What is Montessori Education?

Montessori education is based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education for the preschool-age child (age 3 to 6 years). At this age, the child’s mind is like a sponge and is capable of absorbing information received from the outside world at a remarkable pace. The Montessori trained “directress” carefully prepares the classroom with “hands-on” materials designed to correspond to the developmental periods of the child.

What are the benefits of a Montessori program?

Here are some of the many reasons Montessori is right for your child: Your child learns at their own pace; they learn how to focus and concentrate; Montessori accommodates all learning styles; your child will master the important life skill of being a self-directed learner; they will achieve independence; they will learn order; your child will be treated with respect and dignity; a multi-disciplinary approach is taken in regards to your child’s interests and it teaches children how to learn instead of just what to learn.

How does BWMCH differ from other Montessori schools?

We are a non-profit, one-room school affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS). Our school year begins with an Open House and New Parent Orientation meeting followed by four days of orientation the last week of August. Summer play groups led by a board member or volunteer are held six times during the summer months. Observations by the parent are encouraged from October through May. The Board of Directors is comprised of parents who meet monthly to set policy. Board Committees are established to assist with the classroom and social events.

Do all children “fit-in” to the Montessori classroom?

Each child comes into the classroom with a different set of experiences. The classroom is designed to allow the child to learn at his/her own pace and to accommodate varied levels of ability.

Why does the classroom have mixed age groups (3-6) in each classroom?

Maria Montessori discovered that putting older and younger children together helps them teach and learn from each other. The younger children are motivated and nurtured by the older children and the older ones increase their self-esteem and reinforce what they have learned by modeling skills.

Why a three-year cycle?

Dr. Montessori identified four “planes of development,” with each stage having its own developmental characteristics and challenges. The Early Childhood Montessori environment for children ages three to six is designed to work with the “absorbent mind,” their “sensitive periods” and the tendencies of children at this stage of their development. The years from 3-6 are one phase of growth, with physical, intellectual and psychological characteristics common to that whole period. Learning that takes place during these years comes spontaneously without effort, leading children to enter the elementary years with a clear, concrete sense of many abstract concepts.

This process seems to necessitate an educational approach with an extended time frame within which the individual child has room to grow at his/her own pace. In accord with this thinking, a Montessori school program, including the developmental learning aids and the work activities which go with it, is sequential and meant to be experienced over a three-year time span and not in individual, successive, one-year capsules. This process seems to work best when children enter a Montessori program at age three and stay at least through the kindergarten year. Children entering at age four or five do not consistently come to the end of the three-year cycle having developed the same skills, work habits or values. Older children entering Montessori may do quite well in this very different setting, but this will depend to a large degree on their personality and previous educational experiences. While a child may gain much from attending a Montessori program for any length of time, full benefits are likely to require extended exposure. For instance, such teachings as the three R’s, which are not so much taught as they are learned, require progressive build-up for successful development. The same can be said for such acquisitions as personal work habits and social consciousness; these too require time for internalization.

The three-year cycle also relates to Montessori’s valuable concept of age-mixed and ungraded classes. However, it is not just a simple matter of 3-4 year olds, 4-5 year olds, and 5-6 year olds spending time together in one environment. The hope is really that the younger children might learn from older ones who, in turn, have come up from “the ranks” and are well on their way to being self-directed. Such quality is hard to achieve with frequent and substantial turn over.

What does polishing a mirror and washing a table have to do with education?

The Practical Life area is very unique to a Montessori classroom. Through repetitive, hands-on and very purposeful activities, the child learns to do things for him or herself. At the same time, indirect learning beyond polishing a mirror, folding laundry, washing a table, or opening and closing a bottle is occurring. The children learn concentration, coordination, manual dexterity, order and independence. Far from being trivial, these skills form the necessary foundation for all future learning as they stir important areas in the brain. Not to mention, children are interested in learning “real” things which accounts for the tremendous popularity of these exercises.

My child is very active; will he/she adjust to the program?

Children who are active at home behave differently in the classroom. In the classroom, the limits and rules are clearly defined and consistently enforced. The classroom materials are routinely rotated to continually stimulate the child’s interest. The Directress (teacher) regularly observes the classroom and, if necessary, directs the child to materials that will engage him or her in the learning process.

What makes a Montessori teacher different?

You will notice that Montessori teachers are referred to as a Directress because what they do is direct the child toward what he needs to teach himself. In the classroom, your child will be taught individually or in small groups. This allows the teacher to get immediate feedback and to see how well the child is absorbing the lesson and what questions or needs he/she may have. Each Montessori teacher has been trained in the science of child observation. They spend time every day observing the class: how it is functioning as a whole and how the children are progressing with their work. They use the Montessori materials to enhance the learning experience The Directress will observe your child, determine his/her level of development and what guidance they need to progress to the next level.

If my child has a Montessori education, can he go into another kind of education program that is not Montessori based?

Due to the fact that Montessori does such a great job at creating a love for learning, as well as the ability to focus, concentrate, cooperate with others and work independently, Montessori children do well in any school situation.

Do you have a part-time program?

Consistency and routine give the young child a sense of security and order required for concentration and focus. Our curriculum is based on a five-day, three-year program. Therefore, we offer a half-day program, five days per week, for our three year old students, and a half-day or full-day option for the four and five year old students. Half-day is offered in the morning or in the afternoon.

Why do we refer to a child or the classroom as being normalized?

The term normalized child is used to describe a child who has adjusted to the order of a Montessori classroom and can engage in his/her own learning. Within this environment, their true nature can be expressed. Typical characteristics of a “normalized child” include calm, confident, grounded, enthusiastic about learning and positive towards others. This takes time to accomplish, usually several months, hence the reason we don’t allow visitors and/or parents in the classroom for the first eight weeks of school.