“To consider the school as the place where instruction is given is one point of view. But to consider the school as a preparation for life is quite another.” — Dr. Maria Montessori
Dr. Maria Montessori was a visionary. She saw in the young child endless potential and amazing powers that allow the child to complete the important work of becoming an adult. Dr. Montessori recognized the role of purposeful movement in the child’s development and charged the adult with protecting and fostering the freedom to explore. Dr. Montessori also defined exacting standards by which to judge a school, a guide, an environment. Accrediting bodies use these standards to evaluate schools and classrooms for the public. The following Frequently Asked Questions should help clarify the methods and practices.
Frequently Asked Questions
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, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori “prepared environment.” Here social development comes from being in a positive and unique environment with other children — an integral part of Montessori education.
Montessori ChildrenQ. Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children? A. 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? A. 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? 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. For a list of famous Montessori graduates, click HERE.
Q. Who accredits or oversees Montessori schools? A. Unfortunately, there is no way to limit the use of the name “Montessori.” Parents must carefully research, and observe a classroom in operation, in order to choose a real Montessori school for their child.
There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones operating 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). Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school’s affiliation(s).
- What is the best way to choose a Montessori school for my child? A. Ask if the school is affiliated with any Montessori organization. Ask what kind of training the teachers have. Visit the school, observe the classroom in action, and later ask the teacher or principal to explain the theory behind the activities you saw. Most of all, talk to your child’s prospective teacher about his or her philosophy of child development and education to see if it is compatible with your own.
- How many Montessori schools are there? A. We estimate that there are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States and about 7,000 worldwide.
- 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.
- Are all Montessori schools private? A. No. Approximately 200 public schools in the U.S. and Canada offer Montessori programs, and this number is growing every year.
- Why aren’t the children encouraged to pretend? A. 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.
- Are Montessori students ever allowed to be creative? A. The materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. As in other areas of life, it is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a hammer as a weapon. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. We consider it “creative” when a child learns how to uses a hammer and then builds something unique. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom. Once a child masters the intended concept, then the child is free to explore other things which can be done.
- Why don’t the children interact with each other? A. Actually, 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. Through this effort, 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.