Montesorri, then public high school?
April 12, 2011 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Looking for experiences from students, teachers, parents on kids who went to a Montessori school for 'grade school' - but then went on to attend a public high school.
posted by mrmarley to Education (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Could you be more specific as to what kind of answer you're looking for?

Academically, the thing I remember most about transitioning to public school was being frustrated that I couldn't work at my own pace, especially in math and science classes. I was also surprised that, after getting feedback on homework exercises, we were neither expected nor allowed to iteratively redo individual problems until we got them right (apparently my reaction to this at the time was "what, don't they care if I learn from my mistakes?"). Eventually I adjusted, perhaps too well, since I later had to transition back to self-directed non-grade-oriented learning when I went to grad school.

For me, the biggest difficulties were social, although, ultimately, getting through them was also the biggest benefit. My Montessori elementary school was epitome of open-mindedness and acceptance (for example, there was a grand total of 1 fight in the entire school during my six years there), which is part of the reason that I didn't realize how socially awkward I was (even relative to other middle-schoolers) until transferring to public school. It was a difficult transition, but I'm glad that I made it when I did.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 7:12 AM on April 12, 2011

I went to Montessori school for three years (pre-K through K) and switched to public school for first grade, so my experiences may not be the most helpful. I don't remember the transition being too difficult, however I wasn't that great at expected public school classroom behaviors like sitting quietly and not talking all of the time. I also was bored a lot of the time, which I think may relate to not being able to work at my own pace as mentioned above. My Montessori experience was pretty amazing and I think set me up well for the rest of my academic career to be a self-motivated learner and I plan on sending my (potential) kids to Montessori in the future. I also think that public school is something that everyone should experience. I went to public school from elementary onwards (except for one year) and while I often loathed the learning experience, I'm grateful for the exposure to lots of different people which I think wouldn't have had if I stuck around in private school. I also intend to send my (potential) kids to public school at some point in their lives.
posted by Polyhymnia at 7:27 AM on April 12, 2011

I was also in Montessori school and then public for most of elementary, middle and high school. But every Montessori school and every public school are different environments. In my case I was in Montessori school in Missouri in a liberal university town and then public school in the country in Oregon in a ranching/logging community.

My experience transitioning to a public school was that I was surprised to be scolded by teachers for things that I didn't realize were inappropriate. For example, I was examining a bandaid on my middle finger one day, and to do so I'd put all my other fingers down. The students and teachers assumed that I was flipping them off. I had no concept that this meant anything at all, and they had no ability, even the teachers, to believe me when I explained what I was doing. It was outside their realm of possibility that I was doing anything other than giving them the bird.

In another case, my friend and I were drawing pictures of men and women that were anatomically accurate with breasts and phalluses etc. They weren't sexually explicit or intended to be lewd. But we were scolded for this and taken out of class and sent to the principles office and all sorts of things as though we'd committed a crime.

In both these cases, this kind of curiosity would have been respected and utilized for teaching in my Montessori school whereas in this particular public school it was nothing more than an opportunity to exercise disciplinary power based on local morality. My parents were sure to let me know I hadn't done anything wrong and helped me laugh it off. But having come from an environment where exploration and complexity were encouraged made dealing with the small-town conservative public school environment a challenge.

I know that my experiences in the montessori environment early on were formative and I consider my life path and achievements an enormous success partly as a result of that. I think the transition really depends on the school, the local culture, the individual teachers, etc.

Also, there are tons of articles on montessori students if you want to read case studies you can probably find some.
posted by jardinier at 7:51 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went to Montessori from casa (Pre-K) to Grade 6, started Public School in Grade 7. The hardest part was moving on from a school of 50 kids to a school with hundreds. I was used to having around 2 people the same age as me tops and knowing everyone in the school. We also called all of our teachers on a first name basis, so making sure not to do that was tricky.

The benefits were great, the school was very open-minded, no bullying, small classes, move at your own pace learning. By the time I made it to grade 7, I was well beyond the class acacdemically (however this led to some boredom, and ridiculously high grades until about grade 10). Also having homework was a transition (no homework at my Montessori school).

I would definitely send my kids to a Montessori school, however not all Montessori schools are created equal, so check the experiences of people who went to the school you are (most likely?) considering.
posted by devonia at 7:51 AM on April 12, 2011

My eldest attended a Montessori school from preschool through 3rd grade. Just this year, he entered 4th grade at a public school. Fortunately, he's an outgoing, confident kid - the social transition was pretty easy for him, and he's found several good friends. The hardest part for him seemed to be the mass amounts of paperwork and things to keep track of-- deadlines, details, etc. -- all on someone else's timeline. He has absolutely hated the homework (as have I), and some nights has had three-plus hours. Ridiculous for a 9-year-old, IMO!

The structured environment has been very good for him in a lot of ways, and while the work itself has not been very challenging, the amount of it and different angle of approach has required his focus and attention.

I know that's not even close to high school; I imagine the homework and keeping-track-of-things would be more amplified.

As with so many other things, it seems that a lot of the experience will depend upon the individual person. My younger son will head to public school next year, and since he's a bit more shy, I'm expecting the social aspect to be more difficult.
posted by ebee at 8:01 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to Montessori from grades 1-4, and then switched to regular school for grade 5 and on (note this was all in the same school, which was a public school). The biggest difference I noticed was being given homework. I was literally not given any homework until I got to grade 5, and it was such a strange concept!

Also, like others have mentioned, there was a major loss of personal learning autonomy, and even though I had some good teachers for grades 5-7, there seemed to be a general lack of trust in students to learn things on their own. I recall that in Montessori, our teacher made her teacher versions of all the textbooks available so that we could check out answers once we'd done textbook questions. I can't for the life of me imagine that happening in a regular classroom setting. There was also a major lack of materials with which to learn; Montessori definitely has the best toys.

I also was not given any grades on anything until grade 5, where under the normal system, I would have started getting grades in grade 4 (this is in Canada).

I'm not sure of the context of your question, but if you are contemplating enrolling your kid(s) in Montessori, but can't swing it for their entire education, I would still strongly urge you to do it. I only had a few years on Montessori, and I feel that they were very influential on my learning style, and my general enthusiasm for learning. I often feel like I learned more in my 4 years of Montessori than in the rest of my schooling combined.
posted by just_ducky at 8:33 AM on April 12, 2011

Montessori K-6, then public school from 7th grade on.

The biggest thing was social life. When I entered 7th grade, almost everyone I was in school with had already been in school together for 6 years all through elementary school. It was hard to find a niche, and the only reason I had friends at all was because there was a girl who had attended my Montessori school with me and then transferred to public school in 4th grade, so I joined her friend circle. All the other cliques were pretty well established and I was the "new girl" despite us all being new to that school, so that was a little tough to deal with. The idea of a social hierarchy was pretty foreign to me--our school had multiple grade levels in one class and there weren't any cliques or bullying. I was a very easy target in 7th and 8th grade because of my lack of savvy.

The other thing was that I really took for granted what other kids in my grade knew. Montessori allows kids to work far beyond their grade level, and I was in mostly honors classes as a result, but I was blown away by certain things; for example, nobody else had had any sex ed before 7th grade health, but I'd been getting sex ed every year since 3rd grade and knew all about contraceptives, STDs, pregnancy, etc. Most of my classmates had only misinformation they'd heard from other friends, and the naivete was pretty stunning to me.

Overall the pros far outweighed the cons. Montessori instilled a sense of intellectual curiosity in me and I doubt that I would have had the same dedication to my education if I hadn't had that background. My brother also went to Montessori and we both agree that we'd be very different people if we'd gone to a public elementary school.
posted by Fuego at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2011

I was in Montessori from preschool to 4th grade, public school from 5th until partway through 11th, then back to private Montessori-ish school until graduation.

The biggest change for me was the homework. I never really understood the point of going home and doing endless repetitions of things I already understood. I had a hard time "remembering" to do it or turn it in. So I'd get good grades on tests, but often be close to failing because all my homework was incomplete or missing. I know it frustrated the hell out of my parents and teachers.

It was also tricky for me to adjust to not just doing my own thing in class. In 9th grade we were supposed to read for the first 15 minutes of English, but if I liked my book I'd read for the whole period (and maybe the next).

Moving back to private school was such a relief to me. When I asked if I could skip the AP Biology classes, study on my own in the common area, and just show up for tests it wasn't a problem.

I'm not sure I'd say that Montessori was entirely good or bad for me. I'm always confident in my ability to learn new things, which seems to surprise people. But I still have trouble when it comes to busywork and jumping through hoops.
posted by Akhu at 11:31 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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