View Full Version : spinoff: Montessori

09-09-2006, 04:03 PM
Ok...i know i'm gonna sound like an idiot, but can someone explain to me what a montessori school is? i know it's a different kind of teaching and learning, but can anyone explain more than that to me?

09-09-2006, 04:51 PM
From what I've heard it's more self-directed learning, at least for the very young grades. For example, in preschool, the child decides what she/he wants to play with/work on, and goes and does it. But I think the self-direction is within a structure of some sort. I also remember hearing something about how they have miniatures of things like brooms and dustpans and kids learn how to clean up together. I'm interested in finding a Montessori preschool for Dora when it's time.

09-09-2006, 06:23 PM
http://www.montessori.edu/ look like it covers the bases on the approach.

09-09-2006, 09:04 PM
mothering dot com has a forum on comparing educational approaches, including montessori. I think it is just www.mothering.com and click on discussions or forums or something like that. Then scroll down to the education section. Might find some information there.

09-09-2006, 10:55 PM
I went through Montessori training in 1997 when I began working in a school district in Houston that put Montessori in a public school. When people ask I say "It is a multi-age level (2-5)classroom that allows a child to progress at their own level." (I am not certain of the other breakdowns for the older children, I did not do this traing, Houston does have one of the few Montessori High Schools in the Country) For instance when a child is ready to move ahead they are "Given a Lesson" by either a teacher or an older child, depending on the complexity, and then work that lesson until they are profficient. Montessori classes look different also, they are no huge bulletin boards that are bright and colorful, the room is usually very quiet, usually because the children are busy. We had only one table, children worked on small rugs, this is where they put their "work". They are busy because there is very little lag time, a child usually acts out because they are bored, if they are bored they can have a new lesson on something harder or something that challenges them. One of the best things I think is the multi-age classroom. As a teacher you never get 22 green kids. Where I taught we had eight 4yo, seven 3yo. and seven 2yo. this is a perfect mix b/c the 4yo. that have been in the program for 2 years took a 2yo under their wing and helped them. The only thing that I question about Montessori and this may have changed from when I went through the training is the requirements for instructors. Where I did my training (Houston Montessori Center, affiliated with AMS, American Montessori Society) a person can be 18 have a high school diploma or the equivelent, go through 8 weeks of training, 1 year of student teaching in a Montessori school, and they go into the classroom. I do not believe that a college degree means that someone is a better teacher than someone without a college degree, but I do believe age plays a part. At 27 I was a much better teacher than I was at 22 and I can't imagine being a teacher at 18 or 19.
I live in an area that has no Montessori program so I try and do things with my daughter specifically the phonics portion that I thought were excellent. Most Montessori schools are very open to observation and it really is necessary because it is a different type of classroom. I believe it produces an independant child that can function well in either another Montessori program or a public school classroom. Hope this wasn't to long or wordy...

Madeline and Emily's Mom
1/20/03 11/29/05

kelly ann
09-10-2006, 10:18 AM
The multi-age classrooms were odd for us in the beginning. Mostly because DS was small for his age and I worried about him getting run over by all of the older kids. And then I realized that the older kids were helping him out - taking them under their wing. I think it is a great concept and allows the child to work ahead in some areas or behind in other areas - without having them go to another classroom. Also, I love that DS will have the same teacher for 3 years. It provides such a great constant in his schooling.

09-10-2006, 10:28 AM
Montessori is a great program, but it is not for every child. Keep in mind what your child is like. Your child can play with blocks all day and build bridges, but can't put on a shiny dress and be a "princess".

Also, just because a school calls itself a Montessori school doesn't mean it actually is. Check the Montessori website to see if the school is accredited by them.

Karin and Katie 10/24/02

09-10-2006, 10:32 AM
This sounds pretty much like the program my son is in at Goddard. Self directed but structured. What exactly is the difference? I really am curious.


09-10-2006, 11:41 AM
It also helps the teacher, if you know 2/3's of the class already that new set of 2yo's aren't that scary in August.

Madeline and Emily's Mom
1/20/03 11/29/05

kelly ann
09-10-2006, 03:18 PM
So true. Looking back, I always wondered how they gave him the attention he needed being new in the 3-6 yo class and being just potty-trained for 1 week. Now I realize it was because there were not 20 other children like DS. That is a good thing for me to remember next time some of my other friends balk when finding out DS is in a classroom with 6 year olds.

09-30-2006, 04:47 PM
I was going back and reading previous posts and came across this one and wanted to respond (I am on hospital bedrest so I am trying to find something to fill all this time!!!)

