One of the first things I heard about Montessori was that there was no homework. It’s what many people know about Montessori when they know nothing else; sometimes it’s presented with a bit of scorn, worry, and contempt. I’ve also heard that parents new to Montessori also worry that their child will not develop good work habits or learn enough without homework and will request homework for their child.
Honestly when I heard that my child was going to have no homework for most of her early educational career I did an exuberant happy dance. I had seen my sister and my friends do nightly battle with their children around homework and I didn’t want to introduce that conflict into our lives. It just seemed fraught.
The reality (for our family) is that we do get some work home (predominantly home reading and spelling) (and yes, we battle). Intermediate students often bring home project work as well. But it is far less work than peers in a more traditional school setting.
The philosophy around homework comes directly from Dr. Montessori who “believed that if we do not dictate the work of the child in class, then it does not make sense to dictate the work they choose at home.” (source, and great article). Note that this does not mean they are not working at home. We as parents direct their attention to enrichment (e.g., reading), chores, and activities (music, language, sports) that grow them into whole functioning members of our society.
There’s also the practical consideration – since our children are using the Montessori materials for most learning concepts they would need (at least some) of those materials at home to “go deeper”.
As seems to be usually the case, it turns out Dr. Montessori was right. There is a movement right now to drastically decrease the amount of homework children are given. Two articles (one from CBC and one from CNN) give the basic rundown of the issues. The America Journal of Family Therapy offers a more comprehensive scientific look at homework given to the typical North American child. If you’d like to read more there’s also The Homework Myth.
“An interesting piece of work that has been freely chosen, has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue and adds to children’s energies and mental capacities, and leads them to self-mastery.… children must be free to choose their own occupations, just as they must never be interrupted in their spontaneous activities. No work may be imposed; no threats, no rewards, and no punishments used.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori