Is Montessori Worth the Money It Costs For Tuition?
A group of fellow WBMS parents and I were recently talking about our early experiences with WBMS and Montessori in general. Several of us admitted to each other that the first few months of our child’s time at WMBS was a bit rough, not with our child, but with our spouse, who originally had not been as committed as we were to the Montessori approach. I don't know about you, but my husband questioned whether Montessori was worth the money we spent on tuition for the most of our son's first year in Children's House.
Questioning The Value of a Montessori Education
One parent recalled her husband sitting her down at the kitchen table after the kids had gone to bed. He pulled out the monthly tuition statement from WBMS, laid it on the table between then, and then shared his concern that they were paying as much as they were and that all their son talked about was mopping floors, doing dishes, grinding coffee and washing tables.
I had to laugh because my husband and I had similar conversations during our son’s first year at WBMS. My husband was not against spending money for a top-rate education. His mom had spent nearly all the money she had sending her children to a private, parochial school, so he understood the concept of investing in education.
But his point to me was the same: didn’t I ever feel like there was a disconnect between what we were paying for and what we were getting? How could I be so sure that our son was experiencing the academic rigor we both wanted for him when all we were hearing about was table washing and practical life?
Building Those Executive Function Skills Everyone Loves
Once you’ve spent a little time in Montessori, you come to understand that Montessori success is not built on its finished academic product but on its sure foundation. In other words, the destination is not nearly as important as the journey when it comes to instilling the lifelong skills and qualities most of us want for our children.
Principle 1: Concrete Before Abstract
So why do kids in Montessori spend their time washing tables? Because doing so allows them to experience first-hand a set of enduring scientific principles that Maria Montessori knew led to successful educational (and life) outcomes. The first principle is that you always begin with the concrete before moving on to the abstract. There is nothing more concrete in the child’s life than the exercises of Practical Life. These exercises and activities provide purposeful activity, develop motor control and coordination, develop independence, concentration, and a sense of responsibility. Both large and small muscle coordination and development are involved, helping a child to have control over his movements. Practical Life exercises such as washing tables teaches children that there are very concrete, sequential steps that need to be taken in order the for job to be completed correctly (put on a cleaning apron, get the supplies, clear off the table, wash the table, rinse the table, etc.).
Principle 2: Senses Before Intellect
The second principle focuses on the development of all the senses before moving on to the intellectual. Sensory experiences have several purposes:
To train children’s senses to focus on an obvious, particular quality. For example, with the red rods, the quality is length; with the pink tower cubes, size; and with the bells, musical pitch.
To help sharpen children’s powers of observation and visual discrimination as readiness for learning to read.
To increase children’s ability to think, a process that depends on the ability to distinguish, classify, and organize.
As children wash tables, they are feeling the water, seeing and smelling the soap and the bubbles, feeling the bubbles on their skin – it’s a sensory paradise!
As children are better able to use their senses, they are better able to learn through their senses.
Principle 3: Establish a Foundation of Discipline
A third principle focuses on the ways that Practical Life activities build intellectual discipline – being able to follow through and complete a project before embarking on the next thing. Once a child starts an activity, he or she is expected to follow through and complete that activity. The reasons for this are not abstract – if they leave the table all wet, no one can sit and work there. But as they are learning the importance of completing their task, they are also learning patience and stamina that will benefit them as they move onto activities and exercises that require more patience and stamina. Do you have any idea how long it takes to count 1,000 beads - one bead at a time?
The Value of Confidence and Self-Esteem
Finally, table washing (and all of Practical Life) becomes an emotional and psychological building block in the development of confidence and self esteem. Real confidence and self esteem is not built on words such as “You did a good job” (whether you did or not), but on real achievement and mastery. For a three-, four- or five-year old, the process of successfully completing table washing or any other Practical Life exercise begins a pattern of effort leading to success. It is a success that comes from beginning a project, then working it step by step for as long as it takes until you come to the successful conclusion. This pattern becomes a powerful model for the next stages of academic competence.
So do I think Montessori parents are getting their money’s worth? I do. In fact I would say that Montessori is one of the best investments you can make for and in your child. That being said, I recognize that a private school education is not always within a family's budget. To learn more about the value of Montessori and the cost of investing in your child's education, contact us and the Head of School would be happy to answer your questions.