“Education starts at birth.”

Dr. Maria Montessori

Q: What is Montessori?

A: The name Montessori usually refers to the educational method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician. Dr. Montessori observed that all children are driven by inherent tendencies which express themselves particularly intensely at certain ages- for example: exploration, communication, movement, and a desire for self-perfection. She developed a plan of education that would respect and follow the child’s inner guide to development and work in harmony with the child’s own natural tendencies towards independence and learning. The goal is to prepare children for a lifetime of creative thinking and learning.

Q: What is special about Montessori materials?

A: The classroom has top-quality, child-sized furnishings and learning apparatus. Materials sit on shelves designed specifically for them. Children are taught how to use the materials and are then free to move about the room, selecting their activities and pursuing their work, either individually or in small groups. Montessori materials are specifically designed to be self-correcting for errors, allowing children to learn on their own, under the guidance of the teacher.

Q: What is meant by the “Absorbent Mind”?

A: This term was used by Montessori to differentiate the unconscious process of learning in the very young child from that of the conscious process of the older child or adult. The young child takes in impressions from everything in his environment. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it. It is the result of this process that the language first spoken and mannerisms first manifested will be a reproduction of those absorbed from the child’s immediate environment.

Q: What happens when my child leaves Montessori?

A: This is the most frequently asked question of people seeking information regarding Montessori education. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for life academically, socially, and emotionally. 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. The habits and skills which a child develops in a Montessori classroom are good for a lifetime. They will help him/her to work more effectively, to observe more carefully, and to concentrate well no matter where s/he goes. Research shows that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, and non-competitive activities, help each child to develop a good self image as well as the confidences to face challenges and change with optimism.

Q: The Montessori method was created a century ago; is it applicable today?

A: While appropriate changes have been made to the original Montessori curriculum (including the introduction of computers and modifications to the Practical Life exercises to keep them culturally relevant), the basic tenants have not changed much since Dr. Montessori’s lifetime because the developmental stages of humans have not changed. Furthermore, recent research and studies seem to confirm Montessori’s insights.

Q: What is the role of a Montessori Teacher?

A: The Montessori teacher facilitates and guides the classroom activity. She carefully plans the environment in the interests of the children and helps each child progress from one work to another. The teacher is trained to deal with each child individually, allowing the child to choose and standing back while the child is working. This affords the child the satisfaction of his/her own discovery and success.

Q: Who is the Montessori Method designed for?

A: The Montessori Method is an “approach to learning”. It has been successfully used all over the world in many different types of cultures with all children. It is the fastest growing educational method today.

Q: Are all Montessori schools alike?

A: No. “Montessori” may be used by any school. The name is not trademarked. Differences in the quality of teacher training, school standards, and adherence to the Montessori philosophy can effect the quality of education. The American Montessori Society (AMS) does accredit and affiliate schools as well as certify teachers and administrators. The essential element of any Montessori school is the fully-trained Montessori teachers. Montessori Children’s Community is a AMS affiliate school that strictly adheres to the teachings of Dr. Montessori. All head teachers have a bachelors degree and their AMS head teacher certification, many also have a masters degree. . We have one of the lowest student to teacher ratios (10:1), and are the only Montessori school in the area that provides a Montessori education for preschool through 9th grade.

Q: Why should I send my child to preschool?

A: Most educators and psychologists today agree that the single most important period in the development of a person’s intelligence occurs between birth and age six. A child’s mind is extremely absorbent and his curiosity is at peak during these early years. When properly nourished and stimulated, the child’s mind forms patterns for learning that serve him well throughout his life. The Children’s House program (ages 3-6 yrs) has proven to be one of the most effective methods of educating a child through these critical years.

Q: How is a Montessori preschool different from other preschools?

A: Most preschools teach children educational concepts in a group by a teacher. The major difference is that children in Montessori schools are grouped in multi-age classrooms where the children learn concepts spontaneously as they work independently with the many materials in the environment. In contrast, most preschools have educational concepts taught by a teacher to a group.

