What You Need to Know About Montessori

What is Montessori?

Montessori is a method and philosophy for teaching children, based on the work of pioneering educator Maria Montessori. In our school, we have children from ages 2.5 years through 6 years old which does include the “kindergarten” year. Montessori is designed to be an individualized program and is unique for each child. Montessori offers a Prepared Environment that fosters each child’s independence, as well as helps him develop socially and academically. Children are free to explore and discover on their own, however, there are very clear boundaries and ground rules that must be adhered to and are monitored by the teacher. The teacher is the first and very important part of the Prepared Environment. Montessori classrooms are thought of more as communities than classrooms. They must be cooperative in order for the method to work.

Who is Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator, acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn. She opened the first Montessori school—the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House—in Rome on January 6, 1907. Subsequently, she traveled the world and wrote extensively about her approach to education.

What is the main benefit of a Montessori education?

Montessori education is a preparation for life. Independence, confidence, and an inquiring mind are the results of this education, achieved through a sense of order and respect. The work is sequential in order and moves from concrete sensorial experiences to abstract understanding of the world. Montessori prepares the child to be a socially engaged and respectful member of society through these experiences.
Why Is a Montessori Classroom Called a ‘Children’s House?’

Dr. Montessoris focus on the child led her to develop a very different sort of school from the traditional teacher-centered classroom. To emphasize this difference, she named her first school the Casa dei Bambini or the Children’s House.

The Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adults in charge; it is, instead, a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of the children’s independence and sense of personal empowerment. Children move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest.

Small children in Montessori classrooms cut raw fruits and vegetables, sweep and dust, carry pitchers of water, and pour liquids with barely a drop spilled. The children normally go about their work so calmly and purposefully that it is clear to even the casual observer that they are the masters in this place, called the children’s house.

Do Montessori teachers follow a curriculum?

Montessori is a very specific curriculum with activities in the areas of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Science, Art, Geography, and Cultural Studies. Teachers work with the children on sequential presentations of exercises in all areas.

Why do Montessori classrooms group different age levels together?

Mixed-age classrooms encourage the social cohesion of the group. Younger children look to their older classmates as mentors and role models. Older children are leaders of the classroom and help the younger children. Within a three-year period the children get to experience the complete cycle of social living within the group.

How can teachers teach so many different ages?

Montessori is an individual learning method. Each child learns at their own pace. Teachers are trained to observe and assess each child to see where the child is developmentally. Based on these observations, an individual lesson is created for each child. Further, as the Montessori classroom is run as a community, older children are there to be role models and to to show younger children how to do what they (the older children) already know—making them part of the teaching process. Younger children look up to the older ones and want to be like them which creates a sense of motivation to learn new things. Children, even those that are the same age, all learn at a different level and pace; the Montessori Method allows for this freedom. There is no competition or expectation for children to learn the same things as everyone else their age at exactly the same time. Teachers then find it easier to teach multiple ages than to try to teach the same concept to 15, 3-year-olds at the same time. Montessori teachers are experienced at multi-tasking. Also, with mixed-age groups, children stay with the same teacher for all three years thus enabling a close bond to be formed.

How important is it to start by age 3?

Maria Montessori’s Method is based on the concept of Sensitive Periods, those times in development that the young child almost effortlessly absorbs information and concepts from the environment. A 3-year-old is in the sensitive periods for language acquisition, order, refinement of the senses, social relations, and movement. When the sensitive period for anything passes, the child learns it only through rote instruction and repetition. Entering the Montessori environment at age 3 is the optimum time to benefit from the complete sequence of the Montessori primary curriculum from start to finish, because of its scientific basis on the sequence of the Sensitive Periods.

Is it true that the children get to do whatever they want?

There is freedom of choice within limits. The teacher prepares herself, the environment, and the children to respect one’s self, each other, and the environment, by setting clear boundaries and ground rules. This also goes back to having mixed-age groups where, for example, in the beginning of the school year the older children are the role models who “show” others how things are done in the classroom. Respect is a key component of the classroom. The teacher must be prepared to handle any and all situations that arise and to guide the community in a calm, slow, respectful, and peaceful manner at all times. She must protect the children from disruptions, i.e., other children taking their work or bothering one another as well as from other adults who may want to step in and “help” the child.

If children are free to choose their own work, how do you ensure they receive a well-rounded education?

Montessori teachers, are required to keep extensive records on all children’s work introduced, practiced, and mastered in the curriculum. Although the child has freedom to choose work, that choice is one within limits. The teacher will subtly step in with suggestions to move the child on through the entire curriculum, constantly reviewing the child’s work life.

What about Children with Special Needs?

Every child has areas of special gifts, a unique learning style, and some areas that can be considered special challenges. Each child is unique. Montessori is designed to allow for differences. It allows students to learn at their own pace and is quite flexible in adapting for different learning styles.

In many cases, children with mild physical handicaps or learning disabilities may do very well in a Montessori classroom setting. On the other hand, some children do much better in a smaller, more structured classroom.

Each situation has to be evaluated individually to ensure that the program can successfully meet a given childs needs and learning style.

Why is montessori education expensive compared to conventional schools​?

Montessori programs are normally more expensive to organize and run than conventional early child and elementary classrooms due to the extensive teacher education needed to become certified and the very high cost of purchasing the educational materials and beautiful furniture needed to equip each Montessori classroom.

How do Montessori schools report student progress?

There are two formal parent/teacher conferences offered during the school year for a personal discussion of the children’s work. Informal teacher conferences are welcome anytime the parent requests.

How do children transition from the Montessori version of kindergarten to first grade and will you prepare my child for public school?

Children who complete the three-year cycle in a Montessori primary environment are developmentally ready to transition into the formal school setting. Maria Montessori discusses planes of development in her writings and has broken them down into three ages spans, birth to age 3, ages 3 to 6, ages 6 to 9, and so on. As a 6-year-old, the child is now ready to be part of a larger peer group and ready for a different level of learning. Ultimately, the goal of a Montessori program is not to get a child ready for public school, but to prepare the child for life through the experiences in the Montessori environment.