Montessori Mish-mash

Hi Everyone - does anyone have an in-a-nutshell a) definition and b) opinion of this method? As I have an 18-month old here in France with a Spanish mother + entourage, my big worry is that he’s not actually going to be much good at English, and maybe something like a Montessori school could be good for him, but I’m also a bit worried, not about unconventional methods as such, but about any sides to it which might be a bit too ‘weird’ to swallow. Any comments?

I think Montessori schools, from the examples of people I know who have gone to them, create more tolerant, calm and open minded children. Children are more apt to learning new things. For me, preschool or nursery school is the only thing that would work for us since we will be living in France permanently. If you don’t have the certificates and go into public school, then you’ll still have to take those exams. Would a child who has been in school with the strict Montessori approach that most schools have in France actually make it? I also thought about if my child went further than nursery school and started later, would they have trouble acclimating themselves to a classroom. That is another thing. You have smaller classes in Montessori schools. Also it is student led. In other schools, it is teacher led which is a bit difficult for kids who have been in a strict Montessori enviroment for a long period of time, may find it difficult. I used to have those big dreams for my kid. Now, i’m just focusing on her being a kid. I want her to play, make friends and be happy. Education is so important but for me it is only a part of the formula. I have small kids like you too. Excuse me for giving you this advice but I think it is sound advice and someone gave it to me. Don’t have high expectations for a child. Just let them be children. Because in the end, your disappointment may show through when your kid isn’t the next Bill Gates. I don’t think my child is Einstein but I don’t want to set her up for failure in these schools that just pump out bacs and don’t create thinkers.

Well, the school I was going to put her in was just being built. I don’t know how it is doing but I did teach English and my friend who teaches at an institute called me to see if I wanted to “play” with the kids at the school so that they could have someone who speaks English. The school is supposed to be a Bilangue Montessori school. So, when I heard that, I thought, I’ll just keep my daughter where she is. She does have teachers there that did Montessori training. However, they were only required to do a year old training in Paris. That just really didn’t cut it for me. I’ve started teaching my daughter at home some in addition to what she learns at school. For example, in the international school we have here, they don’t start teaching children English until CM2 and then they have only 30% of their classes in English until Terminale. Well, the idea is that English is 50% of what they learn. So now, I’m fed up and said i’ll do it myself. I want my daughter to be literate in both languages and the best thing for her is to not get swallowed up by the school system here. It is lacking in so many ways since there have been reforms.

I agree with the entrepreneurial spirit for us but I’m a little more conventional with my children- as we’re in France for the long term I would like my three boys to follow the brevet/bac route and then who knows. They are being brought up to know they can do anything, live anywhere, be anything, but get a French education first. In the long run all we can do is point them in the right direction and then support their decisions later on in life. I do worry however that in France there are less opportunities for teens without the right qualifications- I’ve never taught so many people that have only done the one job and always lived in the same place. We are in ‘ruralist’ France, but still it worries me that they’re brought up to be so focused/narrow minded. French friends have even told my eldest that doing a Bac L ‘…will close many doors…’ I’ve come to France with my Scottish husband, I was born and brought up in Wales, spent my late teens/twenties/early thirties living and working in London, brought my boys up there to high school age and then started new adventure in France. Who knows what next?! But to my French friends, colleagues and students we are considered to be very unconventional.

Thanks for the comments Rebekah - very valuable input. In the end… does it make a lot of difference or not? That’s the question. As well as will it give them a false start on the reality of the French education system if that’s what we’re dealing with, not that I’m a great believer in it. I have more of an entrepreneurial spirit, thinking that a kid could set up his own business at 14, but maybe I’m being unrealistic…?

Yes, one of the pseudo Montessori schools I know about is already at €8000 a year, which is quite chunk, and if they’re only ‘pseudo’ Montessori then maybe the sprout won’t be gettin’ his parents’ money’s worth, but then again, if you do go down the whole M route, maybe it’s really a bit much for France and a kid growing up in the trad. French system…

Jennifer, I really appreciate you taking the time to write such a long response.

Your comments are the first I’ve had on the topic so I’m fascinated and open-mouthed! Not that it surprised me - after all I was expecting an alternative approach, it’s more an open mouth in terms of… so… what shall I do next! I’m also vaguely involved with a company in Paris which says they use the M approach but inject a bit of discipline when necessary, a bit along the lines you were hinting at. A rich tapestry indeed! ~ Sab

I can only say that 16year old son attended a Montessori nursery school when he was two and a half and loved it, but went to a standard (maybe below standard London suburban primary school :)!). He did well at his primary school and has done College in France and is going into premier in September. I have to agree with Jennifer on two things - not all teachers within Montessori are trained to be and France seems to be land of the correct ‘papers’ i.e Brevet/ Bac. So, for me it would depend on how long the family were planning to be in France. I can’t comment on any ‘weirdness’ as I only experienced the nursery section, but as a cost issue I did only send one child, the second attended a nursery attached to his primary school and the third started toute petite here at two years and three months.

One last thing is the cost. I forgot to tell you. Montessori schools can be quite expensive. If you have one child only, you might just want to send them to another type of private school. Our montessori school was going to cost us 11,000€ per year. We decided we were going to just bear down and pay it and started realizing that if we did, it would just be for preschool.

There is a montessori network of schools all over France. Here is all the info that you’ll need for your research. I have two daughters and we live in Clermont-Ferrand. I chose a strict Montessori education for my three year old in the beginning. However, we withdrew her before school started because of a few things. A lot of schools in France that are Montessori don’t have the same critera as public schools. You have no tests in Montessori schools so the exams that are required to get certificates to go from Primaire to College and to Lycée aren’t given at these schools and most students aren’t even prepared for them. You have to make sure that the teachers are Montessori trained. There are schools out there with teachers that are just teachers that went to teach in a Montessori school. If they don’t have the training, there is no point in your little one even being in there. The teacher has children in the classroom and it is the children who lead the teachers. The teachers observe. If a child wants to learn to count in Spanish, then the child will then work on that activity. A educator can introduce it but they won’t force the child to do it. It is the child who decides. Now for preschool, it is great however, for higher schools, I decided against it. I thought that the way French society is, structure is so important that my children have to be integrated into the Education nationale way of thinking or there is a chance they may fail. So, I ended up doing Montessori at home and at school my little one has a structured program. You have to also keep in mind that some children don’t do well in Montessori schools because they require structure. It really depends on the child. Don’t be worried about Montessori. In the US, they use part traditional education with Montessori principles and it seems to be working really well. There is also one thing about Montessori that i don’t like. There isn’t competition in any form. Competition is considered not so good. I, however, don’t believe that we should celebrate mediocrity. I’m not saying we should say to kids, hey, do better or you’re a loser but you should try until you get something right. Doing something good enough isn’t half as good as doing your best. Good luck.

I’m sure that someone on this list has some experience of the Montessori approach, and they’re just not telling…
Come on, spill the beans - what do you know that we should?!


There is more than one Montessori school in Paris, I believe, but as for the suburbs and the rest of France, I’m not at all sure - does anyone have one near them, or even, best case scenario, send their kid to one?! What’s it like…?