How does Dr. Montessori’s view of children differ from traditional education?
Dr. Montessori felt that her greatest discovery was that children crave and need the opportunity to be able to concentrate on practical, useful work. As motivated learners with “absorbent minds, ” they naturally and joyfully choose activities that are conducive to learning. Montessori educators, called “guides,” carefully prepare the environment and observe the child in order to offer the child those opportunities during the “sensitive periods” for learning a particular skill. Montessorians do no use extrinsic motivation such as grades or rewards. And while academic achievement is important, so is the child’s emotional, physical, and social development. Montessori schools are communities that intentionally nurture social empathy and interpersonal communication.
Why are children of different ages and grades together in one class?
Mixed-age groupings allows younger students to learn from older students. It also allows older students to begin practicing empathy and leadership while they interact with their young peers.
In non-Montessori classrooms, teachers generally present lessons to the whole class. In a Montessori Primary classroom, serving children aged 3-6, lessons are presented to individual children; other children can observe if they are interested. In this way, the teacher, called a “guide,” can address the specific needs of a child and can respond to that individual child’s interest and level of understanding. In older Montessori classrooms, children aged 6-9, 9-12, and 12-15 are grouped together. Individualized lessons still occur, but work becomes more collaborative as children work on research interests together.
How is the process of learning different in a Montessori setting?
Montessori students learn through repetitive multi sensorial engagement rather than through listening and memorization. Everything in the Montessori classroom has a purpose, and the materials and activities at each level build upon the previous level, with increasing complexity. Abstract mathematical concepts, for example, are first introduced with concrete and fun towers, beads, and puzzles. The Montessori curriculum is very broad, including activities to encourage control of physical movements and emotional responses. Both help the child become a competent learner. This method develops independence and responsibility. The curriculum also helps the child form a strong foundation in language, math, and music, and provides for in-depth study of geography, zoology, botany, physical, science, history, and art. Children also learn practical life skills such as cooking, gardening, carpentry, and sewing , and the social skills of “grace and courtesy” are emphasized at mealtimes and in their interactions with adults and one another. Unstructured outdoor playtime occurs daily, weather permitting.
Why do Montessori classrooms look they way they do?
Montessori classrooms are beautifully “prepared environments” that use the organization of the room to entice the child to be interested. The room is specifically organized to appear attractive and orderly, with all materials displayed on child-level shelves. The materials in a Montessori classroom are carefully designed and thoroughly researched to fit the developmental needs of children.
Children are free to move around the room and select their own age-appropriate work. There is no limit on the amount of time a child can spend working with materials. In fact, the 3-hour work cycles are designed to allow children to focus on the activities that interest them, and adults are careful not to interrupt a child who is concentrating on an activity.
How is order maintained in a Montessori classroom?
Visitors are often stunned at the calm and peace in a Montessori classroom. That is because the children are so thoroughly engrossed in their chosen work materials that their behavior is naturally positive and productive. Everything a child selects to do in the classroom is called “work.” Because the child’s job is to learn and grow, adults must demonstrate faith in the child’s ability and need to do purposeful work, and then role model how to approach that work and interact with one another in a responsible and respectful manner. With gentle positive reinforcement, and never humiliation or shame, Montessori educators help children develop and internalize personal standards for behavior.
Are all Montessori programs the same?
No. Ask what kind of training the teachers have had and what kind of accreditation the school has. Parents should visit the school, observe the classrooms, and later ask about the school’s theory behind the activities you saw. Quality programs can be identified through accreditation verification from reputable organizations such as SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) and AMI (Association Montessori Internationale).
How is AMIS different from other Montessori schools?
Much of the AMIS experience will resonate with those familiar with other AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) schools. AMIS also emphasizes exposure to other cultures and nationalities, with staff and families from a rich tapestry of diverse backgrounds. Each classroom has at least one Spanish-speaking guide, with opportunities for full foreign-language immersion at the toddler level and in our summer camp. Formal foreign-language instruction also occurs outside of the Montessori work cycles.
AMIS is also unusual in that we serve children ages 8 weeks through 15 years. Most of our students come from homes where both parents work full-time, so we try to be as accommodating as possible to their schedules. We operate on a year-round schedule for our Young Children’s Community (infants and toddlers), and we offer onsite summer and holiday camp for older children.