Frequently Asked Questions about Montessori
What is Montessori?
This system of education promotes both a philosophy for children’s growth and a rationale for guiding such growth. It is based on fostering the child’s developmental needs for independence, self-sufficiency and freedom within limits. Carefully prepared learning environments guarantee exposure to materials and experiences that develop intelligence as well as physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is designed to take full advantage of self-motivation and the unique abilities of young children to develop their own potential. A Montessori teacher acts more as a guide and facilitator rather than an instructor in the traditional sense. In this approach to education, it is believed that children need adults to reflect with them on the possibilities inherent in their learning and their lives, but children themselves must direct their own responses and take responsibility for their choices.
How did Montessori begin?
Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School, became interested in education as a physician treating “retarded” children. She refined her approach through careful observation of children engaged in learning situations and began work with “normal” children in 1907 when she was invited to organize schools in an impoverished area of San Lorenzo, Italy which was undergoing reconstruction. Over time, Dr. Montessori shared her knowledge with others interested in educating young children and her philosophy spread throughout Europe and the United States.
How has Montessori education been introduced in the United States?
The Montessori method was introduced in this country around 1912 as early schools were founded in homes such as that of Alexander Graham Bell. Though initially the approach toward children’s learning was received with enthusiasm, interest in Montessori waned as schools began to emphasize play and social interaction for young children over the development of intellectual skills for learning. Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch reintroduced the Montessori approach in 1958 as the educational climate in the United States began to change due to an increasing interest in the psychological and developmental growth of children. The unique Montessori system of education has enjoyed a tremendous resurgence of interest since the 1960s, as teacher training programs and schools have expanded throughout the United States.
Is it expensive?
The cost of establishing a Montessori classroom is probably higher than a traditional classroom because of the precision and quality demanded in the manufacture of Montessori materials. Traditionally, Montessori schools are independent from state funding sources and therefore must charge tuition. The Trustees of Greensboro Montessori work very hard to keep the cost of educating children within reasonable limits while not subverting the quality of the curricular offerings.
Please refer to our tuition schedule for our individual school program cost. Fees for field trips are not included in the annual tuition cost:
Is it for all children?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Montessori can work well with a wide variety of learning styles, ability levels, and families of various socio-economic levels. At GMS we have observed that the children who work well in our environment, and within the structure of our student to teacher ratio, are those who have an internal sense of discipline and can work independently. Montessori classrooms have an abundance of hands-on materials, accommodate children at many different levels of learning, and encourage freedom of movement within the classroom. Students who have a difficult time maintaining focus on their work, who require an inordinate amount of teacher input and direction, who are easily distracted, or who cannot handle transitions well may not find the classrooms suitable for them.
Is the child free to do what he or she chooses in the classroom?
The child is free to move about the classroom at will, to talk to other children, to work with any of the equipment he or she understands, or to ask the teacher to introduce new materials to him or her. The child is not free to disturb other children at their work or to abuse the materials. The older children are accountable for the choices they make and how they use their time.
What does the teacher do?
The teacher works with individual children introducing materials and giving guidance where needed. His or her primary task is to observe children very carefully in order to determine their individual needs and to gain the knowledge needed in preparing the environment to aid each child’s growth. The method of teaching is indirect in that it neither imposes upon the child as in direct teaching, nor abandons the child as in a non-directive permissive approach. Rather, the teacher is constantly alert to the direction in which a child has indicated he or she wishes to go, and actively works to help the child achieve his or her goals. In the upper levels, there are group lessons in reading and math. Such lessons, in conjunction with lessons in the cultural subjects (history, art, music, fundamental needs of people, and so forth) are conducted on a regular basis. There is also considerable time given to students who need individual attention.
What does Montessori do for the child?
Observers of children in Montessori schools (and those who have gone on to venues other than Montessori schools) have described them as having developed self-discipline, independence, self-knowledge, academic skills, enthusiasm for learning, and an organized approach to solving problems.
What happens when children go from a Montessori class to a traditional class?
Montessori children usually adjust readily to new classroom situations. This is because they have developed a high degree of self-discipline and independence in their Montessori environments. Also, children have a high degree of adaptability and can assimilate into and accommodate different situations, including sitting at desks arranged in rows.
Why do Montessori classrooms have mixed age groups in one class?
Children learn from one another. This can be seen in family and play situations where children are free to observe and interact in a variety of activities. Young children learn higher-level cognitive and social skills not only through their own mental development, but also by observing others as models. Multi-age grouping helps children develop a sense of community and supports social development. Older children act as role models and (sometimes) teachers of younger children. This aids in the development of personality, collaboration, and cooperation. Montessori classrooms have used mixed age groupings for over 100 years. At GMS the age groupings are as follows: Toddlers— 18 months to 3 years; Primary—3 to 6 years; Lower Elementary (Lower El)—6 to 9 years; Upper Elementary (Upper El)—9 to 11 years (4th and 5th grades); and Middle School—11 to 14 years (6th, 7th and 8th grades).