Frequently Asked Questions about
What is “Montessori”?
The name Montessori usually refers to the educational method developed by Dr.
Maria Montessori, an Italian physician. Dr. Montessori observed that all
children were driven by inherent tendencies which expressed 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.
What curriculum is in a
Basic subjects such as language,
math, history, geography, biology, chemistry, geometry, music, and art are
introduced in Montessori classes first in the 3-6 programs. Elementary
students, by nature, want more answers to life's questions. The "how,
where, what and when" questions are expanded into their environment and beyond.
They want to classify, group, and get control of their world. The
elementary curriculum incorporates that explosion into knowledge from questions
with materials that name, classify, and redefine the natural world in which the
child has joined.
What is the difference between
Montessori and traditional schools?
dominant role; child is a passive participant in learning.
guiding role; child is an active participant in learning.
|Teacher acts as
external enforcer or discipline.
environment and method encourage self-discipline and personal
|One-year age cycle
in classroom limits collaboration between parents, teachers, and students.
Teamwork is limited.
||Three to six year
age cycles in classrooms encourages mentoring. Collaboration
reinforces learned skills.
of assignments; time is tightly scheduled.
concentration and uninterrupted time for focused work cycle to develop.
plan for all students to follow.
is set by a group norm. Work is corrected by the teacher; errors are
viewed as mistakes.
encourages internalization of information. Child identifies their
own errors through self-correcting tools.
rewards and punishment reinforce learning externally.
feelings of success reinforce learning.
resolution is taught separately from classroom dynamics.
conflict resolution are integral parts of curriculum.
against uniform standard. Progress reported through report cards and
through a portfolio of student's work, progress reports, teacher journals
for each student and collaborative conferences.
Disciplines generally are taught separately. The goal is to master
core curriculum objectives.
Multi-disciplinary, interwoven curriculum. Goal is to foster an
individual love of learning.
Are all Montessori schools
No. Although there are Montessori schools all over the world, all Montessori
schools are not alike. Dr. Montessori’s vision for children spread so
quickly that soon the name “Montessori” became part of the public domain and
could not be given a copyright. Differences in the quality of teacher-training,
school standards, and adherence to the Montessori philosophy all affect the
quality of a Montessori school. Schools may be organized and governed very
differently, and this too can affect what you see in the program itself.
What do the
children do in a Montessori program?
The 3 - 6 year old classroom contains what we consider 5 different areas of learning (although
they are well integrated in the experience of the children)— practical life,
sensorial development, language, mathematics, and cultural studies (geography,
art, music, etc.). The children receive individual and small group lessons in
each of these areas and are free to work with these activities at any time.
Sprinkled throughout the day are little gatherings where the children might sing
songs, read a story, or celebrate a birthday or seasonal holiday. The focus is
on helping the children to choose activities that are of interest to them,
building a feeling of community among the children, and supporting their natural
curiosity and love of learning.
The elementary classroom contains all the typical
subjects other schools may have but they are interwoven together and have
practical applications as opposed to just simply answering questions on a
worksheet. Each day the children enjoy having time to socialize and then
begin working both independently or with a friend. The students complete
work they have been working on over time or begin a new venture. Later in
the day time is spent enjoying a healthy lunch brought from home and then taking
some time to get fresh air outside. Physical activity is built into the
day by allowing for movement as the child needs but outdoors there is time for
spontaneous play as well as organized games and exercise. In the afternoon
the students enjoy listening to a story and finishing up any work they may have
been doing earlier in the day. Throughout the day the students share in
the responsibilities of the school and classroom by loading and unloading the
dishwasher, taking care of class pets, sweeping, doing the laundry (table linens
and hand towels) and watering the plants.
age is it best to begin a Montessori Education?
Although entrance age varies in individual schools, a child can usually enter a
Montessori classroom between the ages of two and one half and four, depending on
when they can be happy and comfortable in a classroom situation. They will begin
the simplest exercises based on activities which all children enjoy. The
equipment which they use at three and four will help them to develop the
concentration, coordination and working habits necessary for the more advanced
exercises they will perform at five and six. The entire program of learning is
purposefully structured. Therefore, optimum results cannot be expected for a
child who misses the early years of this cycle, or for one who is withdrawn
before they finish the basic materials described here.
Why mixed age groups?
