Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Montessori and a Traditional education?

Montessori education emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual paces from activities they choose themselves from hundreds of possibilities. Montessori teachers keep detailed records on each child, so they know when the child is ready to be introduced to a new skill or concept. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, and self-discipline. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (e.g., 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.

How is a Montessori children's progress tested, and are they successful when they leave the Montessori environment?

There are no “grades” assigned in a Montessori classroom. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping. Each child’s academic progress, happiness, maturity, and love of learning are carefully followed by the teacher and discussed with the parents. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life–academically, socially, and emotionally. They typically adjust well when introduced to a traditional school environment. 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.

What about gifted children?

Montessori classrooms are designed to help all children (those who are “gifted” as well as those with learning disabilities) reach their full potential at their own pace. A classroom with children who 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.

What special training do Montessori teachers have?

WMA employ all certified Teachers. These teachers have completed training ranging from 200 to 600 class hours and a yearlong internship. The training covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials.

How can children learn if they're free to do whatever they want?

Dr. Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose his focus of learning on any given day, but his decision is limited by the materials and activities—in each area of the curriculum—that his teacher has prepared and presented to him. Beginning at the elementary level, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance.

Why are Montessori schools all work and no play?

Dr. Montessori realized that children’s play is their work—their effort to master their own bodies and environment—and out of respect she used the term “work” to describe all their classroom activities. Montessori students work hard, but they don’t experience it as drudgery; rather, it’s an expression of their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

If children work at their own pace, don't they fall behind?

Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not doing it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance his learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps him master the challenge at hand—and protects him from moving on before he’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”

Do Montessori teachers follow a curriculum?

Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar—such as math, science, history, geography, and language—but they are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together.

While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. The study of the pyramids, of course, is a natural bridge to geometry.

This approach to curriculum shows the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic—and to give their curiosity full rein.

Is it true that Montessori students have the same teacher for all subjects rather than work with “specialists” in different curricular areas?

Montessori teachers are educated as “generalists,” qualified to teach all sections of the curriculum. But many schools choose to also employ specialists in certain subjects, including art, music, foreign language, physical education, and science.


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