The Montessori Method

Frequently Asked Questions about Montessori

  1. What is the purpose of the Montessori school?
  2. Who was Maria Montessori?
  3. Why did she develop her special teaching method?
  4. What are "sensitive periods"?
  5. What is the Montessori Method?
  6. What is the Montessori concept of discipline?
  7. At what age should a child enter Montessori?
  8. What happens to a child who transfers
    from Montessori to a public or parochial school?
  9. How large are Montessori classes?
  10. Are children free to do what they choose in the classroom?
  11. What does the teacher do?
  12. What does Montessori do for the child?

The basic idea in the Montessori philosophy of education is that children carry unseen within them the man or woman they will become. In order to develop their physical, intellectual and spiritual powers to the fullest, they must have freedom, a freedom to be achieved through order and and self-discipline. The world of the child, say Montessori educators, is full of of sights and sounds which at first appear chaotic. From this chaos, children must gradually create order, learn to distinguish among the impressions that assail their senses, slowly but surely gaining mastery of themselves and their environment.

Dr. Maria Montessori developed what she called the "prepared environment" which already possesses a certain order, and disposes the child to develop at his/her own speed, according to his/her own capacities, and the noncompetitive atmosphere in his/her first school years, "Never let a child risk failure, until he/she has a reasonable chance of success," said Dr. Montessori, "understand the necessity for the acquisition of a basic skill before its use in a competitive learning situation." The years between three and six are the years that a child most easily learns the ground rules of human behavior, These years can be constructively devoted to "civilizing" the child -- leading him through the acquisition of good manners and habits, to take his place in society.

Child practicing writing Child taking a break from writing

The child who has had the benefit of a Montessori Environment is free at a later age to devote himself/herself more exclusively to the development of his/her intellectual faculties, The method by which children are taught in the Montessori school might well be called "structured learning." Since the children have learned to work by themselves in the prepared environment (enjoying the presence of other children, but not working necessarily directly with them) the Montessori teacher is able to teach a child individually. At every step of his/her learning, the teaching material is designed to test his/her understanding and to correct his/her errors.

Dr. Montessori recognized that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. Children move themselves toward learning. The teacher prepares the environment, directs the activity, functions as the authority and offers the child stimulation. However, it is the child who learns, who is motivated through the work itself (not solely by the teacher's personality) to persist in the given task. If the Montessori child is free to learn, it is because the child has acquired an "inner discipline" from the exposure to both physical and mental order. This is the core of Dr. Montessori's method.

Social adjustment through inner discipline is a necessary condition for learning in a school room. Patterns of concentration, persistence, and thoroughness, established in early childhood produce a confident, competent learner in later years. Schools have existed historically to teach children to observe, to think and to judge. Montessori education introduces children to the joy of learning at an early age and provides a framework in which intellectual and social discipline go hand-in-hand.

A Montessori school has a unique method of teaching, which allows the child to understand the basic concepts of math, reading, writing and the arts. Understanding the concepts creates confidence. Suddenly a whole new world opens up.

There is little competition in the classroom. There is no failure, nor fear of failure, only success. On many occasions, children who master some of the materials actually teach others.

A wide variety of materials are used at any given time. Each child can be working on a different subject. Holding a child's interest is one of the stimuli of learning. All children have a different span of learning in a subject. With the Montessori method, a child can change study materials as often as desired.

Interest and enthusiasm are key to the development of good study habits. This trait is perhaps one of the most lacking in students today. Most successful students at the university level have developed good study habits.

The Montessori teacher is skilled in introducing the teaching materials to the student. The teacher prepares an environment that promotes the child's growth and development. The ratio of students to teachers is very low and allows careful monitoring of the child's needs. The child develops important social skills and learns respect for the other students and classroom materials.