chose specific details.

Those small changes may or may not have impacted the research results.

Because the Montessori name is not trademarked, almost any school can claim to be practicing it.

It is hard for families to evaluate if the Montessori schools they are considering adhere to the original standards.

The quality of the teacher training is also difficult to evaluate.

Independence over collaboration

The Montessori method emphasizes individualized learning.

It values independence and self-sufficiency.

Even though some work is performed in small groups, teamwork is not commonly encouraged.

Students lack opportunities to learn how to collaborate with others, which is an essential skill in real life.

These students may be less prepared for life outside of school.

Conformity over creativity

In preschools, Montessori materials are designed to be self-corrective, but it is not a creative activity.

When children misuse it, feedback is built into the activity tools, and they can correct themselves.

Teachers also show children the “correct way” to conduct activities so they will know how to do it “the right way.”

However, the corollary is that if the child does not use the tool strictly as intended, they won’t be able to proceed, even if there could be other, more creative ways.

When there is only one way to complete a task, it is called a convergent activity.

Children who participate more in convergent activities are less creative than those who do more divergent activities, activities that allow open-ended creative results​6​.

Despite this association, studies that directly compare the creativity of Montessori students showed inconsistent results.

Once again, it is unclear whether this activity positively or negatively affects children.

Social opportunities for socio-emotional development

Although some studies show that Montessori kids have better social skills in terms of problem-solving, no studies have evaluated their emotional regulation.

We learn emotional skills through experiencing stress in daily life and then learning to overcome it.

The lack of free play means there are fewer opportunities for emotional learning.

Transition to higher education

Currently, no high schools or universities teach based on this theory.

Students who have been used to independent learning, open-ended structure, and lack of concrete lessons will be surprised to find that they will have rigid classroom structure, inflexible timetables, deadlines, and homework assignments in these higher education environments.


Even though the Montessori way of teaching originally came from classrooms in low-income areas in Rome, nowadays, most Montessori schools in the US are private schools that have a hefty price tag associated with enrollment.

They are also more likely to be in areas with high-income families, making it disproportionately difficult for low-income families to enroll.

Final thoughts

In today’s Montessori schools, most do not adhere entirely to the original guidelines created by Dr. Montessori.

It doesn’t mean that the changes are bad, however, it does mean that what you experience in one school or program may look very different from another, or from what is described here.

The only way to know the “real” Montessori method is to read Dr. Montessori’s book, The Montessori Method.

Choosing a good preschool ultimately boils down to the quality of the teachers.

So whether a Montessori school is worth it depends greatly on the teachers. Here’s a guide to finding the best preschool for your child.


  1. 1.
    Kramer R. Maria Montessori: A Biography. Diversion Books; 2017.
  2. 2.
    Goldin-Meadow S. How our hands help us learn. Trends in cognitive sciences. 2005;9(5):234-241. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2005.03.006
  3. 3.
    Ackerman DJ. The Montessori preschool landscape in the United States: history, programmatic inputs, availability, and effects. ETS Research Report Series. 2019;1:1-20. doi:10.1002/ets2.12252
  4. 4.
    Lillard AS. Preschool children’s development in classic Montessori, supplemented Montessori, and conventional programs. Journal of school psychology. 2012;50(3):379-401. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2012.01.001Get rights and content
  5. 5.
    Lillard AS. Playful learning and Montessori education. Namta Journal. 2013;38(2):137-174.
  6. 6.
    Pepler DJ, Ross HS. The Effects of Play on Convergent and Divergent Problem Solving. Child Development. Published online December 1981:1202. doi:10.2307/1129507


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