Q. Where did Montessori come from?
A. 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.
Q. Where can I find a good, brief, introduction
to Montessori from birth through the school years?
A. At the Michael Olaf
Montessori "text"site, which is actually an E-book of Montessori philosophy
and practice: www.michaelolaf.net.
Q. What is 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 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 place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so
on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share
their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely
different approach to education.
Q. Can I do Montessori at home with my child?
A. 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. Can you find
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.
At the school level many homeschooling and other parents
use the Montessori philosophy of following the child's interest and not
interrupting concentration to educate their children.
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.
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,
multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without
feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers.
Q. What ages does Montessori serve?
A. There are more Montessori
programs for ages 3-6 than for any other age group, but Montessori is
not limited to early childhood. Many infant/toddler programs (ages 2 months
to 3 years) exist, as well as elementary (ages 6-12), adolescent (ages
12-15) and even a few Montessori high schools.
Q. Are Montessori children successful later
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. I recently observed a Montessori classroom
for a day. I was very very impressed, but I have three questions.
There does not seem to be an opportunity
for pretend play
The materials don't seem to allow children
to be creative
Children don't seem to be interacting
with one another very much
Any help you give me would be appreciated.
Thank you very much, BD
A. Dear BD, I can give
you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:
(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. cooking instead
of pretending to cook. It 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 kindertrue socialization. Also, since concentration is protected
above all, as all "work" is respected, children learn early on not to
interrupt someone who is concentrating.
Q. How do I find Montessori schools in my
A. There are thousands
of Montessori schools in the world, and three " list links at this
If his doesn't help you, look in your phone book, get the literature
of local schools, observe, and compare what you learn with you read on
Q. Who accredits or oversees Montessori schools?
A. 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 a real Montessori school for their child.
There are several Montessori organizations to which schools
can belong. The two major ones operating in the United States are the
Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office
called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents considering
placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school's affiliation(s).
Q. How much does Montessori cost?
A. (from NAMTA figures,
2005) Because all Montessori schools are operated independently of one
another, tuitions vary widely. Also the cost of living in a particular area accounts for the very wide range in tuitions. Median annual tuition by
age level follow. "Median" means that they can be lower and much higher in some places, depending on the cost of living. Montessori schools almost never make a profit, and when compared to the cost-per-child in public schools are lower.
(NOTE: these figures are several years old and
may not apply today.)
- Infant/toddler: $4,200+
Ages 3-6, 3-hour day: $3,850+
Ages 3-6, 4-hour day: $4,500+
Ages 3-6, 6-hour day: $5,875+
Ages 6-9: $6,690+
Ages 9-12: $6,700+
Ages 12-15 and 15-18: $8,170+
Also keep in mind that there are many Montessori programs
in public schools, which charge no tuition at all to students within their
Q. What is the best way to choose a Montessori
school for my child?
A. Ask if the school
is affiliated with any Montessori organization. Ask what kind of training
the teachers have. Visit the school, observe the classroom in action,
and later ask the teacher or principal to explain the theory behind the
activities you saw. Most of all, talk to your child's prospective teacher
about his or her philosophy of child development and education to see
if it is compatible with your own.
Q. How many Montessori schools are there?
A. We estimate that
there are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States
and about 7,000 worldwide.
Q. Are Montessori schools religious?
A. Some are, but most
are not. Some Montessori schools, just like other schools, operate under
the auspices of a church, synagogue, or diocese, but most are independent
of any religious affiliation.
Q. Are all Montessori schools private?
A. No. Approximately
200 public schools in the U.S. and Canada offer Montessori programs, and
this number is growing every year.
Q. What does it take to start a Montessori
A. The essential element
of any Montessori school is the fully-trained Montessori teacher. A good
starting point is a group of parents who want Montessori for their children.
The next step is to look into state and local requirements for schools,
such as teacher training, facilities, class size, etc. Selecting a site
and making sure it meets applicable building codes is also an early part
of the process. Montessori materials and furniture must be purchased,
and, unless one of the founders has taken Montessori training, a teacher
must be hired.
- The schedule - The three-hour work period
- Under the age of six, there are one or two 3-hour,
uninterrupted, work periods each day, not broken up by required group
lessons. Older children schedule meetings or study groups with each
other the teacher when necessary. Adults and children respect
concentration and do not interrupt someone who is busy at a task.
Groups form spontaneously or are arranged ahead by special appointment.
They almost never take precedence over self-selected work. Note:
For more information on the "three-hour work period" see
the chapter "My Contribution to Experimental Science" from The Advanced Montessori Method, Volume I, by Dr. Maria Montessori,
or contact the Michael Olaf Montessori Company at firstname.lastname@example.org
for reprint GB850
- Multi-age grouping
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities
in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily
6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem
solving, child to child teaching, and socialization. Children are
challenged according to their ability and never bored. The Montessori
middle and high school teacher ideally has taken all three training
courses plus graduate work in an academic area or areas.
- Work centers
The environment is arranged according to subject
area, and children are always free to move around the room instead
of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work
with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects --
math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., will
be being studied, at all levels.
