Montessori Schools

Rand seemed to have a positive view of the Montessori system (from “Don’t Let It Go”,
Philosophy: Who Needs It):

The middle class has created an antidote which is perhaps the most hopeful movement of recent years: the spontaneous, unorganized, grass-roots revival of the Montessori system of education—a system aimed at the development of a child’s cognitive, i.e., rational, faculty.

What is your opinion on the Montessori system?

Would you recommend it over traditional parenting approaches?
Would you recommend a Montessori elementary school (one that applies the Montessori system) over a more traditional one?
If you do recommend the Montessori system, what parts do you find the most important ones for parents to learn and apply?
Are there parts of the Montessori system that you think are directly harmful?

Curiosity – Ray Girn, The Self Made Child: Maria Montessori's Philosophy of Education (including the comments section)

Thank you.

Does linking that post mean that you still agree with what you thought about this topic in 2015?
I’m asking b/c you wrote this post about you not agreeing with all of your old writing: Curiosity – Archives Non-Endorsement Policy

I haven’t reread it but I’m confident that, overall, I still wouldn’t be a fan of Montessori.

Ok. My impression until now has been mostly positive of Montessori. I am currently reading “The Montessori Toddler”. I have also listened to some podcasts/videos with Matt Bateman lately. Here is one by ARI:

I will read what you have written to learn what you think about it and try to understand it better myself.
I am not familiar with Ray Girn.

Despite not being a fan of Montessori, do you think that traditional schooling is even worse?

Is there a specific system for raising children that you do recommend? I am aware of and have read Curiosity – How I Misunderstood TCS.

As simple advice, I’d suggest homeschooling in a reasonably normal way (only if you want to and that sounds fine to you, and your kids are OK with it too). Follow common sense and be skeptical of things that seem awful to other homeschoolers. And don’t be super isolated; if your kids don’t go to school then they should be involved in something else outside the home like local homeschool group activities or some classes. And you should have some familiarity with other homeschoolers and what they do, including in-person, instead of making up everything yourself. And try to avoid the anti-math and anti-rigorous-academics type ideas that affect some homeschoolers; those things should be valid, available options for your kids.

Some of this stuff is especially important because you have not done a ton of successful philosophy posting and learning, so you should not expect to or try to do way better than tradition. Try to be reasonable and above average, not a big (over-confident) outlier.

“Unschooling” is not reasonably normal and is more risky than more regular homeschooling.

Montessori does fit this criterion btw; it’s not a big outlier. It’s OK compared to regular school, which is a low bar. It has pros and cons. What matters more than type of school is the specific teacher(s) your kid has, plus the curriculum.

Overall, I think it’s better for more people to raise their own kids more and be more involved parents instead of outsourcing a large chunk of parenting. I think that’s good for society as a whole and has many potential benefits for individuals who do it.


Thank you for the advice. I appreciate it very much.

Unfortunately I live in a country where homeschooling is illegal (we have compulsory schooling).
Roughly this is the situation:

… children are required to attend school. Requirement to attend school means that children must be taught in school and that the pupil must participate in the teaching carried out in the school, unless the pupil has valid grounds for not participating.

“Valid grounds” is generally illness or “similar causes” (whatever that means).

Compulsory schooling is one of the reasons why I started looking into Montessori - as this is an option here to more traditional schools. The traditional schools here have many progressive elements that I think are awful and dangerous (e.g. gender politics, feminism etc).

A homeschooling approach can be applied up until the compulsory schooling starts. I will look into homeschooling material of different sorts for the early years. I will keep in mind your recommendations mentioned here of what to look out extra for.

Yes, I agree. This sounds very reasonable.

I will look for those things (teacher(s) & the curriculum). Thanks.

I agree. This is what we intend to do.
IIRC “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” has some hints (not many, but some) into how his parents acted towards him that Feynman thought were positive during his childhood.

Caveat: For privacy reasons, most details about what I did with my kids are not public and have not been shared with Elliot. Also, I can easily misunderstand what Elliot has in mind. So I make no representation about how closely what I did matches what Elliot recommends other than my own personal perspective.

That said: I strongly endorse Elliot’s suggestions here. My endorsement is one way - I’m not claiming Elliot would endorse either what I did or any of the additions I’ll discuss below, I’m just endorsing what he said.

My perspective is that Elliot’s suggestions closely match what I actually did with my own kids. I think the results were good. My kids are adults now and if anyone wants to ask their perspective I can pass the request along if you DM me your email address or phone number. I’m not committing my kids to respond, just that I’ll pass along the request.

If anyone is interested I can discuss practical questions like how to find a good homeschool group, what they look like, how to interact productively & avoid problems.

I also have some additions to Elliot’s suggestions. These are somewhat lower level details but I think important enough to mention. They’re also deviations from traditional parenting in the 21st century USA, and as such they are risky. But my perspective is they are small deviations, the risk is small and they’re worth it.

  • No ‘because I said so’, ‘because that’s the way God made it’, ‘because that’s just the way it is’, etc. type responses to why questions. ‘I don’t know’ is fine when you don’t know, or saying the actual reason when you do, or even an honest promise to explain later if explaining right now isn’t possible or convenient. Simplified explanations are fine, but no ‘baby talk’ or nonsense lies like storks delivering babies.

  • No stigmatizing taboo topics or words. To avoid unpleasant surprises, we did explain that most other people think some topics or words are bad particularly when children say them, which words/topics those are and some likely reactions to saying them to different sorts of people etc. But among ourselves no words or topics were ‘bad’.

  • This one isn’t a deviation from tradition, it’s more of a failsafe for the other deviations. Have some objective milestones to see how you’re doing. We used ‘What your XX grader needs to know’ series (Example: You don’t have to follow these exactly, but if your 10 year old doesn’t know something in the first grader book, it’s a good sign there could be a major problem there & you need to at least investigate further or make a conscious decision to disagree with the book.

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I don’t know which country you live in (and I’m not asking) but speaking generally: Search for people who are actually homeschooling in your country and find out what they’re doing. Stuff I’ve heard of people doing where homeschooling is “illegal”:

  • Enrolling in an online school, not caring much about the lessons/grades/tests it offers, and doing your own thing most of the day.
  • Exemptions for sincere religious beliefs that are broad enough to cover non-supernatural belief systems.
  • Laws that technically require school attendance but aren’t enforced unless you’re neglecting or abusing your kid.
  • Certification systems as a teacher/school that turn out to be reasonably easy for a parent to do and certify their home as a legitimate school and the parent as a legitimate teacher.

If nothing like that is an option I’d seriously consider moving to a different country. If the schools in a country are actually so compulsory that there’s no escaping them, I’d guess they’re also significantly worse than what I think of as normal schools in the USA.

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Thanks for the input.

I agree with this. It is a topic that we have discussed and agree with.

I think the “[n]o stigmatizing taboo topics or words” part makes sense.

I don’t think I understand what you mean by “topics or words are bad particularly when children say them”.

I don’t know how much this is uniquely cultural but in the US and other western English speaking countries it’s generally thought to be worse than adults when children talk explicitly about sex or say curse words like fuck and shit.

Ok. Yes, I think it’s similar here in Sweden as well.