What Are the pros and cons of a multi-age Classroom?

When multi-age education is done correctly it is a joy. To begin with, older children help younger ones. The competent older children can reinforce their understanding of the content material while the younger ones have it taught to them in different ways. Sometimes another child can word a concept in a way that an adult can’t, facilitating better understanding for both children involved.

Multi-age classrooms also allow children to excel. With higher level materials on hand, and an infrastructure already in place to differentiate the instruction, higher functioning students can work past the prescribed curriculum.

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How do Montessori children do in college and the work environment?

This is a very important question. Many educational programs and philosophies have purported to help children but after extensive research this have been proven not to be the case.

Montessori education has been at the forefront of these studies and has been studied extensively over the past few years.All the research states that on the average, children in a true Montessori environment do as well as or better on standardized tests than children in a more traditional environment. On things that aren’t tested, like science, history, social interactions, they almost always score better.

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How do most children adjust to a traditional school after being in a Montessori school?

Whenever I hear this question I think about a scene in the movie Mean Girls. Kady, the movie’s protagonist, has been home-schooled in Africa by her anthropologist parents. Her first ‘real’ school is a public high school.

At first she is shocked and confused by the rules of the school. As she says in a voice over,”Never before had I lived in a world where adults didn’t trust me. I got in trouble for the most random things.” Then she is seen getting up to sharpen her pencil or to go to the bathroom and teachers being dismayed with her.

Being a Montessori teacher in a public program that only goes to 3rd grade I often hear from the 4th grade traditional education teachers and former students about the problems they face when they leave Montessori. I listen very carefully and over the years have realized that they pretty much fit into three different categories:

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What if the child just doesn’t want to work? Since Montessori is not based on punishments and rewards, how is this issue dealt with?

You will receive different answers from different Montessori teachers predominantly depending on their backgrounds and where they are teaching.

AMI Montessorians, especially those that come from a preschool environment and have followed their students to the elementary level will be the ones who adhere to the belief that all materials and concepts should be “self-chosen” most tenaciously. This is because IT WAS a preschool belief. If you think about it, during Dr. Montessori’s time children entering kindergarten weren’t expected to know things like continents, landforms and cultures. Until recently they weren’t expected to be reading or counting either. So anything they learned in preschool was “icing on the cake”. This gave the preschool teacher a lot of leeway. Children at that time could follow their natural desires and interests without any so called “adverse effects” on their education. Of course things are different now, and children in public Montessori pre-schools have the same standards as those in traditional public pre-schools.

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I’ve been told that Montessori is “unstructured”. Is this true?

How do the children learn in such an environment? How does a teacher know that every child is learning if every child isn’t doing the exact thing at the exact same time?

There is a lot of structure in a Montessori classroom!

It’s just a different type of structure than in the traditional classroom. In many traditional classrooms since all the children do pretty much the same thing at the same time, the “structure” is in keeping them focused and quiet.

In a Montessori classroom where the children are all working at their “maximum plane of development” and therefore doing different things, the “structure” revolves around rules and procedures so that they can all be doing those different things, but still learn.

For example, since most of the work is initially done with manipulatives, a “structure” needs to be in place as to how to share the materials, work with them, and put them away.

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Can you summarize the Montessori Philosophy in one sentence?

A sentence using the latest educational catch phrases:

Montessori education is scientifically based, multi-modality, data-driven differentiated instruction using small flexible groupings for explicit instruction and individualized practiced during an extended global access time to insure that each student is working at their maximum plane of development while addressing the state’s mandatory standards.’

A sentence using everyday terms:

Montessori education is based on the belief that children are individuals with their own strengths, needs, likes and learning styles, therefore the teacher needs to guide each child through the learning process by using materials that fit their specific needs and pace.

What is the difference between Montessori and Traditional Education?

Montessori education is based on the belief that children are individuals with their own strengths, needs, likes and learning styles. To used the latest educational catch phrases, Montessori education is ‘multi-modality, differentiated instruction.

In more everyday terms, Montessorians disagree with the idea that all children learn in the exact same way at the exact same time of their life. They believe that to be an effective teacher you can’t say, “It is the 4th day, of the 3rd month, of second grade, so open your math book to page 49 and…” Instead we observe each child and ask ourselves, “What does this child understand? What is the next concept this child needs to learn? In which way does this child learn? (Are they observers? Talkers? Someone who needs to physically experience things? Do colors make things more clear? How about singing a song about the concept, will that help this particular child learn?…) What things interest this child so that I can use his/her natural interests and abilities to teach this concept that they need to know?”

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