Montessori FAQs

Q1
What is the difference between Montessori and 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 1:1 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 six 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 create in this kind of intelligently guided freedom. There are no text books or adult-directed group lessons or daily schedule. 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.
Q2
Isn’t Montessori just a preschool?
Montessori schools may be best known for their programs with young children, but the underlying educational method describes programs for students up through high school.
Q3
Are Montessori schools religious?
The Montessori pedagogy educates children without reference to religious denomination. Some Montessori schools are affiliated with a religion. Arbor Montessori is secular and therefore our classrooms are extremely diverse, with representation from all peoples, cultures and religions.
Q4
Is Montessori a franchise? Who can open a Montessori school?
The term Montessori is not trademarked and anyone, regardless of training, experience or affiliation can open a “Montessori” school. It is essential that parents researching Montessori act as good consumers to ensure the authenticity of their chosen program. Parents should look to ensure the school has been accredited by Association Montessori Internationale to ensure an authentic Montessori program and curriculum.
Q5
Who accredits Montessori schools?
Dr. Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale in 1929 to preserve her legacy. AMI ensures that Montessori schools and teachers are both well-grounded in the basic principles of the method and ready to carry those principles forward in the modern educational world. AMI offers teacher training and conferences, approves the production of Montessori materials and books, and, through their AMI-USA branch office, accredits schools. Arbor Montessori is also accredited by SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) and SAIS (Southern Association of Independent Schools). The school is a member of AAAIS (Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools) and many of the teachers are members of NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers Association).
Q6
What is the advantage of the multi-age Classrooms?
Multi-age classrooms afford teachers the luxury of adapting the curriculum to the individual child. Each child can work at his or her own pace, while remaining in community with his or her peers. A three-year age span in the classroom allows children the opportunity to use a wide range of engaging materials that keep them challenged to learn. As the child’s interests change, the range of available materials allows the child to move from one level of complexity to another. As is experienced in every Montessori classroom, mixed ages allows the children to work with others who are older and younger than themselves. The older students serve as role models and tutors for the younger students, and in the process they gain confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem regarding their skill level and expertise. This format allows all older children to be the leaders of the classroom community – even those children who may be shy or quiet. The younger ones watch the older ones, and in the process they gain a clear vision of what’s expected of them, and have the benefit of working with and learning from their peers as well as the teacher. The classroom community is a direct preparation for life in the family and in the workplace. Communicating and working well with others are important life skills.
Q7
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 design showcases the 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 teacher’s “desk” is shaped as a semi-circle. This configuration allows for small groups of students to learn at the teacher’s desk.
Q8
Why are the materials in the classroom so different?
The materials are designed to invite activity: the colors and manipulative shapes pique a child’s curiosity. Each material in a Primary classroom isolates one quality (such as size, color, form). In Elementary, the materials expand in variety and complexity mirroring the child’s intellectual growth and curiosity. From Primary through the Adolescent Program, materials build on each other as well as relate to each other so that the child has a universal learning experience.
Q9
Why don’t you have homework in the Primary and Elementary programs?
Our belief is that the “homework” of the Primary and Elementary-age child is defined as the activities that he does within his family and his community. Once the school day is over, the child should experience everything that provides self-enrichment and helps develop the skills necessary to live a life independent and fulfilled. In traditional schools, the goal of homework is to teach independent work skills. At Montessori, independent work skills are learned in the classroom. In addition, in a traditional school, the teacher often relies on homework to determine how a child is performing. In a Montessori school the teacher spends much of her time observing and tracking each student’s progress so she know exactly where he or she is academically. Homework, in the more traditional sense, begins when a student enters the Adolescent Program. Independent and group projects serve to extend the lessons within the classroom. Regular assignments and deadlines help prepare the student for life beyond their educational experience here.
Q10
Why don’t you have tests or grades?
