Child king & Montessori pedagogy: myth or reality?

Child king & Montessori pedagogy: myth or reality?


With Montessori, the child does what he wants when he wants. In short, it’s a little the pedagogy of the child king, no ? We read them and hear them quite regularly in the media. But contrary to popular belief, Montessori pedagogy is anything but that of the child king. Admittedly, the child is placed at the center of the educator’s concerns, but for all that, not everything is permitted, far from it. What is less well known is that this way of learning and educating is based on a set of well-defined rules that have nothing to do with letting go or lax. Everything is very supervised at Montessori. The child learns frustration and certainly doesn’t do everything he wants when he wants to. To better understand, we will try to answer the received ideas concerning Montessori pedagogy and the child kings.

Child king & Montessori pedagogy: myth or reality?

With Montessori pedagogy, the child does what he wants when he wants

Too often, we think that in Montessori pedagogy, the child is so placed at the center of concerns, that it is up to the adult to comply with his 4 wishes and do everything to adapt to his desires. Well no !

Take the example of a 4 or 5 year old who starts to take an interest in letters and wants to try writing. In a Montessori environment, an educator would then offer him a maximum of activities related to the field of language and writing in order to benefit from his “momentum”. The idea is simple: when you are interested in a subject, it is much easier to learn and motivate yourself to work on it.

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But concretely, the child will only work on one theme until he finally wants to do something else? Here, we can answer yes and no. Yes, in the sense that as long as the child is attracted to a domain, we will offer him activities that meet this need. But alongside, we certainly do not give up other learning.

Again and again we continue to introduce him to other activities and ask him to observe classmates in order to push him and that he progresses in all subjects.

Furthermore, the child does not do what he wants when he wants. The workshops are presented in an order predefined by the adult, from the easiest to the most difficult, starting with fine motor skills and practical life activities. If the child has not attended the presentation of a workshop by an educator, he cannot in any case use it, if only to try it. He must first master those of lower difficulty with validation by an adult.

With Montessori, children are never frustrated

If there is one misconception, it is this. In a Montessori classroom operation, each activity is presented in a unique copy. This confers several advantages, including that of work frustration. Indeed, if a child absolutely wants to do a workshop that has been presented to him but the latter is already taken by a friend, he will have to wait and be patient. In addition, it is forbidden to interrupt, disturb or press another child during his work. Educators watch over the grain and if a child persists in hindering instead ofobserve silently while waiting for your turn, he risks being called to order. Suffice to say that it does indeed work on frustration and the ability to take it upon yourself!

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Another important point: if a material is diverted from its primary use and this is in no way relevant for learning, it may be refused to the child temporarily. For example, there is a workshop in Montessori pedagogy called the red bars, which are wooden bars ranging from 10 cm to 1 m in length. It is clear that if a student plays at using them as swords, he will no longer have the right to use them immediately. This is a frustration necessary to ensure compliance with the equipment and instructions given by the adult.

In Montessori, the adult does not show enough authority over the child

Pay attention to do not confuse authority and submission. We still have too often in mind that we must educate a child by teaching him to obey wisely the orders given by the adult. This image is undoubtedly a little strong, but the general idea is there, because many still think that a child must in some way be controlled by the adult who must impose his rules, without discussion or almost.

There are also rules in Montessori pedagogy, and fortunately, otherwise it would be difficult to establish a favorable framework for learning. On the other hand, the educator is not only a figure of authority, it is also a guide and an accompanist. Unlike more standard pedagogies where adults are faced with children who must listen and follow a rhythm and imposed activities, we are more likely to suggest that educators take a back seat. The relationship with the adult is more horizontal, because it represents a guide and a help more than a teacher, which does not prevent there are many rules in a Montessori environment.

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For example, you must follow the progression indicated by the educator, only do the activities presented and use the equipment in the prescribed manner, you must also set up and systematically tidy up a workshop after use, otherwise you will no longer be authorized to use it. ‘use it for a while, etc. In short, as everywhere, at Montessori if a rule is not respected, the child suffers the consequences.

The educator represents the authority figure, he is the guarantor of respect for the rules by all and for all.

No, the child is not king in Montessori pedagogy

The very functioning of Montessori pedagogy is based on a set of clear rules to be observed by children and adults. Once made a minimum of autonomy, respectful of others and of the material, it is true that the child has a certain freedom in the organization of his work. But it does not matter whether he progresses first in math and then moves on to French since he will have to go through all areas of learning whatever happens. It is ultimately a framed freedom, with limits and a well-established program. In short, the child king does not have to be in Montessori pedagogy. As everywhere and undoubtedly even more still, it is necessarily necessary to wait its turn, to respect the work of the others, not to be idle and to be autonomous to move forward.

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