Q. Where did Montessori come from?
A. Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Maria Montessori's first casa dei bambini ("children's house") in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world, spanning ages from birth to adolescence.
Q. What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
A. Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year-or-more age groups (3-6, 2.5-6, 6-12, and so on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
Q. Can I do Montessori at home with my child?
A.Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development at home. Look at your home through your child's eyes. Children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. "Help me do it by myself" is the life theme of the preschooler
Can you find ways for your child to participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, and caring for clothes, shoes, and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child's self-esteem and to build the skills needed for life-long learning.
At the school level many homeschooling and other parents use the Montessori philosophy of following the child's interest and not interrupting concentration to educate their children.
In school only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori “prepared environment.” Here social development comes from being in a positive and unique environment with other children -- an integral part of Montessori education.
Q. Why are there multi-age groupings in a Montessori classroom?
A. Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily 6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem solving, child to child teaching, and socialization. Children are challenged according to their ability and never bored. The Montessori middle and high school teacher ideally has taken all three training courses plus graduate work in an academic area or areas.
Q. Are there different work centers in a classroom?
A. The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects -- math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., will be being studied, at all levels.
Q. What is the student/teacher ratio?
A. Except for infant/toddler groups (ratio dictated by local social service regulations), the teaching ratio is one trained Montessori teacher and one non-teaching aide to 30+ children. Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the teacher is trained to teach one child at a time, and to oversee thirty or more children working on a broad array of tasks. She is facile in the basic lessons of math, language, the arts and sciences, and in guiding a child's research and exploration, capitalizing on his interest in and excitement about a subject. The teacher does not make assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.
Q. What special training do Montessori teachers have?
A. As with the choice of a Montessori school for children, an adult must also exercise wisdom in choosing a teacher training course. Anyone can legally use the name "Montessori" in describing their teacher training organization. One must be sure the certification earned is recognized by the school where one desires to teach.
The two major organizations offering Montessori training in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Most training centers require a bachelor's degree for admission. Training ranges from 200 to 600 pre-service contract hours and covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials. Montessori training canters can be found across North America and around the world.
Q. How is creativity encouraged?
A. Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Montessorians recognize that each child, from toddler to teenager, learns and expresses himself in a very individual way.
Music, art, storytelling, movement and drama are part of every American Montessori program. But there are other things particular to the Montessori environment which encourages creative development: many materials which stimulate interest and involvement; an emphasis on the sensory aspect of experience; and the opportunity for both verbal and nonverbal modes of learning.
Q. How can a “real” Montessori school be identified?
A. Since “Montessori” is in the public domain, it is possible for any individual or institution to claim to be Montessori. The American Montessori Society (AMS) requires its school affiliates to have Montessori-trained teachers in each classroom, a full complement of Montessori materials, and an “open door” policy for visitors, visits from the Montessori specialists at regular intervals and adherence to the AMS Code of Professional Ethics.
The best insurance for parents is to observe a class in process, and to verify the teacher’s Montessori training as well as the school’s affiliation with a national or international organization.
Q. What happens when a child leaves Montessori?
A. Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They 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.
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 positive self-image and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.