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It's Elementary, My Dear Watson: Why Montessori Isn't Just for Little Ones


It's Elementary, My Dear Watson: Why Montessori Isn't Just for Little Ones

Elizabeth Topliffe

By Elizabeth Topliffe

 “Montessori is great for pre-school, but now that my son is entering elementary, I think he needs something different.”
“We had always planned for Montessori when we needed daycare. We’re in a great school district, and we pay for kindergarten and elementary through our taxes. I don’t see why we would pay tuition when we can get a great education for free.”

Here we are, three months into the academic year, and already we’re thinking about next year! Re-enrollment for current families opens on January 25, and with a current waiting list for our toddler program and Children’s House program, we suggest that parents re-enroll as early as possible.

As parents begin to think about what is next for their child, I usually hear from them one of two objections to continuing a Montessori education (see above). Doesn’t my child need something different? Why pass up free?

The answers to those questions are really pretty straightforward. Of course your child needs something different in elementary. This is why we have an entirely different environment for elementary children. The classrooms are larger. They reflect an elementary child’s need for social time with friends. The environment has more open-ended work, especially in science and cultural studies. The work provides opportunities for children to apply their analytical skills in creative and imaginative ways. The students also do more community governance, applying democratic principles to their classroom.

As for why to choose a private education over a public education, I again refer to the environment itself. Traditional education teaches and measures outcomes against a state-defined standard of education. Unfortunately, in that system, many children are not taught to understand themselves or to value learning. Instead, they measure themselves against their peers, against a standardized outcome, and against the teacher’s reflection of value.

In a Montessori classroom, children are taught how to understand themselves and their own motivations. They chart their own progress, working on something until they are satisfied that they have achieved their best work. Our guides lead children to the work, giving lessons and assisting them in opening the bigger and broader world.

The materials in the elementary classroom were designed with as much purpose as the materials in the Children’s House environment. Even better, they are designed to build on what a child has mastered in Children’s House. No other educational environment builds on the primary years as well as a Montessori classroom. Our Children’s House students have worked diligently for three years to master those materials. Imagine their interest and excitement when they see those same materials opening up new levels of understanding!

It’s true that the friends who leave our school usually do well academically in their new environment. Unfortunately, there’s a downside: they are bored by the work. In a Montessori environment, boredom isn’t part of the equation.

The elementary years are a time when children further develop their creativity and imagination—when math, science, writing, and cultural studies take on burning importance in children’s understanding of the larger world and of themselves. A good education fuels that flame and breathes life into children’s desire to understand everything.

You carefully selected your child’s preschool. You chose an environment that was richly prepared to enable your child to make choices for herself. You chose deep concentration and independence. You chose education for the whole child—an education for life.

Why would you choose anything less for your child’s elementary experience?

 If you're interested in Montessori resources about education, check out Montessori Madmen's resource list here.