Frequently Asked Questions

“It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.”

Does the Montessori Method restrict the child’s creativity?

No. The very foundation of the Montessori approach is based on recognizing the child’s creativity and his need for an environment that encourages rather than limits this creativity. Music, art, storytelling, movement, and drama are part of every Montessori program. But there are also other things specific to the Montessori environment, which encourages creative development and the opportunity for both verbal and non-verbal learning modes.

How can a ‘Real’ Montessori classroom be identified?

Since the term ‘Montessori’ is in the public domain, many non-Montessori schools use it to capitalize on public interest in Montessori. However, an authentic Montessori classroom must have the following essential characteristics at all levels: (a) A classroom atmosphere encouraging social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching, and emotional development. (b) Teachers are educated in the Montessori philosophy and methodology for the age level they teach. (c) Multi-aged students. (d) A diverse set of Montessori materials, activities, and experiences. These are designed to foster physical, intellectual, creative and social independence. 

How did the Montessori Method begin?

Dr. Maria Montessori created ‘The Montessori Method of Education’ based on her scientific observations of young children’s behaviour. Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first woman medical doctor, became interested in education as a doctor treating mentally challenged children. She returned to the University for further study and, in 1907, was invited to organize a school in the reconstructed slum area of San Lorenzo, Italy. She established a method of education that became universally effective. International interest in her approach led to Montessori schools in many countries.

How do Montessori schools view imaginative play?

Maria Montessori saw a difference between genuinely creative imagination (based on reality) and fantasy (based on non-real events). When she watched children play, she realized that they wanted to be able to do real things in the real world rather than pretend. So, Montessori schools value imaginative play but will always try to help children work with natural objects and situations. 

How does it work?

Each Montessori class operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its ground rules that differ from age to age but are always based on the core Montessori beliefs, that is, respect for each other and the environment. The Montessori material allows concrete manipulation of multi-sensory, sequential, and self-correcting materials in nature, facilitating the learning of skills and abstract ideas. The Montessori materials also have a built-in ‘control of error,’ which provides the learner with information on the accuracy of his response and enables him to correct himself. 

The teacher demonstrates the lesson initially and is available if needed. The child is free to work at his own pace with the material he has chosen, alone or with others. The teacher’s role is to act as a facilitator to encourage active, self-directed learning. 

How expensive is Montessori education?

Costs vary widely. The cost of establishing a Montessori classroom is higher than a traditional one because of the precision and quality demanded in manufacturing Montessori materials. Like everything else, these costs are affected by inflation. About a year of specialized training at undergraduate and graduate levels is required to teach in a Montessori school. The longer the school day and the higher the grade level, the greater the cost.

How is discipline dealt with in a Montessori School?

Montessori schools believe that discipline is something that should come from the inside rather than something that is always imposed by others. They do not rely on rewards and punishments. The child develops confidence and control over his behavior by being free in the environment and learning to love and care for others. So, Montessori teachers only step in when a child’s behavior is upsetting or disruptive to others. And then, the child will be handled with deep respect and sensitivity. The belief is that the children are naturally loving and caring, and the emphasis is on helping them develop the vital social and emotional skills needed for participating in an authentic community.

How much freedom is allowed in the Montessori classroom?

“Freedom within limits.”  Several ground rules help preserve the order of the classroom as the students move about. For example, the child can move around the school at will, talk to other children, and work with any material he understands. He can choose where he would like to work and for how long or ask the teacher to introduce new material to him. However, a child is not allowed to interfere with other children at work or to mistreat the material that is so important to the child’s development. 

After leaving Montessori preschool, how will my child fit in with a more traditional system?

Montessori children tend to be very socially comfortable. They are happy, confident, and resourceful because they have been encouraged to problem-solve and think independently. So they usually settle in very quickly and easily into new schools. Primary school teachers are often delighted to hear your child has attended a Montessori school! 

Is it oriented to a particular religion?

No. An authentic Montessori school offers a religiously neutral environment, not associated with any particular religious persuasion. However, it is important to stress that it does not conflict with any religion. Schools have been sponsored by groups representing non-sectarian interests and by the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, and other faiths. 

Is the Montessori Method suitable only for young children and specific categories of children?