Anyways: While I can only comment on my son's montessori school, not all montessoris are the same. Ours is great and LOVE it. DS started in the school at age 4, from a normal preschool class. It was an adjustment in the beginning, because he didn't get the idea that all the kids were doing something different....and not as a group. So if a child didn't want to work with him, he took it as an insult and got upset....this did pass as he got to know the system and understand. Our school is very much into the triangle learning, where they follow the child with the teacher and parent as part of the triangle, if that makes sense. They really encourage the parents to get involved, and the door to the classroom is always open for you to come and volunteer or just observe.
Being in this setting comes with some very high positives.....last year, DS's teacher realized that my DS was a visual learner....so she made sure, when she taught him his lessons, that she adapted this for him, if he could "see it" he could understand it. The teachers try very hard to find out what works for each child.
The kids are self directed, and self motivated, but the classroom builds this skill. So there aren't any worries about your child wandering around doing nothing.....the teachers watch for this, and help direct them to something that they want to do.....then as it gets later in the year, the teachers don't have to do this very often. The children are self motivated. They are in classes with different ages.....DS's class last year was 3-6 years old......and this year it is 1st graders - 3rd graders. They adjust the work for the child's age group....first graders are required less, second graders more...and so on. The older children do lead the younger kids. And this makes teasing by older kids less in these classes. It really is nice.
I have boys, but I have friends with girls and they say the peer pressure on the girls, especially as they get older, is less and less. And the girls tend to be nicer....I am not sure if this is because the kids are taught this, or the classrooms are smaller, or they just know one another better.
My son is in first grade...and does carry over addition, mulitiplication....maps, spelling, and many other things that I am just amazed he knows how to do. Now with that said...DS struggles with his reading...at least with me.....he doesn't like it as much as his math. But they work with him, and I am sure with time and practice, that to will improve greatly. Our school does tons of great things....last year, his class did two plays....the kids LOVED it!!! And they were very cute doing them. They go on lots of field trips. The materials they work with are top notch. Most of the classrooms have some animals in them....fish, birds, hampsters....etc... which the kids love!!!
DS gets a homework package on Mondays...and must turn it in on Friday.....it can be done at anytime. Which works great for us, if we are busy one night, we can "catch up" the following night. Sometimes, he can finish it all in one day, and then just practice his spelling words for the remainder of the week.
All in all, I have been very happy with the school. We wondered if we were doing the best for DS, with such a different style of learning. But honestly, this is a great school and we are so happy we put him in it. I don't like the tution bill......but......what can you do???!!!!

09-30-2006, 05:10 PM
Answers to frequently asked questions:

Who was Montessori?
Dr. Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870 at Chiaravalle, a small province of Ancona. Her father's name was Alessandro and mother's name was Renilde. In 1882, her parents moved to Rome. As a child she showed great ability in mathematics and originally wanted to become an engineer. She was the first woman ever granted a medical degree by an Italian University. After her graduation from medical school she interned in the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, and her work here with the mentally deficient led to many of her discoveries and ideas.

The first Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's House", was established in the slums of Rome in 1907. Dr. Montessori used materials previously used to teach older, deficient children. In 1909, as a result of the great interest in the Casa dei Bambini, Montessori published her scientific pedagogy as applied to child education in 'Children's House'. Gradually, the Montessori movement sprang up in many European countries and in different parts of the world. In 1915 Maria Montessori was enthusiastically welcomed to America. During the war years she established the Montessori movement in India, where she stayed until 1946. She continued to develop her philosophy and materials gaining from such philosophers and educators as Gandhi and Piaget. In 1946, she returned to Europe and settled in Holland. She died in Holland in 1952 at the age of eighty-one. [return to table of contents]

What is the Montessori Method?
The basic principle of the Montessori philosophy of education is that all children carry within themselves the person they will become. In order to develop the physical, intellectual, and spiritual potential to the fullest, the child must have freedom - a freedom achieved through order and self-discipline. The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach the fullest potential in all areas of life and to create a secure, loving and joyful environment in which the child can learn, grow, and become independent. It strives to educate each child to acquire self-esteem and a positive attitude towards learning.

The program includes individualized teaching, self-corrective materials, as well as a stimulating and non-pressured environment. The lessons are individual and brief. Another characteristic of the lesson is its simplicity. The third quality is objectivity.

