The Montessori Method FAQs
Q. What's the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
A. Montessori emphasizes learning through all five 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 hundreds of activities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, that leads to concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6,6-9,9-12), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
Q. Why do Montessori classes group different age levels together?
A. Sometimes parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones; one group or the other will be shortchanged. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers’ time and attention or that the importance of covering the kindergarten curriculum for the five-year-olds will prevent them from giving the three- and four year olds the emotional support and stimulation that they need. Both concerns are common but unfounded.
At each level, Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental characteristics normal to children in that stage.
Montessori classes are organized to encompass a two- or three- year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. Each child learns at her own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in her own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. In a mixed-age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level.
Children normally stay in the same class for three years. With two-thirds of the class generally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable.
Working in one class for two or three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place.
Q. Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?
A. 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, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.
Q. Are Montessori children successful later in life?
A. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as: following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning and adapting to new situations.
Q. Is Montessori unstructured?
A. At first, Montessori may look unstructured, but it is actually quite structured at every level. Just because the Montessori program is highly individualized does not mean that students can do whatever they want. Like all children, Montessori students live within a cultural context that involves the mastery of skills and knowledge that are considered essential.
Montessori teaches all of the “basics,” along with giving students the opportunity to investigate and learn subjects that are of particular interest. It also allows them the ability to set their own schedule to a large degree during class time. At the early childhood level, external structure is limited to clear-cut ground rules and correct procedures that provide guidelines and structure for three- and four year olds. By age five, most schools introduce some sort of formal system to help students keep track of what they have accomplished and what they still need to complete.
Elementary Montessori children normally work with a written study plan for the day or week. It lists the tasks that they need to complete, while allowing them to decide how long to spend in each and what order they would like to follow. Beyond these basic, individually tailored assignments, children explore topics that capture their interest and imagination and share them with their classmate