- Teaching method - "Teach by teaching,
not by correcting"
There are no papers turned back with red marks and
corrections. Instead the child's effort and work is respected as it
is. The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping,
plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what
he needs in order to improve.
- Teaching Ratio - 1:1 and 1:30+
Except for infant/toddler groups (Ratio dictated by
local social service regulations), the teaching ratio is one
trained Montessori teacher and one non-teaching aide to 30+ children.
Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the teacher
is trained to teach one child at a time, and to oversee thirty or
more children working on a broad array of tasks. She is facile in
the basic lessons of math, language, the arts and sciences, and in
guiding a child's research and exploration, capitalizing on his interest
in and excitement about a subject. The teacher does not make assignments
or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to
how far a child follows an interest.
- Basic lessons
The Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during
teacher training practicing the many lessons with materials in all
areas. She must pass a written and oral exam on these lessons in order
to be certified. She is trained to recognize a child's readiness according
to age, ability, and interest in a specific lesson, and is prepared
to guide individual progress.
- Areas of study
All subjects are interwoven, not taught in isolation,
the teacher modeling a "Renaissance" person of broad interests
for the children. A child can work on any material he understands
at any time.
- Class size
Except for infant/toddler groups, the most successful
classes are of 30-35 children to one teacher (who is very well trained
for the level she is teaching), with one non-teaching assistant. This
is possible because the children stay in the same group for three
to six years and much of the teaching comes from the children and
- Learning styles
All kinds of intelligences and styles of learning
are nurtured: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal,
intrapersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical
(reading, writing, and math). This particular model is backed up by
Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment,
subtle or overt. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher's observation
and record keeping. The test of whether or not the system is working
lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness,
maturity, kindness, and love of learning and level of work.
- Requirements for age 0-6
There are no academic requirements for this age, but
children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and often learn
to read, write and calculate beyond what is usually thought interesting
to a child of this age.
- Requirements for ages 6-18
The teacher remains alert to the interests of each
child and facilitates individual research in following interests.
There are no curriculum requirements except those set by the state,
or college entrance requirements, for specific grade levels. These
take a minimum amount of time. From age six on, students design contracts
with the teacher to guide their required work, to balance their general
work, and to teach them to become responsible for their own time management
and education. The work of the 6+ class includes subjects usually
not introduced until high school or college.
- Character education:
Education of character is considered equally with
academic education, children learning to take care of themselves,
their environment, each other - cooking, cleaning, building, gardening,
moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful,
doing social work in the community, etc.
Q. What special training do Montessori
A. As with the choice
of a Montessori school for children, an adult must also exercise wisdom
in choosing a teacher training course. Anyone can legally use the name
"Montessori" in describing their teacher training organization. One
must be sure the certification earned is recognized by the school where
one desires to teach.
The two major organizations offering Montessori training
in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI,
with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori
Society (AMS). Most training centers require a bachelor's degree for
admission. Training ranges from 200 to 600 pre-service contact hours
and covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy
as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials. Montessori
training centers can be found across North America and around the world.
There are other courses which can help one better understand
Montessori theory or which can train adults to work in certain schools.
It is important to balance the amount o time and money one can
spend with the teaching opportunities desired.
Q. What materials are used?
A. It is the philosophy and the knowledge of the teacher that is essential in the success of a Montessori class.
One must be wary of the use of the words "Montessori materials" as many people today use the words as a selling point for materials that have no use in the Montessori classroom and can be distracting and impede a child's progress.
The "sensorial," math, and some of the language and cultural materials (metal insets, sandpaper letters, puzzle maps, bells, for example) are professionally manufactured according to traditional standards that have been tested over many years. However even some of these are made by newer companies that do not fully understand the reason for certain details and so produce materials that are not as successful. There is a "materials committee" in Holland that oversees the quality of materials use in AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) school, for example.
- Montessori, for very good reasons, make many of their own practical life and language material instead of buying them—as they learn to do in their training, depending on where in the world they live. They gather practical life materials piece by piece. This is an important process that gives a unique quality to each classroom that expresses the culture, and ideas of beauty in each community—instead of all classrooms looking alike with no personal touches.
Materials in the classroom, without being used correctly by a trained teacher, are usually worthless in creating a real Montessori class, but they can help in some ways in non-Montessori situations. For example the math materials have been used to teach a concept sensorially thus helping a child to make the abstraction. Educational materials in the Montessori method serve a very different purpose than in traditional education where the text books are ordered and the teacher learns how to use them. This difference is because in Montessori the child learns from the environment, and it is the teacher's job to put the child in touch with the environment, not to "teach" the child. Thus the creation of the environment, and selection of materials is done mostly by the teacher and is very important.
In Montessori education having too many materials is often worse than not having enough. In this country (USA) there are many materials suppliers, unfortunately, who are not Montessori trained and do not understand the purpose of materials, and who sell items that scatter the child's energy, or waste time, clutter the environment, etc. It is very important to choose carefully when selecting materials for using the Montessori method of education in school or in the home.