Dr. Montessori developed what she called a "prepared environment" that is controlled by the teacher, while children make decisions controlled within the Environment. The teacher is often called the directress or guide, who prepares this environment, directs the activities, functions as the authority, and offers stimulation to the child; but it is the child who learns and is motivated through the work and his desire to learn. All these activities help the child develop an "inner discipline" which is the core concept of the Montessori philosophy. [return to table of contents]

How did the Montessori method begin?
Dr. Maria Montessori was the creator of "The Montessori Method of Education", which is based on her scientific observations of young children's behavior. Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy's first woman medical doctor, became interested in the education as a doctor treating mentally challenged children. She returned to the University for further study, and in 1907, was invited to organize a school in the reconstructed slum area of San Lorenzo, Italy. She established a method of education that became universally effective. International interest in her approach led to Montessori schools in many countries. [return to table of contents]

When was Montessori education introduced in the United states?
Montessori education was formally introduced in the United States in 1919, with one of the early schools being established by Alexander Graham in his own home. After an initial enthusiastic reception, interest in the Montessori approach soon waned in the US as the dominant emphasis of education shifted from the development of intellectual skills to life adjustment, and from the need for limits in the classroom to permissiveness. This was, however, not typical of the response to Montessori education in other parts of the world where it continued to flourish. The Montessori approach was reintroduced in the US by Nancy McCromick Rambusch in 1958, and principally because of the changes in the psychological and educational climate, there has followed a tremendous resurgence of interest in this system of teaching. There are now 5,000 Montessori schools in this country and the number is growing. [return to table of contents]

Why is the classroom called an environment?
Everything in a Montessori classroom is geared to the child, creating a child-sized world. The furniture in the classroom is properly sized for the child. The materials are proportionate, fitting easily to the child's hand. They are also proportionate to his abilities, not overly simple, challenging but never presenting an impossible goal.

The teacher carefully prepares this environment to give the child a safe place in which to explore, experiment, and learn. The tailored environment allows the child to proceed at his/her own pace from simple activities to more complex ones. The child's natural curiosity is satisfied as he/she continues to experience the joy of discovering the world around him/ her. [return to table of contents]

Is the Montessori method suitable only for young children and/or certain categories of children?
No. Although Dr. Maria Montessori did much of her work with 3 to 6 year old children, the Montessori approach to education has been used successfully with children from age two-and-a-half to eighteen from all socio-economic levels. It has benefited children who are normal, gifted, learning-disabled, mentally challenged, emotionally disturbed, and physically handicapped. Addressing the education of the whole child, this approach allows children to actively participate in their own development. It is also appropriate for classes in which the student-teacher ratio is high because children learn at an early age to work independently. Today, most child psychologists agree that an holistic educational environment best serves children during their most formative years. [return to table of contents]

How expensive is Montessori education?
Costs vary widely. The cost of establishing a Montessori classroom is probably higher than a traditional one because of the precision and quality demanded in the manufacture of Montessori materials. Like everything else, these costs are affected by inflation. About a year of specialized training on both the undergraduate and graduate levels is required to teach in a Montessori school. The longer the school day and higher the grade level, the greater the cost. [return to table of contents]

Is it oriented to a particular religion?
No. A true Montessori school offers a religiously neutral environment, that is, it is not associated with any particular religious persuasion. However, it is important to stress that it does not have any conflict with any religion, either. In fact, schools have been sponsored by groups representing non-sectarian interests as well as by the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu and other faiths. [return to table of contents]

What is the basic difference between the Montessori environment and the traditional classroom?
Traditional schools use predominately a group format: All the children are taught the same educational concept at the same time. Children of one age group spend most of their time sitting and watching an adult teach and reveal knowledge.

In a Montessori class, from toddler to high school, the children often have an age difference of three years. The class operates on the principle of freedom within limits. The children work directly with Montessori materials of their own, choosing individually or in small groups most of the time, rather than being dependent upon or demanded by a teacher's directions. [return to table of contents]

How does it work?
As stated earlier, each Montessori class operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules that differs from age to age, but is always based on the core Montessori beliefs, that is, respect for each other and for the environment. The Montessori material allows concrete manipulation of materials that are multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting in nature, and hence facilitate the learning of skills as well as abstract ideas. The Montessori materials also have a built in "control of error" which provides the learner with information as to the accuracy of his response and enables him to correct himself. The teacher demonstrates the lesson initially, and is available, if needed. The child is free to work at his own pace with material that he has chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher's role is to act as a facilitator to encourage active, self-directed learning. [return to table of contents]

Does the Montessori method restrict the child's creativity?
No. In fact, the very foundation of the Montessori approach is based on the recognition of the child's creativity and his need for an environment that encourages rather than limits this creativity. Music, art, storytelling, movement and drama are part of every American Montessori program. But there are also other things specific to the Montessori environment that encourage creative development and the opportunity for both verbal and non-verbal modes of learning. [return to table of contents]

