Montessori FAQ

1. What does “Montessori” mean?

The Montessori method is named for Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School (1896). She devoted her adult life to the observation and study of children. Through her observations, Montessori became convinced that the child possesses an intense motivation toward his/her own self-construction.

Optimal development occurs through an integral relationship with a nurturing environment prepared by an adult trained to observe and respond to each child’s needs. A child’s freedom to choose activities within the prepared environment allows the child to reveal him/herself to the teacher as well as to follow the inner guide, which directs growth.

According to Maria Montessori, “the child is the father of the man.” The child begins to develop within himself the foundations for a lifetime of creative learning: thirst for learning, favorable attitudes toward school, and habits of concentration, initiative, order, and persistence.

2. What are the characteristics of a Montessori preschool?

The Montessori preschool class is a prepared environment structured to offer 18 months - 3 years and 3-6 year olds a sense of security and the possibility of freely chosen purposeful activity. A child is allowed to continue an activity until her inner need for it is satisfied.

Materials are presented to correspond to children's inner needs and development. There is an emphasis on reality, nature, and beauty.

A sense of community is fostered by the sense of ownership and responsibility the children develop toward the classroom environment and by the freedom children have to develop social relationships.

3. What is in a Montessori preschool classroom?

The Montessori classroom is a child-size world. Whatever is in the world outside can be incorporated meaningfully in the Montessori classroom. To a child, the world is overwhelming — it is big, complex, and confusing.

By careful selection of materials by the teacher, an environment is set up that allows the child a place to explore life on a level he can understand. The materials or exercises are designed to stimulate independent exploration.

Each classroom has a prepared set of shelves full of materials that correspond with each Montessori curriculum area: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture. There is also a reading corner and peace corner, a snack table, a restroom, and a sink area.

This prepared environment entices the child to proceed at his own pace from simple activities to more complex ones. Through this process, the child’s natural curiosity is satisfied and he begins to experience the joy of discovering the world around him.

4. How do children interact in the environment?

As the children develop their sense of pride in their work, a feeling of confidence, well-being, and joy begins to manifest itself in each child. A general spirit of respect and cooperation among the children emerges.

The children have the choice of working independently or working with friends with various materials. There are cooperative group games the teacher will guide them in during small group lessons and circle time.

The children also have the opportunity to engage with one another during outdoor playtime on our playground.

5. What is the role of the Montessori teacher?

The goal of the Montessori teacher is to “set free the individual’s own potential for constructive self-development” (Lillard, 1973).

The first role of the teacher is to prepare the environment. The teacher “is responsible for the atmosphere and order of the classroom, the display of materials, and the programming of activities, challenges, and changes of pace” to meet each child’s needs (Lillard, 1973).

The teacher is also the link that connects the child to the environment, and s/he must function as a skilled observer to do this effectively. S/he will give the children lessons based on their inner needs and development.

The Montessori teacher is also a partner to parents, seeking with them to determine how best to serve the whole child.

6. With all the freedom, isn’t there confusion?

The concept of freedom in the classroom is a freedom within limits. A child is allowed to work freely so long as she is respectful of the other children and the materials. Actually, the children who have the freedom to follow their interests are generally happy and busily involved in their work.

7. If I wish to enroll my child for 3 days instead of 5, why do you recommend consecutive days for the Montessori experience?

A child who attends preschool consecutive days each week will have the greatest opportunity for smooth, spontaneous learning. A child taken in and out of school frequently does not have the same opportunity and consistency to pursue his unfolding interests and develop social relations.

8. What about socialization and group work?

Socialization is very much a part of the Montessori method. In the classroom, you’ll notice children interacting continuously, choosing to work on projects together and older children helping younger ones. Each day there is some group activity and outside play.

9. Who is the Montessori method designed for?

The Montessori method is an “approach to learning” and as such has no distinction of class or intelligence. It has been used successfully in all parts of the world and in all types of programs, including Headstart, gifted and talented, developmentally challenged, and average children.

10. Do you encourage parent involvement in the school?

You’ll find that parental involvement will enrich the experience that both you and your child will have at Naudain. You may choose to participate in social events, Parent education, classroom volunteering and other opportunities to become more educated about the Montessori classroom and your child’s experience there. The sharing of parent skills and talents with the classroom is always welcome.