Frequently Asked Questions
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 Montessori class?
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?
Are all Montessori schools alike?
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.
At what 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 and abilities.
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 multi-age classroom.
Could you explain Montessori’s theory of “ Sensitive Periods”?
Another observation 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 Montessori schools?
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 being"
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 - 9th) 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 policy?
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 continue.
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.
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 Waltons)
Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actors
David Blaine, a magician as well as endurance artist and advocate of "street magic"
Taylor Swift, singer and musician
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 U.S.President and New York Senator
Michael Douglas, actor
Shari Lewis (dec.), puppeteer
Yo Yo Ma, cellist
Others with a Montessori Connection:
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 Montessori education
Thomas Edison, noted scientist and inventor, helped found a Montessori school
President Wilson's daughter trained as a Montessori teacher. There was a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during Wilson's presidency.
Alice Waters, restauranteur and writer, is a former Montessori teacher
Bruno Bettelheim (dec.), noted psychologist/author, was married to a Montessori teacher
Erik Erikson (dec.), noted anthropologist/author, had a Montessori teaching certificate
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.