Frequently Asked Questions
Is Montessori Meant for All Children?
The Montessori system has been used successfully with children from a variety of learning levels, represented in regular classes, as well as the gifted.
There is no one school that is right for all children, and certainly there are children who may do better in bigger/smaller classroom settings with a more teacher-directed program that offers fewer choices.
Children who are easily overstimulated, or those who tend to be overly aggressive, may be examples of children who might not adapt as easily to a Montessori program. Each situation is different, and it is best to take a tour of the school to see if it appears that the school would be a good match.
Is Montessori Effective With the Very Highly Gifted Child?
Yes, children who are highly gifted will find Montessori to be both intellectually challenging and flexible enough to respond to them as unique individuals.
Why Do Montessori Schools Ask Young Children to Attend Five Days a Week?
Two- and three-day programs are often very attractive to parents who do not need full-time childcare. However, five-day programs create the consistency that is immensely important to young children and which is essential in progressing steadily in a Montessori program. Since the primary goal of Montessori involves creating a culture of consistency, order, and empowerment, traditional Montessori schools encourage children to attend five days a week.
Why Does Montessori Group Different Age Levels Together?
Sometimes parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one group or the other will be shortchanged. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers’ time and attention, or that the importance of covering the curriculum for the older students will prevent them from giving the younger students the support and stimulation that they need. Both concerns are unfounded.
At each level, traditional and authentic Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental characteristics typical to all children in their progressive stages.
Montessori teachers undergo special training to enable them to handle various age spans, unlike teachers in other methods of education.
Montessori classes are specifically organized to encompass a three-year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. Each child learns at his/her own pace and is ready for any given lesson in his/her own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. In a mixed-age class, children will always find peers who are working at their current level.
Children traditionally stay in the same class for three years. With two-thirds of the class usually returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain stable, which enables students to become self-confident in their academics as well as “leaders” in social skills.
In addition, learning in one class for two to three years together with various age levels, allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teacher.
The age range also allows even “gifted” children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade and feel emotionally out of place.
How Can Montessori Teachers Meet Individual Needs of So Many Different Children?
Montessori teachers help students get to the point where their minds and hearts are open to learning. In effective Montessori schools, students are not motivated by getting good grades as they are by a basic love of learning. As much as parents know their own children’s learning styles and temperaments, teachers too, develop this sense of each child’s uniqueness by spending a number of years with the students and their parents.
Dr. Montessori believed that teachers should focus on the child as an individual learner, rather than on the daily lesson plans (or SOL’s). Montessori teachers lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover. The teacher’s ultimate objective is to help their students to learn independently and retain the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born. Montessori teachers don’t simply present lessons; they facilitate, mentor, coach, and guide.
Traditional education methods teach students the basic facts and skills that they will need to succeed in the world. Research shows that in many schools, a substantial portion of the day is spent on discipline, classroom management and memorizing information and facts.
Typically, Montessori teachers will not spend the entire day teaching lessons to the whole class. Their primary role is to prepare and maintain the physical, intellectual, and social environment, within which their students learn. A key aspect of this is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate Montessori activities to meet the needs and interests of each child in the class.
Montessori teachers usually present lessons to individual students or small groups and limit it to brief and very clear presentations. The goal is to give the children just enough information to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them so that they come back on their own to work with the learning materials.
Montessori teachers closely monitor their students’ progress. Because they normally work with each child for two or three years, they get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well. Montessori teachers often use the children’s interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success.
Why Is a Montessori Classroom Called a “Children’s House?”?
Dr. Montessori’s focus on the “whole 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. This is a children’s community. In a very real sense, even very small children are responsible for the care of their own child-sized environment.
Is Montessori Opposed to Homework?
Most Montessori schools do not assign homework to children below the elementary level. When it is assigned to older children, it rarely involves page after page of “busy” work; instead, the children are given meaningful, interesting assignments that expand on the topics that they are pursuing in class.
When possible, teachers will build in opportunities for children to work with several projects, book reports and assignments.
What if a Child Doesn’t Feel Like Working?
While Montessori students are allowed considerable latitude to pursue topics/areas that interest them, this freedom is not absolute. Within every school there are cultural norms; expectations for what a student should know and be able to do by a certain age.
Montessori teachers are conscious of these standards and provide as much structure and support as is necessary to ensure that students live up to them. If for some reason it appears that a child needs time and support until he or she is developmentally ready, Montessori teachers provide it non-judgmentally.
How Do Montessori Schools Report Student Progress?
As Montessori is a sequential progression therefore, teachers cannot give daily reports/accounts/narratives on each child’s progress.
Formal Report Cards are issued by most schools three times a year and parents are made aware of the sequential progress each student is making, their social development, and mastery of fundamental skills. Montessori believes in individually paced progress, and therefore do not assign letter grades or rank students within each class according to their achievement, other than in the Elementary years.
Formal Parent/Teacher Conferences are held twice a year to discuss the teachers’ assessment of their child’s progress.
Parents can also meet teachers informally at any time throughout the year, at times convenient to teacher and parent.