Is Montessori for all children?

Montessori schools serve children from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and intellectual abilities.  From the gifted child to the child with learning differences, the philosophy and materials combined with the classroom environment, stimulate and encourage the child’s innate need to learn.

With larger class sizes and less structure than traditional classrooms, children who are easily over stimulated or who tend to be aggressive may not adapt as easily to the Montessori environment. Each situation is unique and it is best to work with the school to see if it is indeed a good match for your child.

 Is Montessori Elitist?

No.  Montessori schools can be found in all kinds of settings, from single room facilities to large multi-building campuses.  In general, you will find a diverse student and teacher population with families from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.  Montessori is also found in the public sector as magnet programs, Head Start centers, and as charter schools.

 Why do Montessori classes group different age levels together?

Montessori classes are structured to encompass a three year age span.  Younger children are eager to learn lessons they observe older children working on and the older children serve as role models for their younger peers.  Each child learns at his/her own pace and will be ready for a lesson in his/her own time rather than depending on a teacher’s schedule of lessons.  In the mixed-age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level.

A strong sense of community is developed between students and teachers when a child attends the same class for three years.  The teacher is able to observe each child’s progress and address their developmental and intellectual needs on an individual basis.

 Why are Montessori classes sometimes larger than those found in many other schools?

With a larger group size, the focus is less on the adult and encourages children to learn from each other. By bringing children together in a larger multi-age class group, in which two thirds of the children return each year, the school environment promotes continuity and the development of a stable community.   Montessori schools commonly group 20-30 children together at the primary age level.  At Baldwin Oaks, we limit our Toddler classrooms to 12 students and our Primary classrooms to 25.  Each classroom is led by a certified Montessori teacher and an assistant.  Our Elementary classrooms are limited to 20 children or less.

 How can Montessori teachers meet the needs of so many different children?

In a Montessori school, children are not motivated by getting good grades but rather by a basic love of learning.  Dr. Montessori believed that the focus of the teacher should be on the child as a person not on a daily lesson plan.  Children are lead to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover.  The Montessori teacher acts as a facilitator helping children to learn independently while retaining the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born. Teachers usually present lessons to individual children or small groups giving just enough information to capture attention or spark interest in further exploration of the material or learning activity.

Because they work with each child for three years, the Montessori teacher knows their students’ strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well.  The teacher often uses these interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternative avenues for further learning and success.

Why do Montessori schools encourage parents to send young children five days a week?

The primary goal of Montessori involves creating a culture of consistency, order, and empowerment.  While two or three day programs are attractive to parents who do not need full-time care it should be remembered that Montessori is more than just childcare.  It is an educational system with strong emphasis on the importance of consistency and routine which is important for a child feeling comfortable and secure in the school environment.

Why do Montessori schools want children to enter at such a young age?

Dr. Montessori, in the course of her observations identified four “planes of development”, with each stage having its own characteristics and challenges.  The Toddler and Early Childhood environments are designed to work with the “absorbent mind”, “sensitive periods”, and the tendencies of children at this stage of their development.

The Montessori environment and materials assist children in becoming self-motivated, self-disciplined, and to retain the sense of curiosity that many children lose in a more traditional classroom setting.  Montessori children tend to act with care and respect toward their environment and each other.  They are able to work at their own pace and ability and to pursue their own interests which nurtures a joy of learning and prepares them for further challenges.

This process works best when children enter a Montessori program at age two or three and stay at least through their kindergarten year.  Learning which takes place during these years comes spontaneously without effort, leading children to enter the elementary classes with a clear, concrete sense of many abstract concepts.

 Why is freedom and independence so important in a Montessori classroom?

Children learn best when given the opportunity to manipulate and explore the things in their environment.  Lasting impressions of the physical world around them are the foundation from which children build purposeful learning.  A child in the Montessori classroom is free to move about, selecting any activity or lesson to work with for as long as they wish.  They understand that they must use the lessons with purpose and care and replace them in their proper place when they have finished.

Most of these lessons are didactic and self-correcting in nature allowing the child to observe their work and make corrections themselves without relying on external cues from the teacher.  In this way, the child is able to master his environment on his own which is empowering on both a social and emotional level.  A child’s self-esteem is greatly increased when they are able to accomplish tasks independently.  It is not uncommon to hear “No thank you, I can do it myself” throughout the school day.  By fostering independence at an early age, children become more responsible for the outcome of their learning which benefits them greatly in future academic endeavors.

 What about Homework?

Most Montessori schools do not assign homework to children below the elementary age level.  When it is assigned to older children, it does not involve pages and pages of “busy” work. Elementary children are given meaningful, interesting assignments which involve critical thinking and creativity.  Most of these assignments stem from topics they are pursuing in class.  Assignments are usually tailored to the individual child’s abilities and students are usually given opportunities to choose from various alternative assignments.

 Is Standardized Testing part of the Montessori Program?

Very few Montessori schools give standardized tests to children under the first or second grade.  At Baldwin Oaks Academy we administer the NEAT (Norris Educational Achievement Test) to children in the third grade and above.  This test in given at the beginning and end of the year and is used primarily by the child’s teacher to assess the child’s growth over the course of the year.

 How Do Montessori Schools Report Student Progress?

At Baldwin Oaks Academy we believe a strong parent/teacher relationship involves good communication.  Parents are welcome to ask about their child’s progress at any time during the course of the year.  In January, we hold a formal, school-wide, parent-teacher conference for all of our students.

Primary children receive a narrative progress report at the end of the year.  This report discusses each student’s work, social development, and mastery of fundamental skills.  Out lower elementary students receive two progress notes each year and our Upper Elementary students receive four.

 Will my child be able to adjust to traditional public of private schools after Montessori?

By the end of Kindergarten, Montessori children are normally self-confident learners who have developed a curiosity for and love of learning.  There is nothing inherent in Montessori that causes children to have a hard time if they are transferred to traditional schools.  Some may be bored or others may not understand why everyone in the class has to do the same thing at the same time.  For those parents interested in our Elementary program, we recommend children stay through the sixth grade as the curriculum continues to be more enriched than that taught in the more traditional school setting

Why are there no computers in the Primary Montessori classrooms?

Baldwin Oaks has thoughtfully made the decision to leave computers out of the Primary classroom for a number of developmental reasons.  Children need multisensory experiences. As Dr. Montessori stated, “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence” and for this reason she designed a multitude of didactic materials to help children learn about and understand their environment in a concrete, “hands-on” manner.  Children need to move.  During the first five years of life, a child’s brain is being structured and the patterns of learning and attention that are being developed are affected by the child’s experiences in their environment. A Montessori classroom offers a multitude of opportunities for movement.  Every skill is taught with a variety of large and small muscle activities, a far more valuable experience for the children than the small finger movements used in computer games.  Children need activities that promote discovery and experimentation.  Computers provide a very one dimensional means of experimentation.  Parameters for discovery are created by the programmer and cannot be deviated from.  Though the Montessori materials have a base of structure and order, there is plenty of room for the children to try out their own ideas.  They are able to test the “What if?” and evaluate the results rather than settle for a “right” or “wrong” response associated with computers.

At Baldwin Oaks Academy, we believe the time the primary children spend in school should be focused on using the multisensory, concrete materials found within the classroom. Our lower and upper elementary students have access to a computer room for the purpose of more abstract based skill building and research oriented projects.


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