How much freedom is allowed in the Montessori classroom?
"Freedom within limits". A number of ground rules help preserve the order of the classroom as the students move about. For example, the child is free to move around the classroom at will, to talk to other children, to work with any material he understands. He is allowed to choose where he would like to work and for how long, or to ask the teacher to introduce new material to him. However, a child is not allowed to interfere with other children at work or to mistreat the material that is so important to the child's development. [return to table of contents]

What does the teacher do?
The Montessori teacher or directress as she is often called, gives individual and group lessons, providing guidance where needed. The teacher spends much of her time observing each child, preparing the environment according to their needs and protecting their self-development. The method of teaching is indirect in that it neither imposes upon the child as in direct teaching, nor abandons the child as in non-directive, permissive approaches. Rather, the teacher is constantly alert to the direction in which the child has indicated he wishes to go, and actively works to help the child achieve his goals. [return to table of contents]

What does it do for the child?
Observers of the Montessori children have described them as having developed self-discipline, self-knowledge, and independence, as well as enthusiasm for learning, an organized approach to problem-solving, and academic skills. These children tend to be well-rounded individuals who understand their importance within their community and relate in positive ways to their natural surrounding. [return to table of contents]

Do Montessori teachers ever have discipline problems?
Certainly, and these problems are handled by the teacher in a positive way. A Montessori teacher does not believe in rewards or punishments. She approaches the situation swiftly, yet calmly, addresses the child at eye level and tries to recognize his feelings, thoughts and action. She gives the child the required attention and offers him suggestions of alternative pieces of material in the classroom.

In situations of conflict between two children, the teacher tries to use the peer problem-solving method. She does not intervene or stop the argument, but she let the children work it out on their own under observation. The teacher then asks them if there is any solution, and most of the time the children come up with a solution! The children learn to solve their problems through conversation by holding each other's hands, which allows them time to express their feelings. Thus, the Montessori method takes advantage of the natural urge of children to make friends.

Children who are extremely hyperactive, insecure, or disturbed may need additional evaluation by a physician or psychologist. This is initiated by parent-teacher conferences. [return to table of contents]

Do children have trouble adjusting to public school after Montessori school?
The Montessori children are able to cope with conditions they encounter when transferring to the public-school classroom. Most likely this is because they have developed a high degree of self-motivation and independence in the Montessori environment along with their innate ability to adapt to new situations. The strong foundation created by parental role-modeling helps reinforce an early transition into another learning environment. In general, they adjust to the new classroom well but do best in those classes which encourage discovery and individual rates of learning. [return to table of contents]

How can a "Real" Montessori classroom be identified?
Since the term "Montessori" is in the public domain, many non-Montessori schools use it to capitalize on public interest in Montessori. But an authentic Montessori classroom must have the following basic characteristics at all levels: (a) A classroom atmosphere which encourages social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching and emotional development. (b) Teachers educated in the Montessori philosophy and methodology for the age level they are teaching. (c) Multi-aged students, and a diverse set of Montessori materials, activities and experiences which are designed to foster physical, intellectual, creative and social independence.

It is very important to check the credentials of the teachers and the school before enrolling your child. You can write to: The American Montessori Society, 281 Park Avenue South, 6th floor, New York, NY 10010-6102 [return to table of contents]

09-30-2006, 09:24 PM
Thanks Tracy! I've been interested in Montessori as a possible preschool option for Dora but I really didn't know all the details. This is great!

09-30-2006, 10:06 PM
I worked in both a Goddard School and a Montessori School. The Goddard School is mainly a corporate name for a very well run preschool.

Goddard has very VERY strict guidelines that their instructors must follow- they even have scheduled and surprise Q/A visits (Q/A is Quality Assurance). They check things like ratios, teacher-child interaction, they even check to see if instructors follow their 17 step diaper changing technique (not as bad as it seems... Step one is- Get diapering supplies ready, Step 2- put on gloves, Step 3- put child on table- things like that- Next time you change a diaper- check to see how many transitions you go through- you'll be surprised how many there are). They also make sure that ALL children get outside (weather permitting) for at least 30 minutes a day- and recommend that teachers get outside twice.
One thing they do is have the classrooms broken down into different ages- Infants, Older infants, Toddlers, Older Toddlers, etc. The classrooms of my school were very small but well equipped- Goddard is good with giving money for good supplies.
In order to be a Lead Teacher at Goddard, you must be a current student in ECE or have a degree. Just having minimal credits or experience with children won't do.

If there's one in your area- Check them out- it's a VERY clean school and the kids seem to be happy.

I will probably send my son to Montessori school though, because I like the structure of a Montessori school..and I love the philosophy. Not too many schools teach social graces. And Montessori tends to be very multicultural. I like that.

I can go on and on, but the post is long enough...