FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where did Montessori come from?
Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Maria Montessori's first casa dei bambini ("children's house") in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world, spanning ages from birth to adolescence.
What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
Under the age of six, Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. The are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own, with materials that have been introduced to them 1:1 by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
Above age 6 children learn to do independent research, arrange field trips to gather information, interview specialists, create group presentation, dramas, art exhibits, musical productions, science projects, and so forth. There is no limit to what they created in this kind of intelligently guided freedom. There no text books or adult-directed group lessons and daily schedule. There is great respect for the choices of the children, but they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. There is no wasted time and children enjoy their work and study. The children ask each other for lessons and much of the learning comes from sharing and inspiring each other instead of competing with each other.
Montessori classes place children in three-year-or-more age groups ( 2.5-6, 6-9, 9-12 and so on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?
Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers.
What ages does Montessori serve?
There are more Montessori programs for ages 3-6 than for any other age group, but Montessori is not limited to early childhood. Many infant/toddler programs (ages 2 months to 3 years) exist, as well as elementary (ages 6-12), adolescent (ages 12-15) and even a few Montessori high schools.
Are Montessori children successful later in life?
Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.
Who accredits or oversees Montessori schools?
Unfortunately, no one body can accredit the Montessori element of schools, but there are state requirements for schools in genera. There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones operating in the United States are the Association Montessori International (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school's affiliation(s). As well as parents must carefully research, and observe a classroom in operation, in order to choose a real Montessori school for their child.
Are Montessori schools religious?
Some are, but most are not. Some Montessori schools, just like other schools, operate under the auspices of a church, synagogue, or diocese, but most are independent of any religious affiliation.
What special training do Montessori teachers have?
As with the choice of a Montessori school for children, an adult must also exercise wisdom in choosing a teacher training course. Anyone can legally use the name "Montessori" in describing their teacher training organization. One must be sure the certification earned is recognized by the school where one desires to teach.
The two major organizations offering Montessori training in the United States are the Association Montessori International (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Most training centers require a bachelor's degree for admission.
There are courses, such as "distance learning" or "correspondence courses" which can help one better understand Montessori theory or which can train adults to work in certain schools. Sometimes these are the only possibility, but they do not fully prepare one for the intensive and fulfilling work with a classroom of children. When choosing a training course, it is important to balance the amount o time and money one can spend with the teaching opportunities desired, and to find out ahead of time if your certification earned will allow you to teach in a school you are considering.
How are Montessori classes setup and scheduled?
Protection of the "best" in each child through respect of choice and concentration
The most important discovery that Dr. Montessori has contributed to the field of child development and education is the fostering of the best in each child. She discovered that in an environment where children are allowed to choose their work and to concentrate for as long as needed on that task, that they come out of this period of concentration (or meditation or contemplation) refreshed and full of good will toward others. The teacher must know how to offer work, to link the child to the environment who is the real teacher, and to protect this process. We know now that this natural goodness and compassion are inborn, and do not need to be taught, but to be protected.
The schedule - The three-hour work period
Under the age of six, there are one or two 3-hour, uninterrupted, work periods each day, not broken up by required group lessons. Older children schedule meetings or study groups with each other the teacher when necessary. Adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt someone who is busy at a task. Groups form spontaneously or are arranged ahead by special appointment. They almost never take precedence over self-selected work.
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six-year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12, 12-15, 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem solving, child to child teaching, and socialization. Children are challenged according to their ability and never bored. The Montessori middle and high school teacher ideally has taken all three training courses plus graduate work in an academic area or areas.
The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects -- math, language, science, history, geography, STEM, etc., will be being studied, at all levels.
Teaching method - "Teach by teaching, not by correcting"
There are no papers turned back with red marks and corrections. Instead the child's effort and work is respected as it is. The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what he needs in order to improve.
Teaching Ratio - 1:10 and 1:20
Except for infant/toddler groups (Ratio dictated by local social service regulations), the teaching ratio is one trained Montessori teacher and one non-teaching aide or two teachers to 20+ children. (1:10) Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the teacher is trained to teach one child at a time, and to oversee in multiples of 10 children working on a broad array of tasks. The teacher is facile in the basic lessons of math, language, the arts and sciences, and in guiding a child's research and exploration, capitalizing on his interest in and excitement about a subject. The teacher does not make assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.
The Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during teacher training practicing the many lessons with materials in all areas. The teacher is trained to recognize a child's readiness according to age, ability, and interest in a specific lesson, and is prepared to guide individual progress. All subjects are interwoven, not taught in isolation, the teacher modeling a "Renaissance" person of broad interests for the children. A child can work on any material he understands at any time.
Except for infant/toddler groups, the most successful classes are 10 to 20 children to one teacher (who is very well trained for the level she is teaching), with one non-teaching assistant. This is possible because the children stay in the same group for three to six years and much of the teaching comes from the children and the environment.
All kinds of intelligences and styles of learning are nurtured: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math).
There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher's observation and record keeping. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning and level of work.
Requirements for age 0-6
There are no academic requirements for this age, but children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and often learn to read, write and calculate beyond what is usually thought interesting to a child of this age.
Requirements for ages 6-18
The teacher remains alert to the interests of each child and facilitates individual research in following interests. There are no curriculum requirements except those set by the state, or college entrance requirements, for specific grade levels. These take a minimum amount of time. From age six on, students design contracts with the teacher to guide their required work, to balance their general work, and to teach them to become responsible for their own time management and education. The work of the 6+ class includes subjects usually not introduced until high school or college.
Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other - cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community, etc.
What is STEM education and why is it important?
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is much more than a sum of its parts. It is an approach to learning that integrates ALL content areas and promotes high levels of critical and creative thinking. Teaching strategies emphasize student inquiry, projects, and community partnerships. Students are challenged to think creatively about real-world topics, to solve projects independently, collaborate and to innovate. Aspen Park Montessori wants to increase our students’ abilities and interests in these key areas so our students are college and career ready for the 21st century.
Why is STEM important?
STEM education increases student engagement by transforming the typical teacher-centered classroom through greater emphasis on student-centered curriculum that is driven by problem solving, discovery, and exploratory learning. If you believe your child learns best by:
- sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions that lead to the completion of high-quality products
- working together to reach a goal – putting talent, expertise, and abilities to work
- looking at problems in a new way, linking learning across subjects and disciplines
- trying new approaches to get things done equals innovation and invention
- focusing on their natural curiosity and inquisitiveness
- using self-monitoring skills and being capable of working independently
- persevering to revise work in order to demonstrate mastery then STEM Education might be right for your child. However, there are no predetermined criteria for enrollment, just an open mind and a willingness to learn.
What are the benefits of STEM education?
Today’s world requires our work force to possess strong skills in critical thinking and working collaboratively; STEM education prepares students for these challenges and offers them expanded career opportunities in the 21st Century.
Will reading and literacy still be taught?
Reading and literacy skills are the building blocks to all learning, and therefore are integral to successful STEM education. Literacy will continue to be a focus of teaching and learning as a stand-alone curriculum in addition to being integrated into STEM activities.
Are our Early Childhood students too young to decide what they want to be when they grow up?
This is an educational choice made by parents in the best interest of their children. Enrolling in a STEM Education is not a decision to become an engineer or a scientist. But a child who likes science might be more interested in other core lessons if they are presented with ties to science topics. And a child who might think, “I’m not good at science and math,” might discover new joy in these subjects through the hands-on approach of STEM. This program is not about having students make a career decision. The program is about making learning relevant. As students learn about core content, they will be exposed to how this applies to the “real world.” Who does this type of work? Where is it found? Why is it important?
My child is not gifted...is STEM beneficial for my child?
All students benefit from integrated STEM education; it teaches independent innovation and allows students to explore subjects in greater depth. The hands-on nature of STEM instruction increases the likelihood of success among students of all learning styles and abilities.
Is STEM education meant only for high ability students?
No. Students of all learning abilities, including children with disabilities, will benefit from the STEM program. Studies show hands-on learning is beneficial to children who have been disengaged (bored) with school. STEM students come from all backgrounds and abilities.