Yes, Montessori schools may be different from schools with which you are already familiar. The uninterrupted work time, the emphasis on learning through experience and exploration—these are among the unique hallmarks of a Montessori education, an approach that inspires children to become self-motivated, lifelong learners. Many families have questions galore, here are some of the things we’re asked about most often.
Why are there three-year cycles?
The Montessori program is one that builds each year upon the year previous. When a child begins Primary at 3 or 4 years of age, he is guided and shepherded not only by his teacher but also by the older children in the class. In the beginning, the child appreciates the help and guidance that his offered him. But as he grows a bit older, he starts to aspire to that position of leadership himself. He slowly starts to see himself as capable of offering that help rather than just receiving it. When his third year in the cycle finally arrives, he is aware of his responsibilities and assumes them with joy. All that he has watched his older classmates do for two years is now his to do. That child can become the leader and guide for his peers and show that he masters the work he has been taught.
Why do you have mixed age groups?
If you want children to become responsible young adults they must have opportunities to practice at a young age. A mixed age group allows children of different ages and abilities to help each other and thus learn responsibility. In a mixed age classroom, it is not always the teacher who solves problems but rather, it is another child. This is not possible in a class with children of all the same age and abilities.
Since no two children grow and mature in the same way, the materials available to the children are varied and numerous. The proper activity for the right moment is there to be introduced to the child when he is ready or as his interests dictate. Thus, no child is held back if his skills indicate a need to move on, nor is a child pressured to keep pace with skills he is not yet ready to master.
Why five days per week?
If you want children to develop the qualities of respect, responsibility and resourcefulness, they need consistency. They need many opportunities to practice. If they are only coming a few days per week, they do not really feel the classroom is their own. They are only partially attached, and therefore do not develop a strong desire to be responsible for it.
Why don’t children have homework?
For many families, the question of homework is a vexing one. How can the children at Quest manage to surpass the learning that is required by local public curriculum without the hours of homework assigned to their neighborhood counterparts? How do the children learn to write in cursive and read by the end of kindergarten?
Quest believes that the child’s job is to be a student while they are here, and to be children with their family when they are home. The goal of their daily lessons and interactions is to inspire excitement and creativity that is carried forward into their home life and explored on an even deeper level away from school hours.
As the children mature through the program and enter into the older elementary grades, students are introduced to project work and assignments that may require time outside of the school day. In our middle school program, homework is part of the reinforcement of lessons and does begin to replicate the at-home requirements students may find at the high school level.
Why are the children not assigned grades and report cards?
For the budding student, grades and testing are the surest way to limit inspiration and stunt the development of self-assessment. The joy for Quest children is in the learning itself. They are working and acquiring knowledge because they are excited by the possibility of how far they can pursue any interest.
Rather than grade the children on how well they learned the countries of North America, after which it is clear there is no reason to go on, Quest children can continue on to study the countries of South America, Europe, Asia, and on and on. They ask for the opportunity to evaluate their own knowledge by testing themselves or making presentations to their classmates.
The teachers are in continuous contact with each child offering honest reflections and soliciting discussion about whether he or she is working up to potential. Each child asks himself: “How much can I do?” (Not, “How much do I have to do?”) And, “How well have I done it?” (Not, “Was it good enough for an A?”) This sense of personal responsibility is the preparation necessary for the competitive 21st century.
Will my child really be prepared for the transition to high school?
In 2019, Quest will be graduating it’s thirteenth 8th grade class. Quest graduates have attended private, public and boarding high schools and have studied at colleges and universities all over the country, including several ivy-league schools.
The transition to high school is a transition for everyone, no matter where you spent your middle school years. It is a new building, full of new people and new challenges for every single student. When it comes to preparedness, the more important question is: “How does Quest prepare your child, not only for high school, but also for life, in a way that other schools do not?”
As with all good, accredited schools, our students are prepared academically. They are taught the same core fundamentals as students elsewhere. The Quest difference is what we teach our students about themselves and how to be successful in the world. Every year of our program builds upon and consolidates the experiences and skills of the year before. Topics of study are carried up through the years, along with practical life preparation such as research and organization. When our students are approaching graduation from Quest they have had a steady trickle of repeated experiences that position them far ahead of their peers. They are naturally curious about new topics of study, they can independently plan and organize their work load, they can facilitate meetings between both peers and adults, and they exhibit a unique confidence that comes from their ability to put these years of training to work. Quest students love school.
For more information on the impact of a Montessori education, visit the buzz.