Montessori Method FAQ
We have put up answers to the most common questions people ask us about the Montessori method or its educational principles. If you have a specific question that is not answered here we invite you to contact us.
Based on the principles of Maria Montessori, the Montessori Method is an educational concept that focuses on individualized, environment-centric learning. Students are encouraged to interact and collaborate, to solve problems using critical thinking, and to gain confidence in their ability to reason and make decisions.
A Montessori education inspires self confidence and a general appreciation of learning. Children are given the opportunity to test new ideas and concepts, and the solutions they find (and the processes used to find them) remain a part of them for life. Montessori students develop leadership skills, an appreciation for the value of collaboration, and a sense of belonging amongst their peers and in society as a whole.
Maria Montessori was Italy’s first female medical doctor. Her natural passion for mathematics, physics, science, anthropology, philosophy, and psychology fuelled her drive to create what is now known as the Montessori method.
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 age three 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. Children entering at age four or five do not consistently come to the end of the three-year cycle having developed the same skills, work habits, or values.
Older children entering Montessori may do quite well in this very different setting, but this will depend to a large degree on their personality, previous educational experiences, and the way they have been raised at home.
Montessori programs can usually accept a few older children into an established class, so long as the family understands and accepts that some critical opportunities may have been missed, and these children may not reach the same levels of achievement seen in the other children of that age. On the other hand, because of the individualized pace of learning in Montessori classrooms, this will not normally be a concern.
Normalization is a term that causes a great deal of confusion and some concern among many new Montessori parents. Normalization is a terrible choice of words. It suggests that we are going to help children who are not normal to become “normal.” This is not what Dr. Montessori meant to suggest at all. Normalization is just Montessori-talk that describes the process that takes place every year in tens of thousands of 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, and take tremendous satisfaction from their work.
Another mother put it this way: “My child just does not act the same now that he’s been in Montessori a while. He is usually happy, laughing, and running from one thing to another. In Montessori he looks interested, sometimes puzzled, and often completely absorbed. I think of normalization as a kind of satisfaction that he seems to take from what he calls hard work.”
Maria Montessori 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 to reality
- Love of silence and of working alone
- Sublimation of the possessive instinct
- Independence and initiative
- Spontaneous self-discipline
- The power to act from real choice and not just from idle curiosity
Sometimes parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one group or the other will be shortchanged. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers 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.
Some additional benefits include:
- Cooperation in work and play between older and younger children;
- A wider range of knowledge, experiences and abilities to draw upon in the multi-aged setting;
- Higher motivation towards learning;
- Respect for one another’s individual abilities and experiences;
- Children who are more likely to include all others in their activities;
- Appropriate peer modeling, especially when older children are role models for the younger ones;
- Interaction and friendship opportunities are easier with a wider range of ages;
- A greater sense of security and belonging is evident; and,
- Children develop responsibility, kindness, friendliness, diplomacy, language skills and self–respect.
Current educational theories and studies show that “students in multi-aged classes tended to be higher or better than those in single-aged classes in the following areas: study habits, social interaction, self-motivation, and attitudes toward school.” (Gayfer, 1992).
A five-day programs creates 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, most Montessori schools will expect children to attend five days a week.
All children play! They explore new things playfully. They watch something of interest with a fresh open mind. They enjoy the company of treasured adults and other children. They make up stories. They dream. They imagine. This impression stems from parents who don’t know what to make of the incredible concentration, order, and self-discipline that we commonly see among Montessori children.
Montessori students also tend to take the things they do in school quite seriously. It is common for them to respond, “This is my work?” when adults ask what they are doing. They work hard and expect their parents to treat them and their work with respect. But it is joyful, playful, and anything but drudgery.
There are a limited amount of materials available for us in a Montessori classroom.
By deliberately limiting materials, we are facilitating situations where more than one child would like to work with a particular material at the same time. This interaction fosters discussion and the children develop patience, empathy and in later years, collaborative negotiation.
Teachers give “grace and courtesy” lessons as early as three years of age, with lessons continuing over the years to remind and encourage the children to negotiate fairly and with empathy in the classroom.
In the classroom, there is consistent assessment through observing and working with the child as the child interacts in the prepared environment. The materials have inherent checks, so by observing a child working with a material, a trained guide can discern if the child has understood the concept.
Educating and developing your child’s character is an important part of the Montessori method. We teach the child the value of self-care, the value of the environment (and caring for it), the value of personal conduct (including grace, courtesy, and respect), and the value of independent achievement and effort.
By addressing the above items, we develop young minds into capable and confident decision makers and team players
Throughout your child’s journey with us they will interact with the full suite of classroom materials we have to offer. This journey is paired with responsibility: the responsibility of having to choose what and when to work, as well as the responsibility of owning the consequences and outcomes of their decisions.
The freedom that comes with the lack of structure comes hand in hand with personal responsibility.
As adults and as authority figures, it is natural for children to seek help from you. While you should not turn away your child, it is imperative that you allow your child the time and opportunities to solve the problems they are facing.
Rather than teaching your children shortcuts, help them understand the underlying concepts so that they can tackle and overcome the roadblocks they face.
Give them plenty of opportunities to practice independence and decision making. This will instill a sense of responsibility both at school and home.
It is important to remember that the Montessori philosophy must practice both at school and at home. We work hard to create a learning environment that teaches your child about the word they live in and how to navigate it as they grow.
A Montessori education is ideal for children that are naturally curious or creative. The Montessori method will naturally develop those qualities.
A Montessori school is ideal for families that value independence and personal accountability, where it is important that family members have an informed, but distinct, voice.
The beauty of the Montessori method is that the skills it seeks to develop are universally applicable in life. Teaching your child to problem solve, leverage critical thinking, and collaborate with others sets them up for a productive educational career regardless of which educational path they take.
Montessori students tend to make friends easily, having in-depth experience with other kids from all sorts of backgrounds, ages, and experiences. When trying out for athletic or creative endeavors, Montessori students tend to be more confident in their abilities and in their ability to improve.
Children in a Montessori environment learn one on one, in a group and independently. This exposure to flexibility in learning styles allows them to be successful regardless of the environment they enter after Montessori school.
A Montessori education does not discourage structure. Rather, a Montessori education encourages logical problem solving and the application of knowledge and ideas in their daily lives.
Yes, in general, children who are highly gifted will find Montessori to be both intellectually challenging and flexible enough to respond to them as unique individuals.
Research and real-world examples of Montessori success are abundant. Did you know that the founders of Google were once Montessori students? Montessori is the fastest growing form of non-traditional education in North America, and it is with good reason.