frequently asked questions

 

 

Who is Maria Montessori?

Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Montessori is a proven model of education that has grown to over 20,000 schools world wide.

 

What are the basic concepts of Montessori?

The basic Montessori concepts are:

  • The child proceeds at his own pace in an environment prepared to provide means of learning.

  • Imaginative teaching materials are the heart of the process.

  • Materials are self-correcting, enabling the child to proceed at this own pace and discover his own mistakes.

  • The teacher observes and guides the child to the appropriate learning path and materials.

 

How is a Montessori Class Structured?

A Montessori class is ungraded with an age spans covering several years (0-3), (3-6), (6-9), and (9-12). There are a wide range of activities available to the children at all ages and maturity levels which reinforce and make possible the Montessori ideals of individualized work, success, and independence. The combination of differences allows the children the opportunity to learn from each other and permits the older children to reinforce their knowledge by sharing their skills with the younger children. The third year at the Early Childhood level (Kindergarten age) is of unique importance and we encourage five-year old children to remain with the Early Childhood level class. Montessori is a developmental educational program allowing the children to progress at their own pace.

Since Montessori believes that children learn best through their own efforts, the role of the Montessori teacher is that of an 'objective observer.' The teacher's job is to prepare an environment that teaches - constantly adding new materials for the child to learn specific concepts. The teacher's job is to help the child achieve independence and accept responsibility. Teachers are trained to identify learning challenges and recognize developmental delays so the child can get help at the earliest possible time.

 

How are Montessori teachers trained?

There are training programs for certifying teachers in Infant/Toddler, Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Each program consists of Montessori philosophy, academic studies, observation, internship and research. Training is available through nine major training associations requiring private Post Secondary Education authorization. Many colleges/universities offer Montessori Certification as part of their Education Program. Qualified Montessori Teachers earn a teaching certificate which they display proudly in their classrooms.

There are training programs for certifying teachers in Infant/Toddler, Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Each program consists of Montessori philosophy, academic studies, observation, internship and research. Training is available through nine major training associations requiring private Post Secondary Education authorization. Many colleges/universities offer Montessori Certification as part of their Education Program. Qualified Montessori Teachers earn a teaching certificate which they display proudly in their classrooms.

 

Are there any group activities in a Montessori class?

Although the emphasis in Montessori is on a child's ability to grow and progress on an individual basis, there are ample opportunities for them to socialize with the other children in the class. There are regular gatherings of the class as a whole for activities such as lunch, linetime, storytelling, music, planning for future events and for discussion of matters relating to the group as a whole. We encourage a community spirit among each individual class and from each class to the school as a whole.

 

What is the Montessori concept of discipline?

The Montessori curriculum provides the child with challenging work, whereby the child learns to focus and complete meaningful tasks. Dr. Montessori found that many undisciplined children were really frustrated by the lack of proper stimulation for their minds or by adult interference. When a child's intellectual energies are used in a constructive manner there is none left over for mischievousness or deviation. When the children are totally absorbed and happy at what they are doing, then a true 'inner discipline' is achieved.

 

Is Montessori affiliated with a religion?

Montessori is not affiliated with any religion. The Montessori curriculum is used worldwide by church schools as well as private and public schools.

 

How will my child respond when leaving the Montessori environment for another school?

The goal of a Montessori education is that children will develop problem solving skills to help them adjust to any new situation - socially or academically. Children develop a strong self-image because of the successful accomplishments they have had every day at Montessori school. Sometimes children are more advanced in their studies compared to a traditional curriculum and will need enrichment activities to challenge them. The Montessori philosophy sets no limits on what children can achieve. Individual children learn at different rates and those differences are respected. Some children may miss their freedom to make choices and move freely in their environment. Peer teaching is encouraged in Montessori and they may not find this philosophy embraced in other programs. It has been our experience that most transitions are made quickly because children are flexible and adjust.

 

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.

 

Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?

Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers.

 

Are Montessori children successful later in life?

Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.

 

I recently observed a Montessori classroom for a day. I was very, very impressed, but I have three questions. There does not seem to be an opportunity for pretend play. The materials don't seem to allow children to be creative. Children don't seem to be interacting with one another very much. Any help you give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much, BD.

Dear BD, I can give you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:

  1. When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children's House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things - i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.

  2. The materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered "creative" to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it "creative" to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.

  3. There is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all "work" is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.