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1.What is Montessori?
Montessori is a proven educational method based on scientific observation of the development of children pioneered by Dr. Maria Montessori over 100 years ago in Italy. Education within the Montessori environment provides children the opportunity to express themselves as individuals. The children explore and learn through discovery at their own pace under the guidance of specially trained teachers. It is an individualized approach to education for children from Infancy/Toddlerhood through Elementary school that assists each child in reaching their full potential. It is a student-centered approach that fosters creativity, curiosity and encourages children to ask questions, explore and think critically as they acquire both academic and life skills. The children work independently and in groups, exploring the materials with facilitation and guidance from the teachers. The Montessori environment nurtures independence and fosters the skills and confidence that children need to succeed in all aspects of their lives.
2.How do Montessori classrooms create such a perfect balance between freedom and structure?
Choice Theory is an internal psychology that assumes that all behavior is purposeful, coercion leads to resistance and that connectedness leads to cooperation. Montessori teachers put this theory into practice to model and encourage effective communication and behavior, to help students recognize and acknowledge their own needs and effectively meet them, to help students self-evaluate their behavior and identify more effective choice for the future and to help students accept responsibility for their actions. Through the use of non-coercive means, the teacher strives to reach the goals of fostering a love of learning, independence, respect and providing children with the tools to become positive contributors to society. Children are always more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose their focus of learning on any given day, but his or her decision is limited by the materials and activities in each area of the curriculum that his teacher has prepared and presented to him. By the time they reach the Elementary level, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance. The Montessori environment provides freedom in a structured environment. The children must follow certain guidelines and complete certain activities, although they may do so at their own pace. The children are also able to choose other activities to study outside the norm. Work is completed individually and in groups under the guidance of one or more teachers.
3.How does Montessori compare to traditional types of education?
Montessori education emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching and reading. While traditional education is based on the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student and follows a set curriculum according to a timeframe that is the same for everyone, Montessori education is based on helping the natural development of the human being. Students learn at their own pace, following their own individual interests. Rather than being teacher directed, the Montessori teacher works in collaboration with the students and this working and learning is matched to the social development of the students. Montessori education emphasizes intrinsic motivation through physical exploration, self-direction and a process of discovery rather than motivation by a system of rewards and punishments.
4.Who makes a good Montessori student?
With a core philosophy of following the child, all children can thrive within the Montessori environment. The easiest progression is through the introduction of the Montessori approach in the Infant/Toddler and programs.
5.Why are the children’s activities in the Montessori classroom so often referred to as‘work'?
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.
6.What is an “integrated curriculum” and how does that work in a Montessori classroom?
The integrated curriculum is one of the Montessori Method’s great strengths. The curriculum ties together studies of the physical universe, the natural world and human experience. Each lesson builds on the previous one in a spiral of learning, with the curriculum building carefully over time. This method differs from the traditional model of education which often has compartmentalized subject areas where topics are sometimes covered only once at specific grade levels. The Montessori Method allows for each subject area to complement one another and shows the child the interconnectedness of all things. Montessori schools teach the same basic foundational academic skills as traditional schools and all of the components of a rigorous and stimulating academic program are covered. Most of the subject areas are familiar – such as math, science, history, geography, and language – but they are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together, making learning far more relevant, meaningful and interesting. While studying a map ofAfrica, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancientEgypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. The study of the pyramids, of course, is a natural bridge to geometry. This approach to curriculum shows the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic – and to give their curiosity full rein.
7.What is the purpose of the multi-age classrooms?
The multi-age classrooms create an environment that allows learning to take place naturally. Children often learn and take criticism better from other children and learning is recognized as a social process. Varied ages allow older children to help younger ones and to solidify their own knowledge through the experience of teaching. Younger children learn through observation how to lead, while the others experience and learn leadership skills. Through these multi-aged interactions children learn the importance of cooperation, respect, collaboration, acceptance and trust. These experiences help to develop self-esteem, empathy, confidence and leadership skills.
8.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, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.
9.Why is the classroom called an environment?
Everything in a Montessori classroom is geared to the child, creating a child-sized world. The furniture in the classroom is properly sized for the child. The materials are proportionate, fitting easily to the child's hand. They are also proportionate to his abilities, not overly simple, challenging but never presenting an impossible goal. The teacher carefully prepares this environment to give the child a safe place in which to explore, experiment, and learn. The tailored environment allows the child to proceed at his/her own pace from simple activities to more complex ones. The child's natural curiosity is satisfied as he/she continues to experience the joy of discovering the world around him/ her.
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