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. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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).
Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools,and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar-such as math, science, history, geography, and language-but they are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together.
While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. The study of pyramids, or course, is a natural bridge to geometry.
This approach to curriculum shows the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic-and to give their curiosity full reign.
Grades, like other external rewards, have little lasting effect on a child’s efforts or achievements. The Montessori approach nurtures the motivation that comes from within, kindling the child’s natural desire to learn.
A self-motivated learner also learns to be self-sufficient, without needing reinforcement from outside. In the classroom, of course, the teacher is always available to provide students with guidance and support.
Although most Montessori teachers don’t assign grades, they closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to advance to new lessons. Most schools hold conferences a few times a year so parents may see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment.
Dr. Montessori observed that children are most motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose his focus of learning on any given day, but his decision is limited by the materials and activities-in each area of the curriculum-that his teacher has prepared and presented to him.
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 ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning work in on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to a new situation.
Beginning at the elementary level, students typically set learning goals and creating personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance.
Unlike some private schools, which strive for a very small classes, Montessori values the lessons of community when the size of the class is somewhat larger.
Montessori classes for children above the infant & toddler level might include 20-30 students whose ages span 3 years. All members of the community benefit from this set-up. Older students are proud to act as role models; younger ones fell supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead.
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, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.