Montessori teaching is currently booming in France, and the experiment in Gennevilliers has probably contributed to this phenomenon. However, the work of Dr Montessori was merely a point of departure for our own work, and we think it’s important to stress this point.
We removed from the Montessori system the elements that we considered to be ill-suited, such as the rigorous daily sessions of individual work lasting 2 to 3 hours (morning and evening). We also removed certain activities and replaced them with more traditional ones such as Kapla sets, jigsaws, construction sets, beads, board games, etc. These activities are not sanctioned by the official Montessori method, which imposes a strict list of materials to be used to the exclusion of all others.
We reworked the children’s introduction to reading by refocusing it on human interaction, we focused our energies on developing the children’s executive skills (through autonomy, the spoken language and conflict management), we offered more guidance and were more active as teachers, and above all we placed an emphasis on collective activities and the bonds between the children. We added more life, spontaneity and joy, and of course its corollary: the noise of laughter and the many interactions between young children!
All of these adjustments were decisive in making our experiment successful.
We therefore encourage parents and teachers to exercise caution: the strict application of the Montessori method - in particular the version promoted by the official training centre - will emphatically not enable you to recreate the same kind of environment that we established in Gennevilliers or to achieve the same results.
It should be borne in mind that, while the teaching approach inspired by the Montessori method is an excellent gateway to changing teaching practices, the overall inflexibility of this method is likely to create major difficulties for teachers and children alike.
We should by all means study and respect the contributions we have inherited from previous generations, but without ever forsaking our own sense of discernment.