Q. Who was Maria Montessori?
A. The Montessori Method is a non-religious philosophy and approach to education. It was developed in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori after detailed observations of how children approach learning at her school named “Casa dei Bambini.” Her methods are based in the belief that children are natural learners and that the right environment and educational materials will spontaneously arouse interest, curiosity and learning.
Montessori classes are made up of children in three-year age ranges. Primary classes have children ages 3 – 6; Lower Elementary classes have first, second and third graders; and Upper Elementary classes have fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Emphasis is placed on the relationships between the students, teacher and the classroom environment. Montessori classes promote an attitude of cooperation rather than competition. It is common for students to ask each other for help.
The classrooms are set up in accordance with the “prepared environment” as defined by Montessori in order to maximize independent learning and exploration. Each material has a specific purpose and students are instructed as to its use. With these materials, children master a set progression of skills and learning objectives. Montessori materials are a road from the concrete to the abstract.
Today, the Montessori method is an internationally recognized philosophy of education. Teacher certification, classroom operation and appropriate curriculum are well established. The successful academic outcome of a complete elementary program is well documented around the world.
The following answers were provided by the Michael Olaf Montessori Company. For more information on the Montessori Method of Education in schools, the Montessori philosophy of raising children in the home, and toys, games, books and other educational materials compatible with this system of supporting the best development of children, visit their site.
Not all answers will apply to DCS Montessori, as we are a Charter Montessori school. Please come on a tour to learn more.
Q. What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
A. For students under age 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. They 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 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 (3-6, 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.
A. Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development at home. Look at your home through your child’s eyes. Children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. “Help me do it by myself” is the life theme of the preschooler, school age child, teenager, and young adult.
Can you find ways for your child to participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child’s self-esteem and to build the skills needed for life-long learning.
At the school level many homeschooling and other parents use the Montessori philosophy of following the child’s interest and not interrupting concentration to educate their children. In school only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education with the specialized learning equipment taught during teacher training, but there are many ideas that can be used in the home with families whose children are in school full-time, or in families where the adults are in charge of the totality of the child’s education.
Q. Are Montessori children successful later in life?
A. 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.
Q. I recently observed a Montessori classroom for a day. I was very impressed, but I have three questions.
1. There doesn’t seem to be any opportunities for pretend play
2. The materials don’t seem to allow children to be creative
3. Children don’t seem to be interacting with another very much Any help you give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much.
A. I can give you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:
(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children’s House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things – i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.
(2) The materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.
(3) There is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all “work” is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.
Q. How many Montessori schools are there?
A. There are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States and about 7,000 worldwide.
Q. Are Montessori schools religious?
A. 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.
Q. What special training do Montessori teachers have?
A. 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 Internationale (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. 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.
Specific Details of the Montessori method as practiced in Montessori Schools
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.
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily 6-9 and 9-12), 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, art, music, etc., will be studied at all levels.
The Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during teacher training practicing the many lessons with materials in all areas. She must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order to be certified. She 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 kinds of intelligence and styles of learning are nurtured: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math). This particular model is backed up by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence.
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.