Montessori kindergarten

What ages does Montessori serve? 

There are more Montessori programs for ages 3-6 than for any other age group, but Montessori is not limited to early childhood. Many infant/toddler programs (ages 2 months to 3 years) exist, as well as elementary (ages 6-12), adolescent (ages 12-15) and even a few Montessori high schools.

How important is it to start by age 3?

The years from birth to age six are a critical period of development, one that can be optimally supported in a highly enriched learning environment that features mixed age grouping and adults who are specially trained to support emerging abilities in language, movement, independence, and social/emotional well-being. To make the most of the child’s inherent drive to learn and to establish skills and habits that set the child on a positive trajectory, it is essential to start early.

Ideally, Montessori environments are organized to include three age levels: birth-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on. Students remain with their community for three years and benefit intellectually, socially, and emotionally from being both the youngest and the oldest in the class.  Likewise, children benefit most when they enter the community at the beginning of a three-year cycle.

When is the best time to enroll my child in a Montessori school?

Dr. Maria Montessori observed that by the age of three, a child is ready to have separation from his home environment. Our carefully planned preschool programs give your child a combination of freedom and structure necessary in developing her independence.

How do Montessori schools approach families?

In part because Montessori education begins so early (for children as young as three months), and in part because Montessori is less an approach to school than a way of life, ongoing family engagement is an essential ingredient in successful Montessori programs. The most successful Montessori programs establish strong partnerships that include thorough parent information sessions prior to enrollment, regular parent-teacher conferences, guided observation of Montessori learning environments, and school-home partnership agreements that feature commitments to attend school events, extend Montessori principles to the home, and limit screen time. 

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 conventional education. Rather than putting the teacher at the center of the class, with children dependent on her for information and activity, the classroom revolves around the needs, interests, and work of the children. 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.

Can I do Montessori at home with my child? 

Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development at home. Look at your home through your child’s eyes. Children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. “Help me do it by myself” is the life theme of the preschooler. Can you find ways for your child to participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child’s self-esteem.

At the school level many homeschooling and other parents use the Montessori philosophy of following the child’s interest and not interrupting concentration to educate their children.

In school only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori “prepared environment”. Here social development comes from being in a positive and unique environment with other children – an integral part of Montessori education.

How many students are typically in a Montessori class?

Unlike some private schools, which strive for very small classes, Montessori values the lessons of community when the size of the class is somewhat larger. 

Montessori classes for children above the infant & toddler level might include 20–30 students whose ages span 3 years. All members of the community benefit from this set-up. Older students are proud to act as role models; younger ones feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead.

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 going 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 the child to master the challenge at hand and protects him from moving on before he’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind”.

Why do Montessori classes group different age levels together?

Sometimes parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one group or the other will be shortchanged. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers’ time and attention, or that the importance of covering the kindergarten curriculum for the five-year-olds will prevent them from giving the three- and four-year-olds the emotional support and stimulation that they need. Both concerns are misguided. At each level, Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental characteristics normal to children in that stage.

Montessori classes are organized to encompass a two- or three-year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. Each child learns at his own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in his own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. In a multi-age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level.

Children normally stay in the same class for three years. With two-thirds of the class normally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable.

Working in one class for two or three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place.

What exactly is the teacher’s role?

Montessori teachers are, essentially, guides. They don’t steer children in a particular direction or force them to work according to an agenda. They show the children what materials are available and how to use them and they give help whenever they are asked.

Teachers are trained observers. They need to see when a child is struggling with some activity and gently guide them in the right direction. They also need to keep an eye on the different developmental levels in the class and ensure that children always have access to activities and materials that will keep them challenged and allow them to keep reaching new goals.

Can Montessori educated children cross over to traditional learning?

Yes they can. Remember that Montessori educated children have self-discipline, self-confidence and a great deal of respect and enthusiasm for learning. They are naturally flexible and adaptable and shouldn’t have much trouble slotting into a traditional classroom.

Do we, as parents, have to do anything special at home?

It will help your child’s development enormously if you practice some of the principles at home. For example, create a dedicated arts and crafts area where your child can work with paint, clay, cardboard, glue and glitter. Ensure that the surface is easily washable and encourage your child to clean up after himself – it’s all about discipline and responsibility, remember. Try to avoid brain-numbing toys like video games and encourage your child to do fun, practical activities or read, rather than sit in front of the TV for hours at a time. You will have to invest time in your children if you want to help them reach their full potential.

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