Montessori FAQ’s

How does Montessori differ from the Standard Classroom?

A Montessori classroom is in many ways different from a standard classroom. The prepared environment is suited to the child’s need for order. Every material in a Montessori classroom has its own place and is kept in good working condition. The materials are also self-correcting, allowing the child to find his/her own mistakes. The activities in a Montessori classroom are constructive. The emphasis of the room is on the children; they learn concentration, self-confidence, and self-reliance. Children choose their own work for low, open, easy accessible shelves, enabling them to gain independence. The class is child directed, not teacher dominated. Children are engaged and concentrating on their work. The room is like a home for them – it’s “their” place.

What equipment is in a Montessori Environment?

The Montessori environment is equipped with a wide variety of materials. Maria Montessori designed activities to develop a child’s skills in a wide range of life areas. Specific units are designed to expose children to the following areas: practical life, sensorial experiences, science, mathematics and geometry, language arts, geography, music, art, movement and physical education.

Practical life encourages development in daily living tasks; the activities each of us perform on a regular basis to care for ourselves, our environment and others. This area of the classroom includes such activities as food preparation, bow tying, dishwashing, sweeping, and lessons in grace and courtesy.

Sensorial materials stimulate awareness of size relationships, colors, sounds, and tactile qualities. These activities refine and develop the child’s senses and organize the information received through the senses. Manipulative materials allow the child to experiment in a concrete way.

Mathematics, geometry, language, geography and science activities provide academic stimulation. The math and language materials develop visual discriminating skills and provide a foundation for future learning by developing mathematical and phonetic concepts. The science and geography areas contain activities that increase the child’s understanding of the world.

Movement, music and art enrich the program and contribute to the child’s growth. Each child spends time in a group setting daily, learning new songs and movement games, as well as enjoying old ones. Puppets and dramatic play enrich the fantasy experience. Children express thoughts, feeling, and experiences graphically through art materials.

How does the Montessori approach differ from Traditional Day care?

In the traditional daycare the primary emphasis is on social skills. The acquisition of academic skills is of secondary importance. Children are generally grouped according to age, with three year olds in one room and four year olds in another. The teachers plan activities for the children as a group and direct the children through these activities, thereby creating an adult – centered environment.

Montessori classrooms differ from daycare in that emphasis is placed on both social and academic skills. Children of different ages share the classroom and interact spontaneously.

The Montessori trained teacher prepares activities for the children to use individually and independently, with another child, or in a small group. The teacher guides and supports as needed. Instead of directing all activities, she/he spends time observing the children and their interactions with each other and the materials within the environment. Using these observations the teacher evaluates the needs of each child. These observations guide the teacher as she/he plans and introduces new materials and monitors the child’s progress. Thus, the adults respect and follow the child’s direction creating a child centered rather than an adult centered environment.

How do the children learn to use the equipment?

The teacher demonstrates the use of the materials to the children. The purpose of the demonstrations is to provide a beginning, a guide to ensure the child’s success. The teachers do not expect the child to use the materials in precisely the way they are shown, but rather to explore the activities in a constructive manner.

Children are free to use equipment in accordance with their own rhythms and needs, the only restriction being that misuse or destructive use of the materials is not allowed.

Why do children use the materials individually? Do they learn to share?

The children need freedom to explore the materials without “interruptions”. Just as adults dislike distractions when involved in a task, children prefer to complete their activities without distractions. In the Montessori environment, they develop their ability to focus their attention. Without unnecessary interruptions, their attention span increases and they develop concentration skills.

Before children spontaneously share, they must feel free not to share. In the Montessori environment, the adults protect the right to explore an activity by themselves at their own pace. Sharing evolves naturally from the classroom experience. When they desire, they share by communicating and helping others. The sharing is natural and spontaneous because it comes from within the child, rather than being forced arbitrarily by an adult.

Are the children free to do anything?

The children are free to explore the environment and interpersonal relationships in constructive ways and within limits. The underlying theme is respect; the adult respects the individuality of each child, the children learn that others have needs and rights, and that they must respect those needs and rights, the children are free to explore only so long as their explorations do not include actions that hurt or disturb any other child.

The children learn that what is good for the group is acceptable and what is not good for the group is unacceptable.

Do children have enough opportunities to socialize? Does the day include ample group activities for socialization?

Group activities are included in the Montessori curriculum. The class gathers into groups at the beginning, at movement time, at lunch time and at the end of the day. During group activities the children’s interest and attention is focused on a specific topic and communication relates to the task. Group activities help develop listening skills and confidence to speak in groups, but children need something else to develop social skills.

Group activities have limitations as they do not encourage spontaneous interactions among children. The Montessori program provides activities that encourage communication and sharing that is spontaneous, personal and pertinent to what is happening in their lives.

Why are three, four, and five year olds mixed together?

Children learn from each other. When children are grouped by age, the range of capabilities is considerably smaller than when several ages are grouped together. The young children learn academic and social skills from observing their older classmates. The older children learn patience, tolerance and leadership skills from their younger classmates. Our society is not segmented into age groups. As adults we have friends and acquaintances of many different ages. The Montessori classroom reflects our society with a mixture of ages.

Isn’t Montessori only for bright children?

Maria Montessori first worked with mentally disabled children. By using her materials, these children surpassed “normal” children in many areas. This finding caused Montessori to question the teaching techniques in traditional schools, and prompted her to open classrooms for “normal” children. She saw patterns of learning that transcended intelligence and other personal characteristics. As a result, she designed activities that are appropriate for a broad range of children.

If I choose a traditional public or private elementary school for my child, how will he/she adjust?

Our goal is to prepare children for life’s experiences. We prepare them in the academic area so that most children enter first grade reading or on the brink of reading. They have a firm understanding of the concept of numbers and the decimal system. Their abilities to organize themselves and to solve problems are excellent. Their listening skills and their abilities to respect others and participate in the community are remarkable. Their confidence and communication skills are very high. Most importantly of all, they love school and learning, and have positive feelings about themselves. These qualities are assets in any setting.

What are the specific goals of the America’s Child Montessori Program?

  1. To encourage independence and responsibility for self. 
  2. To develop curiosity, creativity and self-confidence through a warm, caring and accepting environment.
  3. To help children learn respect for other’s rights and needs so they are able to participate in and contribute to the community at school and at home.
  4. To develop in each child a positive attitude toward learning.
  5. To provide each child with specific skills in the intellectual, physical and social/emotional areas.