Are Montessori Schools Religious (9 Teaching Principles)

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Montessori schools are known widely nowadays. However, the common misconception that Montessori schools are religious is also growing just as fast. Let’s settle that issue once and for all.

Are Montessori Schools Religious

Are Montessori schools religious? The question of whether it is religious or not depends on the school. There can be elements of religion if the school chooses. Montessori education itself is not inherently religious. It does not provide religious instructions at all. The misconception that Montessori schools are religious comes from the fact that there are plenty of Montessori schools that are run by religious leaders, especially Catholic organizations. Dr. Maria Montessori was also an avid Catholic so people associate Montessori with religion. Although the method itself is not religious, the Montessori method encourages exploration and respect for all forms of spirituality.

Religion and the Montessori School: Is Montessori Religious?

The Montessori method of education is not inherently religious. It does not include policies regarding religious education.

However, the religious Montessori curriculum presents religion as part of their cultural studies classes as Maria Montessori, the founder of the method, have a religious background herself.

In her book, The Montessori Method, Montessori writes about the importance of spirituality in education. According to the founder of the Montessori method,  the most important part of the child is the child’s spirit. “Education should help the child to develop his or her spiritual potential,” she adds.

However, Montessori also emphasizes that spirituality is not about religion and that religion should never hinder a child’s active participation in class. She says that “there are many paths to spirituality,” and that “the important thing is to find a path that is right for you.”

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    As a result, Montessori and religion can be adapted to fit specific religions. Further, there is no mandated way how Montessori approaches religion. 

    For example, some Montessori schools may include religious education in their curriculum, while others may not. Ultimately, the decision of the way Montessori classrooms approach religion is up to the individual school.

    Maria Montessori has succeeded in blending faith education. The method encourages students to explore religion, share their faiths, and be open to other people’s spiritual beliefs and religious sentiments.

    Maria Montessori Says Spirituality is a Natural Human Tendency 

    Montessori believes in the theory that spirituality is one of the 5 fundamental human tendencies along with the mathematical mind, group behavior, work, and exploration.

    Montessori proposed that the five fundamental human tendencies are essential in the Montessori method of teaching as well as Montessori parenting.

    She stresses the idea that blending faith education and Montessori unites rather than divides the diverse student body. It also preserved the sanctity of the human spirit and every human culture.

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    Religion is believed to be one of the universal driving forces shaping humanity today. She also proposed that fundamental human needs include four aspects of spirituality:

    • Art
    • Music
    • Dance
    • Religion

    Religion, Montessori believes, does not only include the catholic faith but also includes the atheist, secular, humanistic manifestations, and other particular religious beliefs.

    9 Teaching Principles of the Montessori Approach

    Montessori’s religious beliefs continued to develop although Montessori education is not inherently a religious school. Montessori institutions are free to determine their own policies regarding the expression of faith.

    But religious or not, Montessori schools strictly adhere to the key teaching principles of Montessori. 

    1. The Child-Centered Approach

    Montessori public and private schools follow the interests of the child and build on their unique abilities. Each child is respected as a unique individual capable of learning on their own at their own pace.

    Children in Montessori are not spoon-fed the same information. Each child is given the freedom to choose their activities and learn independently. This creates an environment that fosters a sense of agency in children.

    Montessori focuses on addressing each child’s unique developmental needs. 

    2. The Montessori Classroom

    The Montessori classroom is designed to support the overall development of the child. It is designed like a giant playroom.

    The Montessori classroom is stacked with activities and learning zones arranged in sequential order. Children are given the freedom to pick an activity so they can learn on their own or work collaboratively with their peers.

    Children from different backgrounds learn to respect others while working. The Montessori classroom promotes independence, concentration, and responsibility.

    3. The Montessori Teacher

    Montessori teachers do not instruct, they observe and guide

    Montessori teachers are highly trained observers who can recognize teaching opportunities and sensitive periods so they can come up with an effective educational program for each student.

    Montessori teachers are generalists who are trained to teach all subjects in schools with a diverse student body.

    4. The Multi-Age Classroom

    A Montessori classroom population is composed of children of different ages. Each Montessori classroom has at most 3 age levels in its population all focused on encouraging direct experience.

    Each child offers a different perspective and brings with them unique experiences and lessons. Through this, children can learn from each other and teach one another.

    In the Montessori classroom, children rely on each other to learn and not on their teachers who are present in the classroom.

    5. The Three-Year Period

    A Montessori class stays together for 3 years. It will be the same students and the same teachers all throughout the 3-year period.

    The three-year period gives students and teachers enough time to form a strong bond. The classroom becomes a small community that supports one another.

    The three-year period eliminates the stress of adjusting to new peers and teachers every school year. 

    6. Freedom within Limits

    Students in Montessori are given the freedom to move and choose their activities. However, it does not mean they are left on their own without supervision and boundaries.

    The Montessori classroom is a prepared environment where all activities and lessons are carefully selected. Whatever activity children select, they are always bound to learn and master a concept or skill.

    The Montessori environment is set with rules and boundaries that children have to respect while learning. Learning within limits teaches children to be responsible and accountable for their own progress.

    7. Uninterrupted Learning Periods

    Children are given a maximum of 3 hours of uninterrupted periods when they are studying. Teachers do not interrupt or interfere. They are there merely to observe and support.

    Uninterrupted periods of learning develop concentration and focus. It helps the mastery of concepts and fosters a lifelong love for learning.

    8. Montessori Toys and Learning Materials

    All toys and learning materials are presented to facilitate learning and growth. There are no unnecessary items in the Montessori classroom.

    Montessori toys are made from natural materials, are safe, and are durable. No complex and battery-operated toys.

    For children to grow and learn on their own, Montessori learning materials are open-ended and sequential. It develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

    9. No Grades Policy

    Montessori schools do not give grades and standardized tests. Assessment of children’s comprehension and learning is done through demonstration of proficiency and portfolio review.

    In Montessori, children do not need standardized tests to prove they understood their lessons. Montessori students can demonstrate their lessons by doing it.

    By not giving tests and grades, Montessori removes the pressure of catching up with their peers and the fear of falling behind.

    FAQs

    Are religious Montessori schools open to families that are not? Montessori schools are inclusive and do not discriminate. They accept children from all family backgrounds regardless of religious belief, financial status, race, etc. You may still need to research if the Montessori school is the right fit for your child. A school tour or a trial period can help.

    Are children required to learn religion in a religious Montessori school? The good thing about Montessori education is that it follows the child’s interests. It does not force children to participate in activities they are not interested in. If you are not religious and you do not want your child to study religion, there are plenty of Montessori schools that are not religious. 

    What religion is a Montessori? Montessori is not a religion. Montessori is fundamentally a method of education that was founded by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, and educator. The Montessori method is based on the belief that children are naturally curious and capable of learning independently. Montessori grew up in the Catholic faith and embraced religion as a part of her way of life. However, she believed that spirituality was a personal matter both for children and adults, and she did not want her method of education to be associated with any particular religion. As a result, Montessori schools are not inherently religious since each school can determine its own policies regarding religious education.

    Summary

    The question of whether it is religious or not depends on the school. There can be elements of religion if the school chooses. Montessori education itself is not inherently religious. It does not provide religious instructions at all. The misconception that Montessori schools are religious comes from the fact that there are plenty of Montessori schools that are run by religious institutions, especially Catholic organizations. Dr. Maria Montessori was also an avid Catholic so people associate Montessori with religion.

    Montessori education itself is not religious, however, it purposely encourages exploration and respect for all forms of spirituality.