Montessori Education and Religion
Does your child's Montessori education include religious beliefs? The answer is there can be if the particular school chooses to. If you are considering a Montessori school, be sure to ask each school and teacher about the inclusion of religion in the teachings.
The Montessori philosophy, in general, is open to exploring all levels of spirituality, but the basis of the teachings is not inherently religious, nor does it follow any specific religion.
Montessori Schools are Independently Owned and Operated
Montessori schools are not a franchise and are independently owned and operated. Many smaller schools are proprietary schools owned by an individual while some are not for profit entities governed by a board of trustees.
Most Montessori schools are small with less than 100 children. This means that a school's viability is very much dependent upon the sound business practice and experience of the owner. Because of this it is up to the individual school to determine its own policies regarding religious education and spiritual beliefs.
How Montessori Began
Maria Montessori in many ways was a woman ahead of her time. Her work as a scientist-practitioner was innovative and has had long-lasting influence. The result of her work is known globally as the Montessori Method with more than 8,000 schools on six continents.
There are conflicting interpretations of Montessori's theology. An archivist at Rome's Opera Nazionale Montessori stated that, especially during the early years of her work with children, she viewed the child as able to save herself-that the child could correct herself of sin and educate herself to right behavior.
Maria Montessori saw education as "saving" the child and that if correct materials are used and the environment is properly prepared, a "new" child would emerge. She felt that most children were spiritually and intellectually undernourished and proposed "cosmic education" with the "authority" coming from education.
Her unorthodox view opposed the official Catholic position regarding children. The use of child-size materials was widely accepted, but her view of the child and of education was not.
What Montessori Focuses on
Practical life activities are everyday life tasks that children perform at home or in the classroom is the main focus. The purpose of these tasks is to include children in real work that lends itself to independence and mastery. Some of these practical life activities can be performed at as early as 12 months.
The activities focused on are divided into three different categories:
These activities include simple tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth, preparing a snack, and more. The purpose of learning to care for oneself is obvious but the underlying benefit is to ingrain inner peace and self-awareness. If we do not respect ourselves we cannot respect others.
Care of the Environment
These activities can include taking care of plants, pets and learning how to clean up after ourselves. The direct objective is to instill responsibility but children also learn to respect nature, their possessions, and other living beings. Children become aware of the joy in simple tasks and their harmony with nature.
Grace and Courtesy
These lessons focus on treating others with kindness while acting respectfully. This includes activities like learning how to greet others, table manners, how to interrupt someone respectfully, carry a teacup, move a chair in and out, and more.
Montessori and Spirituality
For anyone interested in children’s spirituality and wellbeing, Montessori has a lot to offer. According to Montessori, nurturing the child’s spirit is critical to a child’s whole development.
Maria Montessori wrote that there are some who still cling to the mistaken conviction that a child’s natural education should be wholly physical; but the spirit also has its nature, and it is the life of the spirit that should dominate human existence at every stage.
Montessori’s view on spirituality was that all children have the capacity for spirituality and can and do experience it. Spirituality is holistic and innate in the sense that there is an inner, spiritual force that drives a young child’s development.
Montessori schools do not have a particular religious affiliation. However, there are religious schools that operate according to Montessori philosophy, making them religious Montessori schools.
These schools are the exception, not the rule. Montessori curriculum puts a strong focus on cultural learning from a young age, and many religions and cultures are explored throughout a traditional Montessori education.