Frequently Asked Questions
In spite of all of the positive attributes gained from a Montessori education, parents sometimes still have questions or misperceptions about the philosophy and methodology. Let us help by answering some of the more common questions we come across, as we guide prospective parents through this process each and every day at our schools.
As Dr. Montessori herself began practicing this method of education with the less fortunate children in Italy, a Montessori education is not based on status in any way. It is beneficial to all families who value a hands-on, child-centered approach to learning.
In actuality, there are very few religious-based Montessori schools in the U.S. Love, kindness, and peace education are taught in Montessori schools, but they are taught as human values and are not attached to any particular religious denomination. Holidays are celebrated (e.g., Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, etc.), but they are discussed in terms of ethnic cultures to broaden a youngster’s global perspective of the world.
Montessori teachers are highly skilled and well-trained, enabling them to simultaneously manage children of varying age and ability levels. The fact that the same children are together in the classroom for several years creates a sense of stability, consistency, and comfort for them. The children gain a sense of their own maturation and develop leadership capabilities as they grow and become role models for younger children in their class.
Montessori education is in fact based on structure and is highly individualized. Mastery of basics is required and achieved through guided learning. The teacher respects a child’s inclination to occupy him or herself with activities of a particular interest, and then respectfully and skillfully guides the youngster to other important learning tasks. It is oftentimes described as having the freedom to learn within structure.
In general, all children will find a traditional Montessori classroom to be both intellectually stimulating and flexible enough to respond to them as unique individuals. Dr. Montessori believed that every child has special gifts, unique learning styles, and areas that may be considered more challenging. The Montessori methodology is designed to allow for differences and encourages children to learn at their own pace. This means that it is quite flexible in adapting to the different learning styles and different timetables in which children learn.
Through her life’s work of studying, observing, and guiding children, Dr. Montessori came to believe that competition is an ineffective tool to motivate children to learn and to work hard in school. When schools attempt to extrinsically motivate students with gold stars, prizes, grades, class rankings, and special awards, the students are in effect measured against the performance of their classmates rather than considered for their own individual progress. In Montessori schools, students discover their own innate abilities and develop a strong sense of independence, self-confidence, and self-discipline. In an atmosphere in which children learn at their own pace and are intrinsically motivated, they learn to be unafraid of making mistakes. They also learn that in life, things typically don’t come easily, but that they can try again without the fear of embarrassment or feeling of failure.
Dr. Montessori argued that for an education to touch children’s hearts and minds, students must be learning because they are curious and interested, not simply to earn the highest grade in the class.
It must be noted that over the years and without modern legal protections or trademark requirements, the use of the term “Montessori” has been applied by operators to all types of educational programs. This has created confusion among families seeking a traditional program consistent with the well-established method set forth by Dr. Montessori. Many parents are unaware that the American Montessori Society (AMS) has established guidelines for adhering to Dr. Montessori’s practices, and that today the best Montessori programs work very hard to become member schools of AMS. This enables them to declare their commitment to maintaining the finest Montessori traditional practices. Further, Montessori is a learning methodology, it is not a franchise, nor is Montessori affiliated with any religious or political ideology.
For teachers to obtain an Early Childhood Credential from AMS, they must attend an affiliated Teacher Education Program (TEP). A typical TEP requires over 800 hours of both academic and practicum training. The training provided through an affiliated TEP would be in addition to any college or university studies already obtained by the teacher. The Montessori Children’s Academy offers this training through its subsidiary school, Montessori Center for Teacher Development (MCTD).
Understanding the importance of a preschool education is helpful in answering this question. Kindergarten has become more academic, and you, no doubt, want your preschool child to get a strong foundation for academic success. Still, you may worry that too much emphasis in preschool will undercut important playtime and push your child to grow up too fast.
Fortunately, selecting a preschool doesn’t mean that you actually have to choose between protecting a child’s play time and making sure he or she is academically ready for kindergarten. A high-quality, early childhood education program like that offered by The Montessori Children’s Academy will fulfill the need for this essential balance.