Why Montessori FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MONTESSORI METHOD

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. Under the age of six, Montessori emphasises 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. They are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own, with materials that have been introduced to them one-on-one by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Above age 6 children learn to do independent research, arrange field trips to gather information, interview specialists, create group presentations, dramas, art exhibits, musical productions, science projects, and so forth. There is no limit to what they created in this kind of intelligently guided freedom. There are no textbooks or adult-directed group lessons and daily schedule. There is great respect for the choices of the children, but they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. There is no wasted time and children enjoy their work and study. The children ask each other for lessons and much of the learning comes from sharing and inspiring each other instead of competing with each other. 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, school age child, teenager, and young adult. 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 lifelong 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. There is an interesting Montessori homeschooling story here: http://www.montessori.edu/homeschooling.html.

In school, only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education with specialised learning equipment. There are many ideas, however, that can be used by parents to enrich children who are being homeschooled or to enrich those who are attending school full-time.

Q. Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?

A. Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.

Q. Are Montessori children successful later in life?

A. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardised tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.

In school, only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education with specialised learning equipment. There are many ideas, however, that can be used by parents to enrich children who are being homeschooled or to enrich those who are attending school full-time.

Q. Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?

A. Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.

Q. Are Montessori children successful later in life?

A. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardised tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.

MONTESSORI SCHOOLS

Q. I recently observed a Montessori classroom for a day. I was very impressed, but I have three questions.

1. There doesn’t seem to be any opportunities for pretend play

2. The materials don’t seem to allow children to be creative

3. Children don’t seem to be interacting with another very much. Any help you give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much.

A. I can give you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:

(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children’s House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things – i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.

(2) The materials teach specific things and then the awareness generated by these materials allows children to engage with the world around them more creatively. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.

(3) There is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialisation. Also, since concentration is protected above all, and all “work” is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.