What Louis Vuitton Can Teach You About Montessori
I haven’t been in a long time, but I still covet my beautiful “Louis Vuitton” handbag that I bought on Canal St in New York City about 15 years ago. No, seriously, ON Canal St. Not in a store, but from a funny little doorway shop that had a thousand bags that look like the ones featured in magazines and carried by celebrities. They were great and I still maintain that mine is real…at least its tag doesn’t say Vouis Luitton like some of them did. Anyway… the point is, many of them look so good at first (even second) glance. They have the same colours, the same pattern and overall design as the designer bag. And, for a fraction of the price!
I also knew that I wasn’t getting the real thing.
Unfortunately sometimes it’s not as easy to draw comparisons between the real thing and the not-so-real thing when it comes to school for your child. And unlike with my beautiful handbag that will still hold all my belongings whether or not it fell off a truck, time in a diluted or completely fake Montessori school will not result in the same positive outcomes you would see in a high quality and accredited school.
How can this happen?
Maria Montessori, who was an Italian physician and scientist, developed her method of education in painstaking detail, over years of observation and close work with children. Her success in developing an educational approach that enabled children to learn easily and happily was remarkable and her methods began to be replicated around the world.
Later in her career, Dr. Montessori realized people were altering and changing parts of her work. She went to court to obtain a copyright on her name and method; a judge denied her request, stating, “Your name and your work have been out in the public domain too long and used by too many for you to be able to make a copyright claim on it now.”
It’s an enormous shame that Maria Montessori failed to protect her intellectual property as it resulted in some very regrettable outcomes:
1. It Tarnished Her Work. It’s not an exaggeration that the name “Montessori” has been tarnished, because there is no copyright to protect it, especially in North America. Anyone can open a school and call it a Montessori school. Unfortunately, this has resulted in total misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the method and the potential of the approach.
2. “Montessori” Training Quality Varies. Another lack of legal protection of the name means that anyone can open a Montessori teacher-training center. They can add to or change her original work and pass it off as it were the real thing. Teachers coming out of these programs are in no position to lead an authentic Montessori program and sometimes don’t even know that themselves.
3. Monte-Something Schools. “Monte-Something” schools have sprouted up all over because anyone can attach the Montessori name to a school and ride the coattails. In fact, in the United States, there are more knock-offs than there are real Montessori schools. Even more unfortunate, though understandable, when parents have had unhappy experiences in a school they can become vocal opponents and a shared name can mean shared (though unearned) associations. So a difficulty with “Lalala Montessori School” becomes a strong negative opinion about Montessori as a method of education.
Authentic Montessori programs are expensive and time consuming to operate. Our teachers must have a specific Montessori credential from an accredited training center. Our classroom materials are made by high quality manufacturers to Dr. Montessori’s exact specifications. We routinely work with Montessori consultants from across the world to hone our craft. We invest the time and resources to do this because we have witnessed the amazing benefits that an authentic Montessori program will have for your child and we believe in the potential of the education to be a true foundation for lifelong success.
“Monte-Something” schools proliferate because they assume that parents won’t take the time to understand the difference. Unfortunately, some parents don’t realize this before it is too late - after they enrol their child in a sub-par program.
How to Find an Authentic Montessori Program
So, where does this leave you?
If you are specifically researching Montessori education for your child, you should look to find an authentic program in your area.
The Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators is the accrediting body for Montessori in Canada. They provide independent evaluation and support to ensure a school’s practices are consistent with high fidelity Montessori education. This includes teacher credentials, classroom preparation, administrative details, and more.
At a minimum, ensuring that your child’s teacher is trained by an accredited training program and has spent practice teaching hours in established schools, is necessary.
There are great teachers and great schools in Toronto. Most are not Montessori schools and are free to teach their curriculum as they decide (whether they are the TDSB or another private school). However, if you are choosing a Montessori school, you probably actually want a Montessori school and not the Canal St. knock-off version.
You are always welcome to tour our schools, even if you don’t choose to enrol. Part of our mission, beyond serving the children in our program, is educating the general public about the amazing things that happen in an authentic Montessori classroom. Contact us any time!