Frequently Asked Questions
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 through the exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, creates a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 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.
Only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori “prepared environment.” Moreover, the social development that comes from being in an environment with other children is an integral part of Montessori education. All parents can use Montessori principles of child development at home, complementing your child’s experiences in Montessori school. 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. Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child’s self-esteem.
There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones operating in North America are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school’s affiliation(s).
Ask if the school is affiliated with any Montessori organization. Ask what kind of training the teachers have. Visit the school, observe the classroom in action, and later ask the teacher or principal to explain the theory behind the activities you saw. Most of all, talk to your child’s prospective teacher about his or her philosophy of child development and education to see if it is compatible with your own. A well equipped classroom is a prerequisite to Montessori education. The expertise of the teacher to use the materials as they are meant to be enhances the child’s experience and success in the classroom.
No, a child of 2 1/2 years is ready to step out into the social environment and is looking forward to the interaction with other children. A Montessori classroom provides this opportunity in a caring, nurturing and guiding manner under close observation of a trained and experienced Directress. Not only should the child have the opportunity to be in the “prepared environment” every day of the week but the time in the classroom should be a minimum of 3 hours to allow for the complete ‘Work Cycle’. The Montessori classroom is a ‘Prepared Environment’ and there are specific ways in which the materials are used. If the child is not in the environment everyday, the child is confused and unable to relate with the environment and the materials.
There are more Montessori programs for ages 2 1/2 – 6 than for any other age group, but Montessori is not limited to early childhood. Many infant/toddler programs (ages 2 months to 3 years) exist, as well as elementary (ages 6-9 and 9-12), adolescent (ages 12-15 middle school) and even a few Montessori high schools.
Central to the Montessori philosophy is the idea of allowing each child to develop at his or her own, individual pace. The “miracle” stories of Montessori children far ahead of traditional expectations for their age level reflect not artificial acceleration but the possibilities open when children are allowed to learn at their own pace in a scientifically prepared environment.
Although the directress is careful to make clear the specific purpose of each material and to present activities in a clear, step-by-step order, the child is free to choose from a vast array of activities and to discover new possibilities. The notions that children learn through hands-on activity, that the preschool years are a time of critical brain development and that parents should be partners in their children’s education—are now accepted wisdom.