The Misunderstanding: Montessorians Don’t Like Creativity
Many people accuse Montessorians of discouraging creativity. This accusation is unsurprising, since the Montessori education utilizes an approach to creativity that most people do not recognize.
If you ask the average person what it means to be imaginative, they’ll often describe someone who is unfocused and loves fantasy. However, Montessorians believe that this depiction is unrealistic and impractical. A truly imaginative nature begins with a deep understanding of reality.
Most parents face the temptation of allowing their children to expend hours watching TV and playing games on one of the many devices we own these days. Studies have revealed numerous detrimental results of so much media consumption, and Montessorians agree that these activities actually inhibit a child’s imaginative and creative potential, since they are not tactile or interactive (the interaction a child has a computer game is so limited that it hardly counts).
A Montessori approach incorporates a different learning style that allows the child to engage with reality. This process teaches a child how to be creative, rather than just letting him be impulsive.
The Truth: Montessorians Begin With Reality
Montessori teachers start by expanding their students’ experiences with the world around them. When they understand the reality of their environment, children are able to imagine the possibilities.
Creativity is based on the ability to think critically and experiment until solutions appear. In a Montessori education, children have the opportunity to build, paint, and shape. They develop independent thinking until they are able to judge the quality and usefulness of their own work.
But What About Stories?
Some parents still question if a child’s education should be so grounded in reality that there is no place for fantasy. Should parents ditch beloved fairy tales and myths?
Of course not. But there is a time and place for fantasy, and it’s not at the beginning of a child’s education.
Montessorians point out that most fantasies young children believe (like that of Santa Claus) originate with adults, not the child’s own imagination. As a result, the child’s imaginative capability is limited to the structure that adults have imposed. Consequently, the Montessori approach seeks to lay the basis of reality before introducing fairy tales, opening up greater possibilities so children can form their own opinions.
Incorporating Creativity in the Classroom
So how does a Montessori classroom teach this type of creativity?
First, Montessori classrooms are orderly and beautiful. Children are highly cognizant of the world around them, so the learning environment incorporates natural materials like wood and features vibrant colors. Areas of the classroom have designated purposes, and there is plenty of room for children to explore their surroundings.
Second, activities are hands-on. This tactile interaction stimulates children’s brains, prompting them to discern and correct errors. The materials used in these activities are natural and life-like, refraining from cartoonish pictures and plastic surfaces.
Third, Montessori teachers structure open-ended lesson plans in which the child is free to experiment and learn more than a regulated lesson might have taught. The teacher demonstrates one way to do the activity and then allows the students to figure it out for themselves. Students choose what they find interesting, so they work and play for no external reward besides the joy of completing the task, which requires them to learn skills and knowledge.
In the end, children who attend a Montessori school demonstrate levels of creativity and problem-solving often higher than that of their peers. Reality may not be the obvious starting point of the imagination, but it is the most effective.