Q What is Montessori?
Montessori is a philosophy with the fundamental tenet that a child learns best within a social environment that supports each individual’s unique development.
Q How Did It Begin?
Dr. Maria Montessori, the creator of what is called “The Montessori Method of Education,” based this new education on her scientific observations of young children’s behavior. As the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, Montessori became involved with education as a doctor treating children labeled as retarded. Then in 1907 she was invited to open a childcare center for the children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome.
She called it “A Children’s House,” and based the program on her observations that young children learn best in a home-like setting, filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences contributing to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.Montessori’s dynamic theories included such revolutionary premises as:
Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.
Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials. She carried her message throughout the world, including the United States as early as 1912. After an enthusiastic first response, interest in the U.S. waned until a reintroduction of the method in the mid-1950’s, followed by
the organization of the American Montessori Society in 1960.
Q What Makes Montessori Education Unique?
The “whole child” approach. The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each child reach full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum, under the direction of a specially prepared teacher, allows the child to experience the joy of learning, time to enjoy the process and insure the development of self-esteem, and provides the experiences from which children create their knowledge.
The “Prepared Environment.” In order for self-directed learning to take place, the whole learning environment room, materials and social climate-must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which enables them to try new things and build self-confidence.
The Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori’s observations of the kinds of things which children enjoy and go back to repeatedly led her to design a number of multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials which facilitate the learning of skills and lead to learning of abstract ideas.
The teacher. Originally called a “Directress,” the Montessori teacher functions as designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper and meticulous observer of each child’s behavior and growth. The teacher acts as a facilitator of learning. Extensive training-a minimum of a full year following the baccalaureate degree is required for a full AMS credential, including a year’s student teaching under supervision-is specialized for the age group with which a teacher will work, i.e., infant and toddler, three to six year olds, elementary or secondary level.
Q How Does It Work?
Each Montessori class, from toddlers through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules that differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs-respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials he may introduce to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The three-year-age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation-language experiences-in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.
Q How Is Creativity Encouraged?
Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Montessorians recognize that each child, from toddler to teenager, learns and expresses himself in a very individual way.
Music, art, storytelling, movement and drama are part of every American Montessori program. But there are other things particular to the Montessori environment that encourage creative development: many materials that stimulate interest and involvement; an emphasis on the sensory aspect of experience; and the opportunity for both verbal and nonverbal modes of learning.
Q What Happens When A Child Leaves Montessori?
Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they’ve been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well.
They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others and good communication skills ease the way in new settings.
Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop good self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.
Q What are the hours of the school day?
Most Nurtury locations operate between the hours of 7:30 am and 5:30 pm. Hours may vary, so please inquire about the specific hours of your specific location.
Q What is the teacher to child ratio?
Ratios vary by classroom and state. The Nurtury follows state ratio requirements.
Q Do children receive a report card?
We consistently communicate with parents regarding their children’s development. We provide parents with a quarterly progress report called an Individual Learning Objectives Summary, which tracks your child’s progress along with their program’s learning objectives. Parents and teachers also get together twice a year for a formal conference; however, teachers are available every day to answer questions.
Q Does The Nurtury provide meals and snacks?
Yes, we take care of your child’s nutritional needs throughout the day.
Q What if my child is allergic to certain types of foods?
We require that parents alert us to allergies for inclusion in the child’s medical file. Based on the prohibited foods, an allergy plan is created and the child’s teachers are alerted. When a food on a child’s prohibited list is served, the child receives a substitution.
Q Do you require parents to volunteer their time at school?
Parents are not required to volunteer at their school, but we do encourage parental involvement at the convenience of the parents. Q What is the tuition and how is it paid? Tuition varies by location and classroom. Tuition is due according to the tuition schedule in your area. The Nurtury accepts personal checks and most credit cards. We also accept online payments through our ‘parents only’ secure internet site. Ask your Director for more information on how to log on at www.thenurtury-montessori.com.
Q Is the program based on age-appropriate learning objectives?
Q Are the Director and teachers open to questions?
Of course you can stop in at any time. It is best to make an appointment if you want the teacher to give you the attention you need while having the right coverage for the children.
Q Is there a schedule to ensure your child is with the same teacher for the majority of the day, every day?
There is a head teacher and one assistant for each group who is with the child for the majority of the day.
Q Is reading encouraged through a literature circle and shared reading time?
Even the youngest infant will be read to daily.
Q Is there a parent group to provide input and share information?
Because our environments are very small we will not have a formal PTA but please feel free to give us your input at any time. We will have a suggestion box in each entryway. We will take all suggestions seriously, because we want the best possible environment for you, your child and our staff.
Q Is it true that Montessori allows children to do whatever they want to do, for as long as they want to do it?
A Montessori house is a carefully prepared environment with a variety of materials and activities to satisfy the youngest to the most advanced child in the group. Children in a Montessori environment may choose their own activities, however a teacher will always show the child how to use each activity in the environment. A child may work on the material as long as he or she likes and experiment with it in whatever way satisfies his curiosity. Montessori teachers are trained in observation. The teacher keeps careful records of what lessons have been given, observes the child and his choice of activities, and checks each child’s knowledge in one area before moving on to the next lesson. The teacher will offer an alternative to a child who has chosen something beyond his ability. Children are free to move about the rooms at will, to talk to other children, to play with any equipment that they understand, or to ask a teacher to introduce new materials.
Q What is your approach to discipline?
A There tend to be very few discipline problems in a Montessori house. When discipline issues do occur at the Nurtury, we have two solutions. First, most discipline problems occur because a child has not found work which is sufficiently interesting to hold his or her attention. Therefore the teacher will introduce a new activity to the child. Second, a child may be redirected to the “quiet spot” to take a few minutes to “quiet their body.” Children learn how to calm themselves down and regain control. This is in no way harsh or punitive. Individual children may have repeated lessons in this area. The child who has been removed from the group may return when he or she feels “quieted”. Children also learn to remove themselves to regain control. Sometimes an adult will speak with a child away from the group. If a child disturbs another child, physically or verbally, the children are removed from the group and walked through the steps of conflict resolution with the aide of an adult.
Q How do the children in a Montessori class learn to socialize and share?
A Socializing and learning to share come very naturally in a Montessori classroom. Children are not required to share their work nor is any child permitted to touch another’s work unless invited to do so. As you look around the room you will see many children working together. Many times children are so excited about what they are able to do that they want to give a lesson or demonstration to someone else. Throughout the day there are many opportunities for this natural, spontaneous socializing. Children are also given ample opportunity to share ideas, information, work and special items during group lessons and daily circle time.
Q How do I know if a school is a “true” Montessori School?
A There is no legal way to prevent any unethical person from labeling any early childhood program “Montessori”. In many areas there are a few schools labeled Montessori, without trained teachers, Montessori materials, or the use of Montessori methods. The best way to identify a “true” Montessori school is to familiarize yourself with the Montessori method and to check the school’s credentials. Check to see that the school you are looking at is affiliated with a national or international Montessori organization such as the American Montessori Society or the Association Montessori International. Check to see that the teachers have their Montessori certification.
Q Where can I get more information on the Montessori method?
A Many books are available about Dr. Montessori and her work. Understanding the Human Being by Silvia Montenaro and Respect the Human Being by Magda Gerber.