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What is Montessori?

Montessori is a method and philosophy for teaching children, based on the work of pioneering educator Maria Montessori. In our school, we have children from ages 18 months through 6 years old. We offer two programs for these children, one is for toddlers (18 months to 3 years old), and the other is for older children (3 to 6 years old) which does include the “kindergarten” year. Montessori is designed to be an individualized program and is unique for each child. Montessori offers a Prepared Environment that fosters each child’s independence, as well as helps him develop socially and academically. Children are free to explore and discover on their own, however, there are very clear boundaries and ground rules that must be adhered to and are monitored by the teacher. The teacher is the first and very important part of the Prepared Environment. Montessori classrooms are thought of more as communities than classrooms. They must be cooperative in order for the method to work.

How can teachers teach so many different ages?

Montessori is an individual learning method. Each child learns at their own pace. Teachers are trained to observe and assess (informally) each child to see where the child is developmentally. Based on these observations, an individual lesson is created
for each child. Further, as the Montessori classroom is run as a community, older children are there to be role models and to show younger children how to do what they (the older children) already know—making them part of the teaching process. Younger
children look up to the older ones and want to be like them which creates a sense of motivation to learn new things. Children, even those that are the same age, all learn at a different level and pace; the Montessori Method allows for this freedom. There is no competition or expectation for children to learn the same things as everyone else their age at exactly the same time. Teachers then find it easier to teach multiple ages than to try to teach the same concept to 15 3-year-olds at the same time. Montessori teachers
are experienced at multi-tasking. Also, with mixed-age groups, children stay with the same teacher for all three years they are in Montessori enabling a close bond to be formed.

Is it true that children get to do whatever they want?

There is freedom of choice within limits. The teacher prepares herself, the environment, and the children to respect one’s self, each other, and the environment, by setting clear boundaries and ground rules. Lessons are always given in the Montessori community before free choice occurs. This also goes back to having mixed-age groups where, for example, in the beginning of the school year the older children are the role models who
“show” others how things are done in the classroom. Respect is a key component of the classroom. That said, the other piece to creating and keeping peace, is to facilitate peaceful conflict resolution by helping children dialogue any problems that may arise. This is usually done at the peace table or other designated peace area of the classroom. The teacher must be prepared to handle any and all situations that arise and to guide the community in a calm, slow, respectful, and peaceful manner at all times. She must protect the children from disruptions, i.e., other children taking their work or bothering one another as well as from other adults who may want to step in and “help” the child.

How do children transition from the Montessori version of kindergarten to first grade and will you prepare my child for public school?

Children who complete the three-year cycle in a Montessori primary environment are developmentally ready to transition into the public or other private school setting. Maria Montessori discusses planes of development in her writings and has broken them down into three ages spans, birth to age 3, ages 3 to 6, ages 6 to 9, and so on. As a 6-year-old, the child is now ready to be part of a larger peer group and ready for a different level of learning. Ultimately, the goal of a Montessori program is not to get a child ready for public school, but to prepare the child for life through the experiences in the Montessori environment.

Is there technology in the classroom?

Montessori curriculum has no electronic technology as a part of the educational experience. The developmental period from 0 to 6 years is a sensorial time and information is gathered through hands-on experiences. The young child’s world is one of sensation and concrete experiences. Maria Montessori designed her Method with the philosophy that the hand is the teacher of the young child. Computers are a tool of the second developmental period of childhood from 6 to 9 years old, where the child moves to the world of abstraction.

What does "development of the whole child" mean?

Do Montessori teachers follow a curriculum?

Montessori is a very specific curriculum with activities in the areas of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Science, Art, Geography, and Cultural Studies. Teachers work with the children on sequential presentations of exercises in all areas.

If children are free to choose their own work, how do you ensure they receive a well-rounded education?

Rather than focusing on the narrow academic life of young children traditionally learning colors, letters numbers, etc., Montessori focuses on the whole child for experiences and development in all areas of human experience. A Montessori education results in an independent, inquisitive, respectful, socialized, and educated whole child.

Montessori teachers, through our Minimum Classroom Standards, are required to keep extensive records on all children’s work introduced, practiced, and mastered in the curriculum. Although the child has freedom to choose work, that choice is one within
limits. The teacher will subtly step in with suggestions to move the child on through the entire curriculum, constantly reviewing the child’s work life.

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