If you want children to become responsible young adults they must have
opportunities to practice at a young age. A mixed age group allows
children of different ages and abilities to help each other and thus learn
responsibility. In a mixed age class it is not always the teacher who
solves problems. In fact more often it is not. Instead it is another
child. This is not possible in a class with children all of the same age
Since no two children grow and
mature in exactly the same way the materials available to the children are
varied and numerous. The proper activity for the right moment is there to
be introduced to the child when he is ready or chosen by him as his interest
dictate. Thus, no child is held back if his skills indicate a need to move
on, nor is a child pressured to keep pace with skills he is not yet ready to
master. The sensitive periods of each child can be capitalized upon in a
Could you explain
Montessori’s theory of “ Sensitive Periods”?
of Dr. Montessori’s, which has been reinforced by modern research, is the
importance of the sensitive periods for early learning. These are periods of
intense fascinations for learning a particular characteristic or skill, such as
going up and down steps, putting things in order, counting, or reading. It is
easier for the child to learn a particular skill during the corresponding
sensitive period than at any other time in her life. The Montessori classroom
takes advantage of this fact by allowing the child freedom to select activities
which correspond to their own periods of interest.
Why do children usually come 5 days a week?
Early childhood specialists all agree that young children thrive in a secure,
consistent environment with a steady routine. Young children adjust very well to
this schedule and bond most easily with their teachers and peers when they have
at least four consecutive days in their new community — which quickly becomes a
beloved and special place for them. The steady rhythm of coming to their school
helps create a very positive attitude towards "school" and their activities
there. It also gives the children a strong feeling of belonging to a community
that they help create, and of which they are valued and respected members. They
can count on seeing their friends on a regular basis.
Why is the teacher/child ratio higher in
This is a matter of philosophy, not economics. If
you want children to become resourceful and responsible they must have
opportunities to solve their own problems. The more adults in the class, the
fewer opportunities for the children. The ratio we adhere to is what Maria
Montessori found works best in well functioning classrooms. It was specifically
established to allow the children to become independent and self-confident.
One of the primary goals
of a Montessori education is to guide children toward independence. For
this reason, Montessori classrooms are deliberately
larger than many other environments for young children, and include children of
mixed ages working collaboratively with very little adult interference.
Children in Montessori classrooms learn to work
independently, to make intelligent choices based on their interests and
abilities, and to rely on peers for help, encouragement and guidance.
How can you accommodate
the different abilities in your Montessori Classroom?
Through teacher observations and materials that are designed to stimulate,
change and grow with the children, a variety of abilities are accommodated. A
younger child may work for many weeks on the same piece of equipment without
slowing the other members of the class. Older children in the same room can
move from one piece of equipment to another very quickly, thus avoiding the
boredom of waiting for other members of the class to catch up. The children with
a high level of ability are constantly challenged by the wide variety of
materials and their many uses.
It is a well-established fact that young children mature at very different rates
and their periods of readiness for academic subjects vary a great deal. Because
interest is stimulated and the materials are at hand whenever a child is ready,
academics can begin at an early age. However, very early learning is not the
norm, nor was it ever Dr. Montessori’s objective. Her ideal was only that the
learning experience should occur naturally and joyfully at the proper moment for
each individual child. “It is true, we cannot make a genius”, Dr. Montessori
once wrote, “we can only give each individual the chance to fulfill their
potential possibilities to become an independent, secure and balanced human
Why don't children in
Montessori classrooms have homework?
For many families the question
of homework is a vexing one. How can the children learn to surpass the
learning required by the local public curriculum without the hours of homework
assigned to their neighborhood counterparts? How do the children learn to
read and write?
The classroom environments at
our school inspire children not just to learn - but rather to love learning.
The teachers are passionate which infects the children with interest.
Curriculum is not pre-determined day to day, so children are allowed to explore
their interests in real time, not three hours later in their bedrooms or at the
kitchen table (when their interest is long gone and their thoughts are
distracted by many other things they would rather be doing.)
The children at Peaceful
Pathways are granted freedom to work on the subjects that inspire them at the
time that inspiration is born. Their interests are peaked by the many
different works going on around them in the classroom. The joy of
collaborative work is irresistible. With this, there is no limit to what
they can learn.
Why are the children in the
older grades (1st - 6th) not assigned grades and report cards?
For the budding student this is
the surest way to limit inspiration and retard the development of
self-assessment. The joy for Peaceful Pathways Montessori children is in
the learning itself. They are working and acquiring knowledge because they
are excited by the possibility of how far they can pursue any interest.
Rather than grade the children
on how well they learned the countries of North America, after which it is clear
there is no reason to go on, P.P.M.A. students will continue on to learning the
countries of South America, Europe, Asia, and so on. They ask for the
opportunity to evaluate their own knowledge by testing themselves or making
presentations to their classmates.
