Montessori FAQ

Common questions on the Montessori Method

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

For children six and under, Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. They are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own, with materials that have been introduced to them by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.

Above age six children learn to do autonomous research by arranging field trips to gather information, interviewing specialists, and creating group presentations. They also engage in dramas, musical productions, science projects, story writing, and so forth. There is no limit to what they create in this kind of intelligently guided freedom. There are no text books or rigid schedules. There is great respect for the choices of the children and they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. Through independent choice and exploration, children enjoy their work and study. The children observe each other, ask each other for lessons and much of the learning comes from sharing and inspiring each other instead of competing.

Why does Montessori have multi-age Classrooms?

Multi-age classrooms afford us the luxury of adapting the curriculum to the individual child. Each child can work at his or her own pace, while remaining in community with his or her peers. In addition, the multi age format allows all older children to be the leaders of the classroom community, even those children who may be shy or quiet. The teacher also gets to know your child well in a three-year span.

Is Montessori good for children with some learning disabilities?

What about gifted children? Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children 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. Children learn from each other through observation and experience. An environment with diverse abilities and backgrounds allow children to engage in the complexities of what it means to be human.

Are Montessori children successful later in life?

Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests later in traditional education settings, Montessori children are ranked above average on executive functioning skills such as following directions, organizing and articulating their thoughts, listening attentively, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.

To read one of the many studies, please visit our resources page, or click here.

Are Montessori schools religious?

No. Montessori educates children without reference to religious denomination. As a result, our classrooms are extremely diverse, with representation from all peoples, cultures and religions. Your child may learn about traditional celebrations and aspects of many different religions while in a Montessori school.

Is Montessori a franchise? Who can open a Montessori school?

The term Montessori is not trademarked and anyone, regardless of training, experience or affiliation can open a “Montessori” school. It is essential that parents researching Montessori act as good consumers and do their research to ensure the authenticity of their chosen program.

Who accredits Montessori schools?

Dr. Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 1929 to preserve her legacy and the American Montessori Society (AMS) was founded in 1960. There is also the International Montessori Council (IMC). AMI, IMC and AMS ensure that Montessori schools and teachers are both well-grounded in the basic principles of the method and ready to carry those principles forward in the modern educational world. AMI, IMC and AMS offer teacher training and conferences and accredit schools.

Schools that are not accredited are not necessarily lacking, they just may not have the resources, time or desire to undergo the long and expensive accreditation process. Some things to look for in a school to get a sense of its quality:

  • Mixed age classrooms, generally a 3 year cycle
  • Certified Teachers (with a MACTE certification), or teachers in the process of training
  • Calm and Peaceful Atmosphere
  • Commitment to developing inner discipline, without use of outside motivators (time outs, sticker charts…)
  • Commitment to long uninterrupted work period, generally 3 hours
  • Full set of Montessori Materials in good condition
  • Classrooms with child size furniture, almost bare at adult-level but beautifully and peacefully decorated at child-level
  • Strong school to home cooperation and communication

Isn’t Montessori just a preschool?

Montessori schools may be best known for their programs with young children, but the underlying educational method describes programs for students up through high school.

If children are free to choose their own work, how do you ensure that they receive a well-rounded education?

Montessori children are free to choose within limits, and have only as much freedom as they can handle with appropriate responsibility. The classroom teacher and assistant ensure that children do not interfere with each other, and that each child is progressing at her appropriate pace in all subjects.

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 traditional education. Rather than putting the teacher at the focal point of the class with children dependent on her for information and activity, the classroom shows a child-centered approach. Children choose to work at tables or on floor mats where they can spread out their materials, and the teacher circulates about the room, giving lessons, observing, inspiring and engaging learners, or resolving issues as they arise.

Are Montessori schools as academically rigorous as traditional schools?

Yes; Montessori classrooms encourage deep learning of the concepts behind academic skills rather than rote practice of abstract techniques. The success of our students appears in the experiences of our alumni, who compete successfully with traditionally educated students in a variety of schools.

Since Montessori classrooms emphasize non-competitiveness, how are students adequately prepared for real-life competition later on?

Montessori classrooms emphasize competition with oneself: self-monitoring, self-correction, and a variety of other executive skills aimed at continuous improvement. Students typically become comfortable with their strengths and learn how to address their weaknesses. In older classes, students commonly participate in competitive community activities with clear “winners” (auditions for limited play roles, math fact games, etc.) in which students give their best performances while simultaneously encouraging peers to do the same. It is a healthy competition in which all contenders are content that they did their best in an environment with clear and consistent rules.


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