How is the Montessori system different from traditional education?

For children six and under, 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 activities from hundreds of possibilities. They are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own, with materials that have been introduced to them by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.

Above age 6 children learn to do independent research, arrange field trips to gather information, interview specialists, create group presentation, dramas, art exhibits, musical productions, science projects, and so forth. There is no limit to what they can create in this kind of intelligently guided freedom. There are no text books or worksheets. There is great respect for the choices of the children, but they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. There is no wasted time and children enjoy their work and study. The children ask each other for lessons and much of the learning comes from sharing and inspiring each other instead of competing with each other.

What is the advantage of having a mixed-age classroom?

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 three-year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children and learn from them. The older children benefit by being role models and leaders of the classroom community.

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 normally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable. Instead of graduating and moving to a new class each year, working in the same environment for three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers.

Montessori classrooms don't look like regular classrooms. Where are the rows of desks? Where does the teacher stand?

The different arrangement of a Montessori classroom mirrors the Montessori methods differences from traditional education. Rather than putting the teacher at the focal point of the class, with children dependent on her for information and activity, the classroom shows a literally child-centered approach. Children work at tables or on floor mats where they can spread out their materials, and the teacher circulates about the room, giving lessons or resolving issues as they arise. The tables and floor mats also serve to clearly delineate workspaces that help focus the children's concentration on their own work, provide protection for the materials, and helps children not infringe on the workspace of others.

Will my child be able to adjust to traditional schools after montessori?

By the end of age five, Montessori children are normally curious, self-confident learners who look forward to going to school. They are normally engaged, enthusiastic learners who honestly want to learn and who ask excellent questions.

There is nothing inherent in Montessori that causes children to have a hard time if they are transferred to traditional schools. Some will be bored. Others may not understand why everyone in the class has to do the same thing at the same time. But most adapt to their new setting fairly quickly, making new friends, and succeeding within the definition of success understood in their new school. There will naturally be trade-offs if a Montessori child transfers to a traditional school. The curriculum in Montessori schools is often more enriched than that taught in other schools. The values and attitudes of the children and teachers may also be quite different. Learning will often be focused more on adult-assigned tasks done more by rote than with enthusiasm and understanding.

Is montessori opposed to competition?

Montessori is not opposed to competition; Dr. Montessori simply observed that competition is an ineffective tool to motivate children to learn and to work hard in school. Traditionally, schools challenge students to compete with one another for grades, class rankings, and special awards. In Montessori schools, students learn to collaborate with each other rather than mindlessly compete. Students discover their own innate abilities and develop a strong sense of independence, self-confidence, and self-discipline. In an atmosphere in which children learn at their own pace and compete only against themselves, they learn not to be afraid of making mistakes. They quickly find that few things in life come easily, and they can try again without fear of embarrassment. Dr. Montessori argued that for an education to touch children’s hearts and minds profoundly, students must be learning because they are curious and interested, not simply to earn the highest grade in the class.

Are Montessori children successful later in life?

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. Some of the most well known graduates of Montessori education in recent times include co founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

What about Sports?

There are no formal classes for sports or physical education during the week. However, the system is designed such that the children are allowed freedom of movement at any time within the classroom, in the process of their work, to get materials, bring their own work mat, gardening outdoors etc. Unlike in traditional schools, they are not confined behind desks for a long period of time. Children who enjoy sports and other structured physical activities are encouraged to pursue private lessons after school working hours.

Do children in Montessori schools have total freedom?

Children in a Montessori environment enjoy different kinds of freedom.
• Freedom to move
• Freedom to speak
• Freedom to choose to work or not to work
• Freedom to observe others at work
• Freedom to choose any activity they want
• Freedom to decide when to stop one activity and proceed to the next
Freedom in a Montessori class however, comes with Responsibility. Thus, if the child is free to move, he or she is made aware of others in the environment and made to realize that they cannot disturb others at work. In the same way, while choosing an activity, he or she is free to pick from activities shown to him, thus ensuring that the school can provide a structured and balanced growth of the child.

Is Montessori for all children?

The Montessori system has been used successfully with children from all socio-economic levels, representing those in regular classes as well as the gifted, children with developmental delays, and children with emotional and physical disabilities.

There is no one school that is right for all children, and certainly there are children who may do better in a smaller classroom setting with a more teacher-directed program that offers fewer choices and more consistent external structure.

Children who are easily over-stimulated, or those who tend to be overly aggressive, may be examples of children who might not adapt as easily to a Montessori program. Each situation is different, and it is best to work with the schools in your area to see if it appears that a particular child and school would be a good match.

Does Montessori extend beyond pre-school?

Yes. During her course of study, Dr.Montessori discovered that development in children occurs in four successive stages or planes. In each stage, the child exhibits different needs and tendencies and different psychological characteristics. Montessori education thus comprises 4 different programs, each for a different age group of children:
• The Toddler Program – for 0 to 3 years
• The Primary Program – for 3 to 6 years
• The Elementary Program – for 6 to 12 years
• The Adolescent or “Erd kinder” Program – for 12 to 15 years

Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities?

Every child has areas of special gifts, a unique learning style, and some areas that can be considered special challenges. Each child is unique. Montessori is designed to allow for differences. It allows students to learn at their own pace and is quite flexible in adapting for different learning styles. In many cases, children with mild physical handicaps or learning disabilities may do very well in a Montessori classroom setting. On the other hand, some children do much better in a smaller, more structured classroom. Each situation has to be evaluated individually to ensure that the program can successfully meet a given child’s needs and learning style.

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