FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is Montessori?

    A Montessori classroom allows children to engage in activities that are geared toward helping them develop their cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills. Children are challenged as individuals and are allowed to work at their own pace. Montessori education develops capable learners who not only know how to learn and solve problems, but who also love to learn. Children work in multi-age classrooms as individuals and in small and large groups. They are challenged to be independent as they explore a wide variety of subjects using specially-designed materials to teach specific skills.

    “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” ~ Maria Montessori

    The Montessori classroom is divided into five curriculum areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language and Cultural. The sequence of lessons in the different areas begins with the simplest and concrete level, and eventually proceeds to a more complex abstract level. In order for the lessons to have meaning they must be applied to real life situations.

    What does the prepared environment mean?

    Montessori’s idea of the prepared environment was that everything the child came in contact with would facilitate and maximize independent learning and exploration. This calm, well-ordered environment has a lot of movement and activity. Children are free to choose and work on activities at their own pace. Here, they experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline, as guided by the environment.

    There are generally six aspects, or principles, to the Prepared Environment: Freedom; Structure and Order; Beauty; Nature and Reality; Social Environment; Intellectual Environment. Learn more about each of these aspects, and why the prepared environment is so important to the success a child experiences with Montessori education!

    The Six Principles of the Montessori Prepared Environment Explained

    1. Freedom
    Montessori believed that a child must be free to explore and follow his own natural impulses, thus developing his potential and increasing his knowledge of the world around him. Within the prepared environment, the child must experience freedom of movement, freedom of exploration, freedom to interact socially, and freedom from interference from others. This freedom ultimately leads to a greater freedom: freedom of choice.

    2. Structure and Order
    While Structure and Order seem counter-intuitive to the aforementioned freedom, nothing could be further from the truth. Structure and Order in the Montessori classroom accurately reflect the sense of structure and order in the universe. By using the Montessori classroom environment as a microcosm of the universe, the child begins to internalize the order surrounding him, thus making sense of the world in which he lives.

    Montessori stated that there is a sensitive period for order which occurs between the ages of one and three years of age. This is when the child begins to draw conclusions of the world around him. If there is not order to his environment, the child’s sense of reason may be off since he will not be able to validate his findings.

    This is not to say that routines or classroom set-up or ways of doing things can’t change. However, it does mean that change should be carefully considered. Is this change for the good of the children? If so, it should be done carefully and its after-effects should be observed to ensure that it is of benefit to the children.

    3. Beauty
    Montessori environments should be beautiful. Whether your school is in an old Victorian mansion or in a strip-mall or in the living room of your home, the environment should suggest a simple harmony. Uncluttered and well-maintained, the environment should reflect peace and tranquility. The environment should invite the learner to come in and work. This atmosphere is easily seen by the attitude of those working there, both child and adult.

    4. Nature and Reality
    Montessori had a deep respect and reverence for nature. She believed that we should use nature to inspire children. She continually suggested that Montessori teachers take the children out into nature, rather than keeping them confined in the classroom. This is why natural materials are preferred in the prepared environment. Real wood, reeds, bamboo, metal, cotton, and glass are preferred to synthetics or plastics.

    It is here where child-size real objects come into play. Furniture should be child-size so the child is not dependent on the adult for his movement. Rakes, hoes, pitchers, tongs, shovels should all fit children’s hands and height so that the work is made easier, thus ensuring proper use and completion of the work without frustration.

    5. Social Environment
    Where there is freedom to interact, children learn to encourage and develop a sense of compassion and empathy for others. As children develop, they become more socially aware, preparing to work and play in groups. This social interaction is supported throughout the environment and is encouraged with the nature of multi-age classroom settings.

    6. Intellectual Environment
    If the above aspects are not recognized, the intellectual environment will not reach its purpose. The purpose of the Montessori environment is to develop the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellect. By guiding the child through the five areas of the Montessori curriculum (Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural subjects), the child has the structure which is at the forefront of the creative work in a Montessori classroom.

    If the above aspects are not recognized, the intellectual environment will not reach its purpose. The purpose of the Montessori environment is to develop the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellect. By guiding the child through the five areas of the Montessori curriculum (Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural subjects), the child has the structure which is at the forefront of the creative work in a Montessori classroom.

    A lot of time and effort is involved in creating a prepared Montessori classroom that is designed to meet the individual needs of all children. Through developmentally appropriate, sensorial material that moves hierarchically from simple to complex and concrete to abstract, children are given the freedom to fully develop their unique potential through a carefully prepared learning environment.

    How are discipline issues addressed in a Montessori classroom?

    Because we have mixed age group, discipline develops naturally through the guidance of older students. The desire to imitate the positive behavior of a five-year- old is a strong influence on a three-year-old.

    We stress respect for people and property and help the children absorb the rules and our values right from the start. Our ultimate goal is always for the student to love learning! When occasional behavior challenges do arise, we handle them in an age-appropriate way with firm sensitivity. We make certain that the rules are clear and consequences are fair and consistent. We primarily use redirection as an appropriate response to most instances. If the situation escalates, the child will be asked to “sit out” until he or she gains self-control and is able to act appropriately, follow directions, or show respect for people and property. We never engage in any physical punishment of shaming!

    We keep lines of communication open with parents. If the situation warrants, we work with parents to address ongoing behavior issues. We also encourage parents to talk to us about behavioral challenges they are seeing at home. The best course of action in resolving ongoing issues is to for parents, teachers and administration to work together as a team.

    What makes Montessori a unique learning experience for children?

    Children imitate their own learning based on their unique learning style, and their exploration is supported by highly trained teachers.

    Children engage in independent, self-directed learning as well as in small and large group activates within a multi-age classroom.

    The prepared environment of each classroom is meticulously organized and maintained to provide optimal learning conditions for students of all ages.

    Children and given the freedom to explore their interests, within a carefully monitored structure, with teachers helping to facilitate that exploration.

    What goals do the Montessori classrooms help children develop?

    Respect for others and the environment
    Self-esteem and self-confidence
    Self-discipline
    Coordination
    Independence
    Social Skills
    Emotional growth
    Cognitive preparation

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