When parents start looking for daycare, child care, or early childhood education, they often might come across the term “Montessori” for the very first time. It’s important to understand the educational concepts anywhere you may enroll your child. This lays the foundations for the child’s behavior and attitudes later in life, and a Montessori style education can have great positive impacts. So here’s a quick overview on the most commonly asked questions about Montessori education at Sandwich Montessori School.
What is Montessori?
‘Montessori’ is an approach to early years education based upon the work of Maria Montessori. Maria was an Italian medical doctor who set up schools for disadvantaged children and observed how young children learn best. From this she devised an approach to early years education that is now used all over the world.
Much of Maria Montessori’s work was with children of a preschool age (3 years and up) but her followers have advocated applying these principles to under 3s too, and Montessori infant care is a popular choice for many parents.
It is worth noting that Montessori is not a protected title, and can be used by any school and daycare so parents will need to be discerning in making their choices. A good way to check whether the daycare or school is in line with Montessori principles is to look at what affiliations they have with professional associations; AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) and AMS (American Montessori Society) are the 2 principle Montessori bodies in the USA and Sandwich Montessori is an associate member of AMS
How is it different to “mainstream” education?
The Montessori approach is quite distinct from ‘traditional’ or ‘mainstream’ education in the USA. It is a holistic approach to education and seeks to develop each child as a whole. Freedom is a highly valued principle and children are encouraged to develop independence from a very young age.
The role of the teacher is very different and teachers in Montessori programs are often described as ‘guides’ which highlights the difference in roles. Often in ‘traditional’ or ‘mainstream’ settings teachers are presented as the source of all knowledge, depositing this knowledge into children through a teaching series based largely on hearing or reading information. Children’s knowledge is then tested and work is judged against an external set of guidelines.
In the Montessori classroom, learning occurs through all 5 senses, and is largely self-directed. One of the main differences noted by parents upon visiting Montessori settings is the ordered environment. Montessori classrooms are often a hive of activity, but calm and purposeful. On the whole teachers do not grade or correct work but value it in and of itself and use their knowledge of each child and development to gently steer them to the next learning opportunity.
Discipline is approached very differently. For example rewards and punishments are not used, instead teachers focus on developing social and emotional skills, and help children to regulate their behavior themselves.
What kind of activities are taught in Montessori settings?
A Montessori classroom is set up for the child. All the furniture and equipment is the right size for the child to be able to use it in the way it is intended. Each classroom is specially prepared by the teacher to meet the needs of the children, determined by observation and their age and stage of development.
There is no focal point of the classroom; no teacher’s desk or chalk board, instead there are plenty of “work areas” which children can use in a variety of ways. Extended periods of self-directed activity are the norm, and children are free to move about the classroom selecting the activities that interest them. In the Montessori classroom, learning is very hands-on. Some specific Montessori equipment is used, though often in conjunction with other resources selected by the teacher.
The areas of learning in the Montessori approach are; practical life skills, sensorial activities, mathematics, language and cultural studies.
Is Montessori right for my child?
Many parents express concern after visiting a Montessori classroom that their child won’t “fit in” perhaps because their child is livelier, or has been diagnosed with a special educational need. The Montessori approach has been used successfully with children from all sorts of backgrounds, with a huge array of personalities and specific needs.
Since Montessori focuses on the child as an individual, and on developing them holistically, there is no reason to think that Montessori is only for a certain type of child. While it may be true that naturally independent and self-motivated children will easily slot into a Montessori setting, other children will excel in other aspects of the Montessori setting.
How will my child benefit from attending a Montessori setting?
In terms of academic results, research published in 2006 found that five-year-olds in Montessori classrooms had higher maths and reading skills than their counterparts in public schools.
More importantly though for most parents who choose Montessori, children learn how to learn. Through careful preparation of the environment, provision of activities and gentle instruction children become independent, self-motivated learners.
As we seek to prepare this generation, we as parents and teachers, are limited by our own knowledge; the jobs that these children will end up doing have likely not even been invented yet! The world is moving faster than ever before and knowing a set of information is not enough. We need to equip our children with transferable skills and most importantly, the skill of learning that is, knowing how to find out something they don’t know and how to attempt something new. Montessori builds these skills.
Do we need to practice Montessori at home to use a Montessori daycare?
As you learn about the Montessori approach you may well find that you wish to incorporate some aspects of it into your home. If you do end up selecting a Montessori school, you will probably do so because some of its values resonate with your own, and so you will already naturally be incorporating them into your home life.
Should you select Sandwich Montessori for your child, we would encourage you to implement some Montessori values at home, and some ideas of how to do so are available here.
Will my child transition to a traditional elementary school ok?
Yes, many children who have attended a Montessori daycare transition to a ‘traditional’, ‘mainstream’ elementary school and do very well.
However, it is also worth noting that Sandwich Montessori will be opening an elementary program in Fall 2019 which will continue to build on the Montessori education that your child has received.
Don’t miss out on the benefits of Montessori for your child. Your child will gain unique learning experiences and big developmental strides.
1. Your child will gain confidence with custom, hands-on learning.
2. Your child can learn at their own pace, awakening their spirit, imagination, and passions.
3. Your child learns cooperation and community with multi-age classrooms.
4. Your child will develop a lifelong love of learning.
5. Your child will learn independence.
6. Your child will develop with the learning style that is best for them.