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FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Montessori:

 

Q1. Why do Montessori classes group different age levels together?

Some times parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one group or the other will be short changed.  They fear that the younger children will absorb the teacher’s time and attention, or that the importance of covering the kindergarten curriculum  for the five year olds will prevent them from giving the three and four year olds the emotional support and stimulation that they need.  Both concerns are misguided.  At each level, Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental characteristics normal to children in that stage.

  • Montessori classes are organized to encompass a two or 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 her own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in her own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons.  In a mixed age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level.
  • Children normally stay in the same class for three years.  With two thirds of the class normally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable.
  • Working in one class for two or three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers.  The age range also allow especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place.

 

Q2. Why do Montessori classes tend to be larger than those found in many other schools?

Many schools take pride in having very small classes, and parents often wonder why Montessori classes are so much larger.  Montessori classes commonly group together twenty five to thirty children covering a three year age span.

Schools that place children together into small groups assume that the teacher is the source of instruction, a very limited resource.  They reason that as the number of children decreases, the time that teachers have to spend with each child increases.  Ideally, we would have a one-on-one tutorial situation.  But the best teacher of a three year old is often another somewhat older child.  This process is good for both the tutor and the younger child.  In this situation, the teacher is not the primary focus.  The larger group size puts the focus less on the adult and encourages children to learn from each other.  By consciously bringing children together in larger multi-age class groups in which two-thirds of the children normally return each year, the school’s environment promotes continuity and the development of a fairly stable community.

 

Q3. Why do most Montessori schools prefer young children to attend five day a week?

Two and three day programs are often attractive to parents who do not need full-time care; however, five-day programs create the consistency that is so important to young children and which is essential in developing strong Montessori programs.  Since the primary goal of Montessori involves creating a culture of consistency, order and empowerment it is preferred to attend five days a week.

 

Q4. Why Montessori is expensive compared to conventional schools

Montessori programs are normally more expensive to organize and run than conventional classroom, due to the extensive teacher education needed to become certified and the very high cost of purchasing the educational materials and beautiful furniture needed to equip each Montessori classroom.  Montessori is not always more expensive. Tuition costs depend on many factors, including the cost of the various elements that go into running a particular school, such as the cost of the buildings and grounds, teacher salaries, the size of the school (generally, larger schools tend to be more cost-effective), the programs it offers, and whether the school receives a subsidy payments.

 

Q5. Why do most Montessori schools want the children to enter between ages two and three?

Dr. Montessori identified four “planes of development,” with each stage having its own developmental characteristics and developmental challenges.  The early childhood Montessori environment for children ages two or two and a half to six is designed to work with the “absorbent mind”, “sensitive periods”, and the tendencies of children at this stage of their development.  Learning that takes place during these years comes spontaneously, without effort, leading children to enter the elementary classes with a clear, concrete sense of many abstract concepts.  Montessori helps children to become self-motivated, self-disciplined, and to retain the sense of curiosity that so many children lose along the way in traditional classrooms.  They tend to act with care and respect toward their environment and each other.  They are able to work at their own pace and ability. The three-year Montessori experience tends to nurture a joy of learning that prepares them for further challenges.  This process seems to work best when children enter a Montessori program at age two or three and stay at least through the kindergarten year.

 

Q6. How can Montessori Teachers meet the needs of so many different children?

Great teachers help learners get to the point where their minds and hearts are open, leaving them ready to learn.  In effective schools, students are not so much motivated by getting good grades as they are by a basic love of learning.

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 a person, not on the daily lesson plan.  Montessori teachers lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover.  Their 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 are facilitators, mentors, coaches and guides.  Traditionally, teachers have told us that they teach students the basic facts and skills that they will need to succeed in the world.  Studies show that in many Non-Montessori classrooms, a substantial portion of the day is spent on discipline and classroom management.  Normally, Montessori teachers will not spend much time teaching lessons to the whole class.  Their primary role is to prepare and maintain the physical, intellectual, and social/emotional environment within which the children will work.  A key aspect of this is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate learning activities to meet the needs and interests of each child in the class.  Montessori teachers usually present lessons to small groups of children at one time and limit lessons to brief and very clear presentations.  The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the learning materials.

Montessori teachers closely monitor the 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.

 

Q7. 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 de Bambini” or the “Children’s House”.  The Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adult 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.  They move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest.  In a very real sense, even very small children are responsible for the care of their own child-sized environment.  For generations, parents have been amazed to see small children in Montessori classrooms cut raw fruits and vegetables, carry pitchers of water, and pour liquids with barely a drop spilled.  The children normally go about their work so calmly and purposely that it is clear to even the casual observer that they are the master in this place: The “Children’s House”.

 

Q8. What do Montessori schools mean by the term “Normalization”?

“Normalization” is a Montessori term that describes the process that takes place in Montessori classrooms around the world, in which young children, who typically have a short attention span, learn to focus their intelligence, concentrate their energies for long periods of time, and take tremendous satisfaction from their work. In his book, Maria Montessori: Her life and Work, E.M. standing described the following characteristics of normalization in the child between the age of three and six:

  • A love of order
  • A love of work
  • Profound spontaneous concentration
  • Attachment of reality
  • Love of silence and of working alone
  • Sublimation of the possessive Instinct
  • Obedience
  • Independence and initiative
  • Spontaneous self-discipline
  • Joy
  • The power of act from real choice and not just from idle curiosity

 

Q9. Is Montessori for all Children?

The Montessori system has been used successfully with children from all socio-economic levels, representing those in regular classes as well as the gifted.

 

Q10. 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.  Many assignments invite parents and children to work together.  When possible, teachers will normally build in opportunities for children to choose among several alternative assignments.  Sometimes, teachers will prepare individually negotiated weekly assignments with each student.

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