The teachers are in continuous
contact with each child offering honest reflections and soliciting discussion
about whether he or she is working up to potential. Each child asks
himself: "How much can I do?" (Not, "How much do I have
to do?") And, "How well have I done it?" (Not was it good enough for an
A?") This sense of personal responsibility is the preparation necessary for the
competitive 21st century.
What is your discipline
It is our goal to have children internalize good behavior, not just respond to
an adult. To do this we again are focused on respect, responsibility and
resourcefulness. But children do not come to us with all of these qualities in
place. When a child behaves in a manner that is unacceptable he is held
accountable with a logical consequence, one that is related to the misbehavior.
For example, if a child
chooses a particular material and is using it incorrectly, perhaps even damaging
it, he will at first be redirected to use it appropriately. If this does not
remedy the problem the child will be told to put the material away and may not
be able to use it again for several days.
We do not use time outs. If a
child is consistently running in the class endangering himself and others, he
might be asked to stay with the teacher or to stay seated at a table. But this
problem was related to movement, thus the consequence is the restriction of
movement. This is not the same as the notion of a time out.
Our Montessori classroom
has only one rule: to take care and be respectful of everyone and everything.
If the rule were to be practiced by everyone, it would make for a more
harmonious world. Our teachers are aware of the importance of self-discipline.
They have robust enthusiasm for learning, a deep respect for all life, kindness,
humor, gentleness and patience. The nature of the Montessori materials and
activities, along with the freedom of the prepared environment, help the child
to realize and develop his or her sense of self-direction, independence,
confidence, cooperation and self-control.
What happens after Montessori?
Many parents ask how their child can make a successful transfer from Montessori
to a conventional school. The habits and skills, which a child develops in a
Montessori class, are good for a lifetime. They will help them to work more
efficiently, to observe more carefully and to concentrate more effectively, no
matter where they go. If they are in a stimulating environment, whether at home
or at school, their self-education - which is the only real education - will
Montessori children are unusually
adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they've
been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are
problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. Once the
child learns the ground rules to the classroom they adapt quite well.
They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work
freely with others and good communication skills ease the way in new settings.
Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of
self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive
activities, help children develop good self-images and the confidence to face
challenges and change with optimism.
Peaceful Pathways Montessori has plans to go up through Middle School by
Are there any famous or
successful people who were Montessori educated?
Below is a list of many familiar people who were Montessori educated:
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Founders of Google.com, credit their
Montessori education for much of their success
- Jeff Bezos, financial analyst, founder, AMAZON.COM
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize winner for Literature
- Katherine Graham (deceased), owner/editor of the Washington Post
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (deceased), editor, former first
lady (John F. Kennedy)
- Anne Frank, famous diarist from World War II
- Prince William and Prince Harry, English royal family
- T. Berry Brazelton, noted pediatrician and author
- Julia Child, famous chef, star of many TV cooking shows and author
of numerous cookbooks
- Elizabeth Berridge, actress (Constanze in Amadeus)
- Kami Cotler, actress (youngest child on long-running series The
- Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actors
- David Blaine, a magician as well as endurance artist and advocate of
Famous people who chose
Montessori schools for their own children:
- Stephen J. Cannell, TV writer-producer-director (The Rockford Files
and many others)
- Patty Duke Austin, actress
- Cher Bono, singer-actress
- John Bradshaw, psychologist and author
- Yul Brynner (dec.), actor
- Marcy Carcy, TV producer
- Bill & Hillary Clinton, former president/senator, NY
- Michael Douglas, actor
- Shari Lewis (dec.), puppeteer
- Yo Yo Ma, cellist
Others with a Montessori
- Alexander Graham Bell (dec.), noted inventor, and his wife Mabel
founded the Montessori Education Assocation in 1913. They also provided
financial support directly to Dr. Montessori and helped establish the first
Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States
- Mister Rogers, children's TV personality, strong supporter of
- Thomas Edison, noted scientist and inventor, helped found a
- President Wilson's daughter trained as a Montessori teacher. There
was a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during Wilson's
- Alice Waters, restauranteur and writer, is a former Montessori
- Bruno Bettelheim (dec.), noted psychologist/author, was married to a
- Erik Erikson (dec.), noted anthropologist/author, had a Montessori
- Jean Piaget (dec.), noted Swiss psychologist, made his first
observations of children in a Montessori school. He was also head of the Swiss
Montessori Society for many years.