In Montessori schools, the child is seen as a dynamic learner, full of creative potential, and needs the maximum possible freedom to develop as a happy, confident individual. Montessori schools, therefore, emphasize the importance of process. In more traditional schools, children need more instruction and control from adults – there is less trust in the child’s inner abilities and more emphasis on ensuring defined results. So, Montessori schools are learner-centered, whereas traditional schools tend to be more teacher-centered.

What is the Montessori Method?

The basic principle of the Montessori philosophy of education is that all children carry within themselves the person they will become. To fully develop the physical, intellectual, and spiritual potential, the child must have freedom – a freedom achieved through order and self-discipline. The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach the fullest potential in all areas of life and to create a secure, loving, and joyful environment in which the child can learn, grow, and become independent. It strives to educate each child to acquire self-esteem and a positive attitude toward learning. The program includes individualized teaching, self-corrective materials, and a stimulating and non-pressured environment. The lessons are individual and brief. Another characteristic of the study is its simplicity. The third quality is objectivity.

Dr. Montessori developed a ‘prepared environment’ controlled by the teacher, while children make decisions controlled within the Environment. The teacher is often called the directress or guide, who prepares this environment, directs the activities, functions as the authority, and offers stimulation to the child. Still, the child learns and is motivated through the work and his desire to learn. All these activities help the child develop an ‘inner discipline,’ which is the core concept of the Montessori philosophy. 

Why is the classroom called an environment?

Everything in a Montessori classroom is geared to the child, creating a child-sized world. The furniture in the school is appropriately sized for the child. The materials are proportionate, fitting easily to the child’s hand. They are also proportional to his abilities, not overly simple and challenging but never presenting an impossible goal. The teacher carefully prepares this environment to give the child a safe place to explore, experiment, and learn. The tailored environment allows the child to proceed at their own pace, from simple activities to more complex ones. The child’s natural curiosity is satisfied as they continue to experience the joy of discovering the world around him/her. 

What basic things should parents look for in an authentic Montessori School?

  • Vertical Grouping (Mixed Ages),with at least three years between ages. Traditionally, Montessori classes are grouped 3-6 years, 6-9 years, 9-12 years, 12-15 years and 15-18 years. Due to logistics, some schools may extend the 3-6 age group to 2½ years or up to 7-year-olds. This implies no separate Grade R or 0 in a Montessori school. The 3-6 class may include children preparing for primary school but are not separated from the rest. Maria Montessori emphasized the importance of preparing the classroom environment by the natural laws of development applicable to the particular plane of development. According to Dr Montessori, these planes of development follow the age spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, and so on.
  • An uninterrupted work cycle of approximately 3 hoursin a mature class (i.e., a class with a core of normalized children). “Concentration is the key that opens up to the child the latent treasures within him.” Maria Montessori expressed this idea throughout her writings that children must be allowed to develop their concentration through meaningful work, free from adult interruption or intervention.
  • The use of generally larger child/teacher ratios. These are more effective in a Montessori classroom as smaller ratios tend to inhibit the development of independence in the child.
  • A prepared environment based on reality and nature and not fantasy.
  • Particularly in the 3-6 environment, few group lessons focus on individual learning and lessons. Developmentally, the children in the older age group prefer working and interacting with their peers. Here, the focus is on smaller group, cooperative, and collaborative learning experiences.
  • Children work at their own pace. In a Montessori classroom, each child works at their own pace within a vertically grouped environment. This allows for the natural inclusion of children with special needs, as the learning rate is based on the child’s potential.
  • The understanding is that the child’s work is different from the work of the adult. “The adult works to perfect his environment; the child works to perfect himself.”
  • Staff who are trained and qualified as Montessori directresses/ directors/ assistants. All teaching staff must be trained and qualified to work within the prepared environment. It is internationally accepted in Montessori Best Practice that those working and teaching in Montessori schools should hold Montessori teaching qualifications and undertake ‘Continued Professional Development.’
  •  A classroom that is clean, neat, ordered, and well-equipped with predominantly Montessori equipment and materials. These should be accessible to the children – at child height – and always be complete and in good condition.
  • There are several essential learning areas. In a Montessori 3-6 classroom: Practical Life, Sensorial, and Language, Maths, Cultural Subjects and spaces for art, creative expression, and music. There should also be areas for Language, Maths, and Cultural Subjects in the primary and higher levels. Cultural Subjects include botany, zoology, history, geography, science, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, and other subjects. 

A sense of happiness and peace should prevail throughout the school, with the children showing signs of being comfortable and without fear.

 

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