Breaking the rules

The loudest, and in my view the most justified, criticism of Montessori programs is that they are rigid – the teacher shows “the right way” to do the work – and the children must conform. Thankfully, most Montessori schools don’t run this way (certainly not ours!), but there is definitely some rigidity in the program.

There is a fundamental conflict when a Montessori child becomes a Montessori teacher. A true Montessori child learns to question, think for himself or herself, and importantly, look inward instead of to others when making decisions. If such a child becomes a Montessori teacher (as I did), then he or she will be told what to teach, how to structure lessons, and instructed to adhere closely to a method that has been tried and true for more than 100 years. You can double the conflict by making a Montessori teacher out of a Montessori child who is also an economist (me again)! Evaluating choices and trade-offs/opportunity cost is at the core of economic thinking – not following set rules.

What is the solution? Understanding and believing in the Montessori approach means that one can stay with the essence of the lessons and yet break many of the so-called “rules.” A Montessori child takes particular pleasure in breaking rules for a good reason – trust me on that one.

Above is a lesson with the constructive triangles that I showed this morning. At the end of the lesson, the child wanted to structure a lesson for me: I had to recreate the design that he created (shown below). Not in the rule book, but definitely an important lesson nonetheless. The child did reassure me that I had done a good job even though I had difficulty recreating his design. Kindness is a rule that we adhere to happily.

Teri Courchene


About Teri Courchene

Instructor at U of T School of Continuing Studies, Math tutor. Education: CSC, MEd (OISE), AMI Montessori Diploma (FME), MA Economics (Queen's), BA Economics (UWO)
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