Q: Why is the Children’s House Program five days a week?

A: The Montessori experience is for five consecutive days in order to allow spontaneous learning to flow smoothly. A child that goes to school every other day does not have the same opportunity for continuity.

Q: Why the commitment to remain for Extended Day (kindergarten) ?

A: Our Children’s House program is one that builds each year upon the previous year. When a child starts in the class at 3 or 4 years of age he is guided by his teacher but also by his peers. In the beginning the child appreciates the help and guidance that is offered him. But as he grows older, he starts to aspire to a position of leadership. He slowly starts to see himself as capable of offering help, rather than just receiving it. When his Extended Day year finally arrives, he is well aware of his responsibilities and assumes them with pride. To the children, it is like their senior year in high school. If you understand the Montessori philosophy and fully appreciate what the program offers the children, this idea is not a difficult one to understand and the commitment is not a difficult one to make.

Q: Do children learn a foreign language?

A: All children at Montessori Children’s Community take Spanish. Children’s House has Spanish once a week for 30 minutes. The children are taught using songs, games, and conversational practice. Both Lower and Upper Elementary utilize the Total Physical Response and Storytelling Program to develop their vocabulary. The teacher instructs the children using hands-on materials, songs, and conversation. The Lower Elementary children have Spanish for 30 minutes three times a week and Upper, 40 minutes three times a week.

Q: How much homework is assigned in the Elementary Program?

A: Homework begins at a light pace for Elementary students. Some various types of homework may include weekly spelling lists, math fact sheets, handwriting, and nightly reading. The goal of homework is to reinforce skills introduced in the classroom while fostering self-discipline and responsibility.

Q: Do children have time for free play?

A: The Children’s House program allows for 15-20 minutes three times a week and a Body Movement Class once a week as well. In addition to weekly PE, the Elementary children have recess following lunch everyday for 20 minutes. The preference is for children go outside for recess. In the event of inclement weather, the children play on the indoor soccer field.

Q: What exposure is there to art and music?

A: Both art and music are integrated into the curriculum in both Children’s House and Elementary programs. Art history is also part of the curriculum, spotlighting different artists and styles. Children are exposed to a variety of art mediums and creativity is encouraged. Additionally, the Elementary children have art studio and music class for one hour each week. Children’s House has a music/movement class once a week for 30 minutes.

Q: How many Montessori schools are there?

A: There are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States and about 7,000 worldwide.

Q: How do older students who transfer into Montessori classes adjust?

A: Adjustment into Montessori classes depends upon the child, his prior educational experience, innate flexibility, and attitudes toward learning and school. They frequently enter with heightened enthusiasm for the “games” encountered. As they adjust to the more subtle structure of the classroom and their own responsibility for their learning, they usually go through a period of trying the limits. It is not unusual for students entering from a more traditional education program to want to do everything in the room the first week. It usually takes 6 weeks for students to integrate into the classroom. Once adjusted, however, students who have experienced another form of education can positively engage their peers in introspective observations.

Q: With all the freedom, isn’t there confusion?

A: Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. The concept of freedom in the classroom is a freedom within limits. A child is allowed to work freely so long as he does not disturb others. That free child is capable of asking for and receiving direction when necessary. An undisciplined and unskilled child is not free, and therefore more dependent on others. Actually, children having the freedom to follow their interests, are generally happier and more focused on their work.

Q: Isn’t Montessori expensive?

A: Tuition in Montessori schools is sometimes higher because of the extensive materials, encompassing environment, curriculum, and trained staff. To give your child the finest possible experience in his most sensitive years is to give him a strong foundation throughout his life. Many educators believe that it is wiser to invest in a child’s early education than his college education. The child who enjoys learning and becomes self-directed at an early age will benefit throughout his entire life. The expense now is a profitable long-term investment!