Montessori Schools Turn 100, Find New Fans

The Montessori approach to education is now 100 years old, reports today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Its teaching methods once revolutionary are now used in traditional classrooms, with many public schools, including a few in Seattle, making a home for Montessori programs. Still, the trend toward standardized tests — and the need to prepare students for those exams — is making Montessori a little less popular in public school districts.

At the same time, the unpopularity of standardized tests is driving some parents to Montessori schools….

“It’s a lot more free-form,” said Troy Basel as he finished his lunch. “It’s a lot easier to get to the teachers.”

Montessori does have structure. But classrooms are based on creating natural connections to reading, writing and arithmetic. Children study algebra, U.S. history, Shakespeare, physics, biology and chemistry, yet are also “free to be who you want to be,” added 14-year-old Kate Rzegocki.

Pacific Crest also is predominantly white — 10 percent of its students are members of minorities. Historically, people thought of Montessori schools as dominated by wealthier, and often white, families, even though Maria Montessori created the system to serve poor children, said Laura Holt, who is on the board of the Pacific North West Montessori Association.

The image is changing around the city. Today, the Islamic School of Seattle offers a Montessori program. On Capitol Hill, one quarter of the students at the Learning Tree Montessori preschool are members of minorities, and the same percentage receives tuition subsidies, said Holt, assistant director of the school.

After a very regimented year in a Chinese preschool when she was 2 (and passing for 3), our daughter attended Montessori schools from preschool through 6th grade, and still thinks fondly of those years. I still remember how excited her teachers were when she finally found the courage to cross the threshold into the room where slightly older kids were doing their activities.

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