Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who started Montessori education?
The Montessori Method was developed in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), a pioneer in the field of early childhood education. She was the first female Italian physician, and a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome. Her first work with mentally delayed children received such acclaim that she was asked to start a daycare center in Rome’s inner city. This was the first “Children’s House.” Montessori’s central observation was that young children constructed themselves by using what was available in a carefully prepared environment. Using scientific observations, she developed multi-sensory, developmental materials along with a method which developed children’s natural abilities and interest in learning.
Q: How does Montessori differ from traditional education?
The prepared environment is the most visible difference and what parents notice first. Montessori environments are not typically institutional. They are beautiful, homelike places, where everything is child-sized and designed to allow the children to be independent. The curriculum is child-centered and multi-sensory. It parallels children’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. Montessori classrooms are divided into three-year age groups. This is a natural arrangement, allowing children to learn from each other in an established community. Children also learn at their own pace using activities that are freely chosen based on their interests and skills.
Q: Don’t Montessori children just do whatever they want?
No. Children are given the freedom to move and choose work that they understand and are able to use. However, this freedom is given in a context of personal responsibility. Children are not allowed to abuse materials, hurt each other, or treat anything or anyone with disrespect. In Montessori’s day a visitor once said to a child, “Oh, this is the school where the children can do whatever they like!” “No,” said the child in return, “It is the school where we like whatever we do.”
Q: Is Montessori just for gifted children?
No, not at all, nor is it accelerated learning. Montessori herself said “we cannot create a genius- we can only give each child the chance to develop his potential.” The Montessori Method seeks to help each child develop his or her natural abilities. It has been used successfully with all kinds of children, including special needs, gifted, rich, poor, in urban and rural areas and on every continent.
Q: How do children adjust to other schools after having been in a Montessori school?
Research has shown that the children adapt well, have strong academic skills and stand out for their interest in learning, original thinking and confidence. Experience also shows that children achieve the best results in a Montessori school if they complete the three-year developmental cycle. The skills gained between the ages of birth and six are the foundation for all future learning. Montessori gives children a good start!
Q: Are Montessori schools religious?
A few are, but most Montessori schools are not. Today there is a wide variety of Montessori schools including private, parent-owned and corporate. There are also many Montessori resources for home-schoolers. A recent and fast growing addition to Montessori schools is the Montessori public “charter” school.
Q: Are all Montessori schools pre-schools?
The majority of Montessori schools serve children age 3-6. However, there are many other kinds of Montessori programs, depending upon the school. These include parent-infant, parent-child, toddler, elementary (ages 6-9 and 9-12), junior high (erdkinder), and high school.
Q: Can anyone teach children using the Montessori Method?
Only teachers who have completed a certified Montessori teacher training program are qualified to present the Montessori materials and incorporate the accompanying method. However, Montessori’s principles are used successfully by parents in the home to help them design environments, enhance parenting skills, and meet their children’s needs.
Q: How are Montessori teachers trained?
Montessori teachers attend an accredited Montessori training center. Most training programs are post-graduate, intended for college graduates, and can be completed in two to three years. They include a year’s practicum in a classroom, usually under the guidance of a trained mentor. The course curriculum includes knowledge about child development, an understanding of scientific observation, and technical training on the use of Montessori materials and method.
Q: How is quality control achieved in Montessori schools?
Most Montessori schools are associated with a Montessori certifying organization. In the United States the two most widely used organizations are the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) also known as NAMTA (North American Montessori Teacher’s Association). These organizations certify teacher training programs, schools and individual teachers. Accreditation includes inspections by trained consultants who confirm standards are being met.
Since the word ‘Montessori’ is in the public domain, parents should ask whether or not a school is associated with one of the Montessori certifying agencies.