Montessori FAQs

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Why are Montessori schools all work and no play?

Dr. Montessori realized that children’s play is their work– their effort to master their own bodies and environment– and out of respect she used the term “work” to describe all their classroom activities. Montessori students work hard, but they don’t experiece it as drudgery; rather, it’s an expression of their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

How can children learn if they’re free to do whatever they want?

Dr. Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose his focus of learning on any given day, but his decision is limited by the materials and activities in each area of the curriculum that his teacher has prepared and presented to him. Beginning at the elementary level, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance.

If children work at their own pace, don’t they fall behind?

Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not going it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance his learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. The gentle guidance helps him master the challenge at hand– and protects him form moving on before he’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”

Is it true that Montessori students have the same teacher for all subjects rather than work with “specialists” in different curricular area?

Montessori teachers are educated as “generalists,” qualified to teach all sections of the curriculum. But many schools choose to also employ specialists in certain subjects, including art, music, foreign language, physical education, and science. In Children’s World Bilingual Montessori Preschool, we have guest specialist teachers develop the children’s extracurricular interests, such as music and gymnastics.

Do Montessori teachers follow a curriculum?

Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar– math, science, history, geography, etc.– but they are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together. While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. The study of the pyramids is a natural bridge to geometry. This approach to curriculum shows the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become throughly immersed in a topic– and gives their curiosity full rein.

Why don’t Montessori teachers give grades?

Grades, like other external rewards, have little lasting effect on a child’s efforts or achievements. The Montessori approach natures the motivation that comes from within, kindling the child’s natural desire to learn. A self-motivated leaner also leans to be self-suddicient, without needing reinforcement from outside. In the classroom, of course, the teacher is always available to provide students with guidance and support. Alrhoguh most Montessori teachers don’t assign grades, they closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to advance to new lessons. In Children’s World Bilingual Montessori preschool, we hold parent-teacher conferences three times a year so parents can see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment– and also see their child’s self-assessment.

Can Montessori accommodate gifted children? What about children with other special learning needs?

An advantage of the Montessori approach– including multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests–is that it allow each child to work at her own pace. Students whose strengths and interests propel them to higher levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their peers. The same is true for students who may need extra guidance and support. We might note that from a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in her own way. For every child has his own unique strengths it all a matter of degree.

How well do Montessori students do compared to students in non-Montessori schools?

There is a small but growing body of well-designed research comparing Montessori students to those in traditional schools. These suggest that in academic subject, Montessori students perform as well as or better than their non-Montessori peers. In one study, children who has attended Montessori schools at the preschool and elementary levels earned higher scores in high school on standardized math and science tests. Another study found that the essays of 12-year-old Montessori students were more creative and used more complex sentence structures than those produced by the non-Montessori group. The research also shows Montessori students to have greater social and behavioral skills. By less stringent measures, too, Montessori students seem to do quite well. Most Montessori schools report that their students are typically accepted into the high schools and colleges of their choice. And many successful grads cite their years at Montessori when reflecting on Important influences in their life.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us.