What is “Montessori”?
The name Montessori usually refers to the educational method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori born in 1870, she was an Italian physician and observed that all children were driven by inherent tendencies which at certain ages are expressed intensely, for example: exploration, communication, movement, and a desire for self-perfection. She developed a plan of education that would respect and follow the child’s inner guide to development and work in harmony with the child’s own natural tendencies towards independence and learning.
What curriculum is in a Montessori class?
It is an approach to education which takes in to consideration the entire potential of a child. Basic subjects such as language, math, history, geography, biology, chemistry, geometry, music, and art are introduced in Montessori classes. Montessori students, by nature, want more answers to life’s questions. The “how, where, what and when” questions are expanded into their environment and beyond. They want to classify, group, and get control of their world. The Montessori curriculum incorporates that explosion into knowledge from question with materials that name, classify, and redefine the natural world in which the child has joined.
What do the children do in a Montessori program?
The Montessori classroom contains what we consider 5 different areas of learning — practical life, sensorial development, language, mathematics, and cultural studies (geography, art, music, etc.). The children receive individual and small group lessons in each of these areas and are free to work with these activities at any time. Sprinkled throughout the day are little gatherings where the children might sing songs, read a story, or celebrate a birthday or seasonal holiday. The focus is on helping the children to choose activities that are of interest to them, building a feeling of community among the children, and supporting their natural curiosity and love of learning.
At what age is it best to begin a Montessori education?
Although entrance age varies in individual schools, a child can usually enter a Montessori classroom between the ages of two and four and a half years, depending on when they can be happy and comfortable in a classroom situation. They will begin the simplest exercises based on activities which all children enjoy. The equipment which they use at two and four will help them to develop the concentration, coordination and working habits necessary for the more advanced exercises they will perform at five and six.
Why mixed age groups?
If you want children to become responsible young adults they must have opportunities to practice at a young age. A mixed age group allows children of different ages and abilities to help each other and thus learn responsibility. In a mixed age class it is not always the teacher who solves problems. In fact more often it is another child. This is not possible in a class with children all of the same age and abilities.
Since no two children grow and mature in exactly the same way the materials available to the children are varied and numerous. The proper activity for the right moment is there to be introduced to the child when he is ready or chosen by him as his interests dictate. Thus, no child is held back if his skills indicate a need to move on, nor is a child pressured to keep pace with skills he is not yet ready to master. The sensitive periods of each child can be capitalized upon in a multi-age classroom.
Could you explain Montessori’s theory of “Absorbent Mind”?
The absorbent mind refers to the child’s tremendous, innate ability to absorb ideas, concepts and knowledge from the environment. Maria Montessori titled her textbook, “The Absorbent Mind.”
Could you explain Montessori’s theory of “Sensitive Periods”?
Another observation of Dr. Montessori’s, which has been reinforced by modern research, is the importance of the sensitive periods for early learning. These are periods of intense fascinations for learning a particular characteristic or skill, such as going up and down steps, putting things in order, counting, or reading. It is easier for the child to learn a particular skill during the corresponding sensitive period than at any other time in his life. The Montessori classroom takes advantage of this fact by allowing the child freedom to select activities which correspond to their own periods of interest.
Why do children usually come 5 days a week?
Early childhood specialists all agree that young children thrive in a secure, consistent environment with a steady routine. Young children adjust very well to this schedule and bond most easily with their teachers and peers when they have at least four consecutive days in their new community, which quickly becomes a beloved and special place for them. The steady rhythm of coming to their school helps create a very positive attitude towards “school” and the activities there. It also gives the children a strong feeling of belonging to a community that they help create, and of which they are valued and respected members. They can count on seeing their friends on a regular basis.
Why is the teacher/child ratio higher in Montessori schools?
This is a matter of philosophy, not economics. If you want children to become resourceful and responsible they must have opportunities to solve their own problems. The more adults in the class, the fewer opportunities for the children. The ratio we adhere to is what Maria Montessori found works best in well functioning classrooms. It was specifically established to allow the children to become independent and self-confident.
One of the primary goals of a Montessori education is to guide children toward independence. For this reason, Montessori classrooms are deliberately larger than many other environments for young children, and include children of mixed ages working collaboratively with very little adult interference.
Children in Montessori classrooms learn to work independently, to make intelligent choices based on their interests and abilities, and to rely on peers for help, encouragement and guidance.
What is your discipline policy?
It is our goal to have children internalize good behavior, not just respond to an adult. To do this we again are focused on respect, responsibility and resourcefulness. But children do not come to us with all of these qualities in place. When a child behaves in a manner that is unacceptable he is held accountable with a logical consequence, one that is related to the misbehavior.
For example, if a child chooses a particular material and is using it incorrectly, perhaps even damaging it, the child will at first be redirected to use it appropriately. If this does not remedy the problem the child will be told to put the material away and may not be able to use it again for several days.
We do not use time outs. If a child is consistently running in the class and endangering others, that child might be asked to stay with the teacher or to stay seated at a table. But this problem was related to movement, thus the consequence is the restriction of movement. This is not the same as the notion of a time out.
Our Montessori classroom has only one rule: to take care and be respectful of everyone and everything. If the rule were to be practiced by everyone, it would make for a more harmonious world.
What happens after Montessori?
Many parents ask how their child can make a successful transfer from Montessori to a conventional school. The habits and skills, which a child develops in a Montessori class, are good for a lifetime. They will help them to work more efficiently, to observe more carefully and to concentrate more effectively, no matter where they go. If they are in a stimulating environment, whether at home or at school, their self-education – which is the only real education – will continue. Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they’ve been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. Once the child learns the ground rules of the classroom they adapt quite well.