Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL PURPOSE OF A MONTESSORI CASA?
Our primary aim is to assist in the total development of a child’s personality (social, emotional, intellectual, physical, etc.), so the child will be better prepared to adapt to life and to adjust to the changing conditions of their environment.
ISN’T A MONTESSORI CASA PRIMARILY CONCERNED WITH INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT?
No. We are interested in the child’s total development, which, when accomplished, does better equip the child for intellectual development.
WHY SHOULD A 3 TO 6 YEAR OLD BE IN A MONTESSORI CASA RATHER THAN HOME?
It would be difficult for most parents to provide as complete and well organized, set of experiences as are available in a Montessori classroom. It would also be difficult for most parents to devote as much time to the child’s individual requirements.
DON’T THE CHILDREN IN A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM MISS OUT ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT?
Actually, they are in a more meaningful social situation than they are likely to find elsewhere. In going about their daily activities in the classroom, they meet and talk with one another, discuss common problems, correct each other’s mistakes, answer questions, borrow and lend, and help each other in many ways. Moreover, they often spontaneously form into groups to carry out a task together. And the oldest children are usually anxious to help out their less developed friends.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MONTESSORI CASA AND A NURSERY SCHOOL OR A CLASSIC PRESCHOOL?
Freedom is not undisciplined, unruly, selfish behavior. Three basic rules guide the child’s “freedom” in a Montessori classroom: · They may not abuse the material. · They may not disturb the other children. · They may not be disorderly or unruly. They are free to move about and to select those materials which interest them (provided they have developed to the point of being ready for them), and they are free to use the materials as long as they wish (but they should return them to their places when finished).
DOESN’T THE SET WAY OF DOING THINGS, STIFLE CREATIVITY?
What is creativity? Isn’t it a re-ordering of knowledge and of one’s environment in a different and meaningful way? In order to do this, a person must have a backlog about their environment – which makes the sensorial and other materials in a Montessori classroom provide. Moreover, the primary intent of Montessori is to help the child in the most creative way possible – the shaping of themselves towards the type of adult they will become.
WHY IS A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM NONCOMPETITIVE?
Each child works at their own level of ability and interest, and their own pace, competition isn’t relevant. No two children’s needs arise at the same time or for the same length of time.
ISN’T MONTESSORI ONLY FOR BRIGHT CHILDREN?
No. Because the Montessori approach is concerned with the development of each child as an individual, most children will benefit from it. However, the Montessori classroom isn’t the answer for all children. For instance, a child whose personality has been too badly distorted needs more help than a Montessori casa can offer, unless it is set up specifically for this purpose.
I HAVE HEARD THAT CHILDREN OFTEN REPEAT THE SAME ACTIVITY OVER AND OVER AGAIN. WHY?
The child derives pleasure from repetition because it answers one of the basic inner needs of life, the desire to gain mastery over their movements, to refine and perfect them.
WON’T MY CHILD HAVE DIFFICULTY ADJUSTING TO FIRST GRADE IN REGULAR SCHOOL AFTER ATTENDING A MONTESSORI CASA?
Generally speaking, if the child has developed all aspects of their personality, they should have far less problems than a child without the Montessori background. From our experiences (and those of other Montessori casas), most children adapt well. There is, of course, always a brief period of transition – as there is when going from kindergarten to first grade.
CAN I DO MONTESSORI AT HOME WITH MY CHILD?
Only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori “prepared environment”. Moreover, the social development that comes from being in an environment with other children is an integral part of Montessori education. However, you can use Montessori principles of child development at home, complementing your child’s experiences in Montessori casa. Look at your home through you child’s eyes. Children need a sense of belonging and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. “Help me do it by myself”, is the theme of the preschooler. Can you find ways for your child to participate in meal preparations, cleaning, gardening and caring for clothes, shoes and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child’s self-esteem.
MONTESSORI CLASSROOMS ARE SO STRUCTURED. WHY?
Although the teacher is careful to make clear the specific purpose of each material and to present activities in a clear, step by step order, the child is free to choose from a vast array of activities and to discover new possibilities.
WHEN DID THE MONTESSORI METHOD STARTED?
Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Maria Montessori’s first casa dei bambini (“children’s house”) in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world, spanning ages from birth to adolescence.
HOW DOES A MONTESSORI CHILD LEARN?
Montessori emphasizes learning through all 5 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 are multi aged so that the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD WILL ATTEND A “REAL” MONTESSORI CLASS?
Unfortunately, there is no way to limit the use of the name “Montessori.” Parents must carefully research, and observe a classroom in operation, in order to choose an authentic Montessori school for their child. There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. In Canada this is the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA). Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school’s affiliation. We estimate that there are at least 7,000 certified Montessori schools worldwide.
ARE ALL MONTESSORI SCHOOLS PRIVATE?
No. Approximately 200 public schools in the U.S. and Canada offer Montessori programs, and this number is growing every year.
IS MONTESSORI GOOD FOR CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES? WHAT ABOUT GIFTED CHILDREN?
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, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.
CAN I DO MONTESSORI AT HOME WITH MY CHILD?
Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development at home. Look at your home through your child’s eyes. Children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. “Help me do it by myself” is the life theme of the preschooler. Look for ways for your child to participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys. Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child’s self-esteem. In school only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori “prepared environment.” Here social development comes from being in a positive and unique environment with other children — an integral part of Montessori education.
I RECENTLY OBSERVED A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM FOR A DAY. I WAS VERY IMPRESSED, BUT I HAVE THREE QUESTIONS…
There doesn’t seem to be any opportunities for pretend play. The materials don’t seem to allow children to be creative. Children don’t seem to be interacting with another very much.
(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children’s House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things – i.e. cleaning instead of pretending to clean, tiding, etc. Try and you will see this is still true.
(2) The materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.
(3) There is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all “work” is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.