Frequently Asked Questions
Montessori is a philosophy and method of education which emphasizes the potential of the young child and develops this potential by utilizing specially trained teachers and special teaching materials. Montessori recognizes in the child a natural curiosity and desire to learn; the Montessori materials awaken the desire and channel his curiosity into a learning experience which the child enjoys. Montessori materials help the child to understand what he learns by associating an abstract concept with a concrete sensorial experience; in this manner, the Montessori child is actually learning and not just memorizing. The Montessori Method stresses that children learn and progress at their own pace.
Montessori allows each child to experience the excitement of learning by his own choice rather than by being forced. Dr. Montessori observed that it was easier for a child to learn a particular skill during corresponding “sensitive periods” than at any other time in his life. These are periods of intense fascination for learning a particular skill. Montessori allows the child freedom to select individual activities which correspond to his own periods of interest and readiness and progress at his own pace. A child who acquires the basic skill of reading and arithmetic in this natural way has the advantage of beginning his education without drudgery, boredom or discouragement.
Montessori is based on a profound respect for the child’s personality. The child works from his own free choice and is allowed a large measure of independence which forms the basis of real self-discipline.
As each child progresses at his own pace and successfully completes the self-correcting exercises, he develops confidence in his ability to understand his environment.
Montessori presents endless opportunities among the children for mutual help which is joyfully given and received. Cooperative social interaction among children of different ages engenders a feeling of friendship, respect for the rights of others, and self-confidence.
These aspects of the Montessori program help eliminate the necessity for coercion which often causes feelings of inferiority and stress.
The Montessori environment includes a fine balance between structure and freedom. The concept of freedom carrying responsibility is gradually introduced from the time he enters school. The Montessori child has a wide variety of constructive paths to choose; he gains the skills and tools to accomplish his choice and he is taught the social values that enable him to make an enlightened choice. An undisciplined and unskilled child is not free, but rather he is a slave to his immediate desires. Allowing this behavior to proliferate merely forms a habit that is hard to change. The child does not benefit from destructive behavior and he becomes an unhappy child. Freedom does not involve being able to do what you want to do. It does involve being able to distinguish what is constructive and beneficial and being able to carry that our.
Montessori is education…not a preschool or day care program. The best time to start your child’s education is during the early years…2 ½ to 4 ½ when most of his intelligence and social characteristics are formed. Fifty percent of the child’s mental development occurs before 4 years of age. In a Montessori school, your child will learn to think in logical patterns and to deal with reality. He will become better prepared to cope with the complex challenges of tomorrow’s world.
The Montessori classroom offers 500 unique educational didactic (self-teaching) materials which are used by the children in the classroom. They accommodate many levels of ability. They are not “teaching aids” in the traditional sense, because their goal is not the external one of teaching children skills or imparting knowledge through “correct usage”. Rather the goal is an internal one of aiding the child’s mental development and self-construction. They aid this growth by providing stimuli that captures the child’s attention and initiates a process of concentration. The child, then, uses the apparatus to develop his coordination, attention to details and good work habits. When the child’s environment offers materials that polarize his attention…the teacher is then able to give him the freedom he needs for healthy development.
A parent asked, ” Well, won’t it be a problem if my child attends a Montessori school for three years and enters the public school so far ahead? “
To which Maria Montessori replied: ” If you knew a famine was going to take place in three years, would you starve yourself for those three years in preparation? “
The habits and skills which a child develops in a Montessori class serve him for a lifetime. Since Montessori education is successful in developing concentration, self-discipline, a love of learning and social skills…the child is better equipped to enter new situations…he easily adjusts to the traditional school environment. Good habits, that are acquired early in a child’s life, result in a lifelong pursuit of knowledge.
Experience tells us that “creating” cannot be taught and that the child’s environment tends to either foster or restrict his creative potential. To foster creativity Montessori realized that the environment must itself be beautiful, harmonious, and based on reality in order for the child to organize his perceptions of it. Then the child is capable of selecting and emphasizing those processes necessary for creative endeavors. The child needs freedom if he is to develop creativity which is involved with the intellectual as well as the aesthetic processes of the mind. The child in the Montessori classroom is free from judgment by an outside authority that so inhibits the creative impulse.