A. Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Maria Montessori's first casa dei bambini ("children's house") in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world, spanning ages from birth to adolescence.
Q. Where can I find a good, brief, introduction to Montessori from birth through the school years?
A. At the Michael Olaf Montessori "text"site, which is actually an E-book of Montessori philosophy and practice: www.michaelolaf.net.
Q. What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
A. Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and so on), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.
Q. Can I do Montessori at home with my child?
A. Yes, you can use Montessori principles of child development at home. Look at your home through your child's eyes. Children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. "Help me do it by myself" is the life theme of the preschooler. Can you find ways for your child to participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys? Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child's self-esteem.
At the school level many homeschooling and other parents use the Montessori philosophy of following the child's interest and not interrupting concentration to educate their children.
In school only a trained Montessori teacher can properly implement Montessori education, using the specialized learning equipment of the Montessori "prepared environment." Here social development comes from being in a positive and unique environment with other children -- an integral part of Montessori education.
Q. Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?
A. Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers.
Q. What ages does Montessori serve?
A. There are more Montessori programs for ages 3-6 than for any other age group, but Montessori is not limited to early childhood. Many infant/toddler programs (ages 2 months to 3 years) exist, as well as elementary (ages 6-12), adolescent (ages 12-15) and even a few Montessori high schools.
Q. Are Montessori children successful later in life?
A. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.
Q. How do I find Montessori schools in my area?
A. There are thousands of Montessori schools in the world, and the list links at this site: www.montessori.edu/refs.html. If his doesn't help you, look in your phone book, get the literature of local schools, observe, and compare what you learn with you read on this site.
Q. Who accredits or oversees Montessori schools?
A. Unfortunately, there is no way to limit the use of the name "Montessori." Parents must carefully research, and observe a classroom in operation, in order to choose a real Montessori school for their child.
There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones operating in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school's affiliation(s).
Q. How much does Montessori cost?
A. (from NAMTA figures, 1998) Because all Montessori schools are operated independently of one another, tuitions vary widely. According to a 1996 NAMTA survey of U.S. and Canadian Montessori schools, tuitions range from a low of under $999 per year to a high of over $11,000 per year. Median annual tuition by age level was as follows: (NOTE: these figures are several years old and may not apply)
Infant/toddler: $3,480 +
Ages 3-6, 3-hour day: $2,550 +
Ages 3-6, 4-hour day: $3,300 +
Ages 3-6, 6-hour day: $4,300 +
Ages 6-9: $4,600 +
Ages 9-12: $4,740 +
Ages 12-15: $5,440 +
Also keep in mind that there are many Montessori programs in public schools, which charge no tuition at all to students within their district.
Q. What is the best way to choose a Montessori school for my child?
A. Ask if the school is affiliated with any Montessori organization. Ask what kind of training the teachers have. Visit the school, observe the classroom in action, and later ask the teacher or principal to explain the theory behind the activities you saw. Most of all, talk to your child's prospective teacher about his or her philosophy of child development and education to see if it is compatible with your own.
Q. How many Montessori schools are there?
A. We estimate that there are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States and about 7,000 worldwide.
Q. Are Montessori schools religious?
A. Some are, but most are not. Some Montessori schools, just like other schools, operate under the auspices of a church, synagogue, or diocese, but most are independent of any religious affiliation.
Q. Are all Montessori schools private?
A. No. Approximately 200 public schools in the U.S. and Canada offer Montessori programs, and this number is growing every year.
Q. What does it take to start a Montessori school?
A. The essential element of any Montessori school is the fully-trained Montessori teacher. A good starting point is a group of parents who want Montessori for their children. The next step is to look into state and local requirements for schools, such as teacher training, facilities, class size, etc. Selecting a site and making sure it meets applicable building codes is also an early part of the process. Montessori materials and furniture must be purchased, and, unless one of the founders has taken Montessori training, a teacher must be hired.