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Frequently Asked Questions
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a philosophy with the fundamental tenet that a child learns best within a social environment which supports each individual’s unique development.
How did it begin?
Dr. Maria Montessori, the creator of what is called “The Montessori Method of Education,” based this new education on her scientific observation of young children’s behavior. In 1907 she was invited to open a child care center for the children of Rome.
She called it “The Children’s House”, and based the program on her observations that young children learn best in a homelike setting, filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences contributing to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.
Montessori’s dynamic theories included such revolutionary premises as:
1. Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
2. Children create themselves through purposeful activity
3. The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.
4. Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials.
What Makes Montessori Education Unique?
• The “Whole Child” Approach
The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum, under the direction of a specially trained teacher, allows the child to experience the joy of learning, gives time to enjoy the process and insure the development of self-esteem, providing the experiences from which children create their knowledge.
• The “Prepared Environment”
In order for self-directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment – room, material, social climate – must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including the opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which enables them to try new things and build self-confidence.
• The Montessori Materials.
Dr. Montessori’s observation of the kinds of things which children enjoy and go back to repeatedly led her to design a number of multisensory, sequential and self-correcting materials which facilitate the learning of skills and lead to the learning of abstract ideas.
• The Montessori Teacher.
The Montessori Teacher functions as designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper and meticulous observer of each child’s behavior and growth. The teacher also acts as a facilitator of learning. Extensive training – a minimum of a full year following the baccalaureate degree is required for a full AMS credential, including a year’s student teaching under supervision – is specialized for the age group the teacher will work.
How Does It Work?
The three year age span in each class provides a family like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation – language experiences – in the Montessori classroom than in a conventional early childhood educational setting.
How is Creativity Encouraged?
Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Montessorians recognize that children learn and express themselves in very individual ways. Music, art, storytelling, movement and drama are part of every Montessori program. There are things particular to the Montessori environment which encourages creative development; many materials which stimulate interest and involvement, emphasis on the sensory aspect of learning; and the opportunity for both verbal and non-verbal modes of leaning.
How Can A “Real” Montessori Classroom Be Identified?
Since Montessori is a word in the public domain, it is possible for any individual or institution to claim to be Montessori. But, an authentic Montessori classroom must have these basic characteristics at all levels:
• Teachers educated in the Montessori philosophy and methodology for the age level they are teaching, who have the ability and dedication to put key concepts into practice.
• A partnership established with the family. The family is considered an integral part of the individual’s total development.
• A multi-aged, multi-graded heterogeneous grouping of children.
• A diverse set of Montessori materials, activities and experiences which are designed to foster physical, intellectual, creative and social independence.
• A schedule which allows large blocks of time to problem solve, to see connections in knowledge and to create new ideas.
• A classroom atmosphere which encourages social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching and emotional development.
What Happens When a Child Leaves Montessori?
Montessori children are wonderfully adaptable. They have 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. Good communication skills ease the way in new settings. Research shows 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 good self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.