A Montessori classroom uses observation as a means of gauging student progress. Within the work are “tests” or controls that help the teacher in seeing precisely what the student has mastered and what knowledge is still needed to move forward. A real-life example of mastery is obtained and applied to working through the Montessori curriculum. Montessori teachers teach their students for three years so they have an in-depth knowledge of each child’s progress. They know their students and their knowledge so well that a written test is not necessary. The emphasis in a Montessori class is on intrinsic vs. extrinsic learning. Learning based on intrinsic motivation (self-motivation,pride) is much more successful that extrinsic motivation (rewards, punishment praise). Traditional grades provide a quantitative evaluation of a child’s work. Grading creates an environment of winners and losers, undermining the spirit of cooperation and community. Research indicates that grading actually reduces creativity, as students aim for work that will be safe and acceptable to the adult. And therein lies a third powerful reason not to use traditional grades: the children begin to work to please the adult rather than themselves; to work for the extrinsic rather than the intrinsic reward. For these reasons, Arbor does not “grade” children.
Q11
How does Montessori use computers/technology in the classroom and in the curriculum?
We do not introduce computers into the classroom until the child is 12 years old. Not because Montessori schools don’t believe in technology, but because the young child learns best through experience in the concrete, tactile reality of the three-dimensional world rather than through two-dimensional simulation of an electronic, virtual reality. Consider the child’s experience of a cube. Does she learn more by seeing a flat, screen image of a cube (actually a two-dimensional hexagon), or by lifting a polished wooden block that measures 10 cm on each side and weighs 50 grams? Montessori materials are our technology. Students in Upper Elementary learn how to type using a typing program on a keyboard. Students in the Adolescent Program have access to computers for research and for producing final work products.
Q12
If children are free to choose their own work, how do you ensure that they receive a well-rounded education?
Montessori children are free to choose within limits, and have only as much freedom as they can handle with appropriate responsibility. The teacher creates daily and weekly lesson plans and tracks every lesson for each child. She maintains detailed individualized records of each child’s progress. The teacher connects the child with the curriculum and then tracks their progress to ensure that every child masters their appropriate level and element of the curriculum.
Q13
What about gifted children?
What about gifted children? 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.
Q14
Are Montessori schools as academically rigorous as traditional schools?
Absolutely. Montessori classrooms encourage deep learning of the concepts behind academic skills rather than rote practice of abstract techniques. The success of our students appears in the experiences of our alumni, who compete successfully with traditionally educated students in a variety of high schools and universities. At Arbor, our curriculum far exceeds the requirements of the national standards. (Include link to graph of alignment to national standards.)
Q15
Since Montessori classrooms emphasize non-competitiveness, how are students adequately prepared for real-life competition later on?
Montessori classrooms emphasize competition with oneself: self-monitoring, self-correction, and a variety of other executive skills aimed at continuous improvement. Students typically become comfortable with their strengths and learn how to address their weaknesses. In older classes, students commonly participate in competitive activities with clear “winners” (auditions for limited theatrical roles, sports activities) in which students give their best performances while simultaneously encouraging peers to do the same. It is a healthy competition in which all contenders are content that they did their best in an environment with clear and consistent rules.
Q16
How do Montessori students transition into more traditional schools?
Our students have the wonderful experience of a smooth transition, whether they choose a public or private school. It is recommended that the transition points are at the completion of each three-year cycle. It is our hope that each student who begins at primary will complete the full breadth of Arbor’s program. We help with the transition to area high schools and other schools as a supportive part of the school environment here. Happily, the habits and skills a child develops in a Montessori class last a lifetime and stand a child in good stead no matter where they go.
Q17
Where do Arbor Montessori students matriculate for high school and college?
Arbor students go anywhere. (need link to alumni page). Approximately 50% of Arbor graduates enroll in private high school while the other half chose a public school experience. Students often have their choice of schools and are supported in the transition. Our students experience much success in whichever environment they choose. Our graduates attend a variety of college and universities, both public and private.
Q18
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.