Questions frequently asked about Montessori
1. Who was Maria Montessori?
She was an Italian physician and educator, the first women to receive a medical degree in Italy. Born in 1870, she developed a psychologically rooted method of educating children. She devoted her life to this work and was honored and respected throughout the world at the time of her death in 1952.
2. What are “sensitive periods”?
“Sensitive periods” were Montessori’s name for the age periods when the child shows unusual capabilities in acquiring particular skills. A modern name for the phenomenon might be “formative periods” or “periods of specific maturational aptness,” a period in which the child is psychologically attuned to learn or acquire given ideas or skills more easily than at any other period. Modern psychologists refer to “critical learning periods” and stress “developmental needs to be capitalized upon with developmental tasks.” For example, the sensitive period for writing is between 3 an 1/2 and 4 and 1/2 years of age for the average child, learning to read and number recognition at the age of 4 and 5, precise movement and coordination 2 and 1/2 to 4, and acquiring a sense of order 2 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 years of age.
3. What is the Montessori concept of freedom?
Freedom is a prerequisite condition for learning. Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. A free child (or adult) is one who has developed his potential and prefers to work out problems for himself, but is capable of asking for and receiving direction when necessary. An undisciplined and unskilled child (or adult) is not free, but is a slave to his immediate desires and is excessively dependent on others (whether parent or teacher or wife or husband). The free child, of course, grows into a free adult.
4. What is the Montessori concept of discipline?
Discipline is the second prerequisite condition for learning. Montessori discipline is an “inner discipline”; an inner control which the child develops over his own behavior through working with Montessori materials. Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children were really frustrated because of the lack of proper stimulation and inadequate opportunity to achieve. She noted that they became happier and self-controlled after a period of time in a Montessori class in which they experienced challenging tasks absorbing their energies and resulting in a sense of achievement.
5. What Happens After Montessori?
Because, overall, MCHD graduates are self-confident, compassionate thinkers who enjoy learning, they have the necessary tools for true success throughout their academic career. However, some parents worry that their child will not be able to transition to a more traditional program after graduating from Montessori because of contrasting methodology.
Our first recommendation is to attend Montessori throughout the academic career for an optimum learning environment. However, under some circumstances this may not be possible, and the child will need to transition to a non-Montessori program. The good news is that, across the country, children regularly graduate from Montessori into non-Montessori public or private schools with great success.
MCHD students have overwhelmingly graduated into a variety of schools, ranging from very traditional to more progressive with high success. Over the past 16 years, we have found that the secrets to a successful transition are the same as the secrets to any positive school experience:
1) Research and observe potential schools and classrooms thoroughly.
2) Meet the teacher well in advance to determine whether or not he/she truly enjoys teaching and will embrace, support and encourage each unique child’s learning in a positive way.
3) Prepare the child for the transition beforehand by discussing the differences between their old Montessori classroom and the new classroom and giving the child a chance to observe and practice the new classroom’s traditions.
4) Keep open communication with the teacher and school about the change so that the teaching staff can help to prepare the child for the transition beforehand as well.
5) If your child is entering a class where he/she won’t know the other children, arrange play dates for him/her to develop friendships.
6) Stay positive about the transition. Children inherently pick up on adult anxieties, so the more positive and relaxed the adults are, the more relaxed the child will be.
When selecting a school, students are always more successful when a teacher and the school itself can provide appropriate academic challenges, make learning fun, and allow younger children (through 2nd grade) to move around the room.
6. What do I do if my child doesn’t transition well?
If a child has difficulty transitioning well, it is important to look at the root of the problem. Is it boredom? Is the relationship with the Teacher or other students strained for some reason? Is the structure of the program not successful for your child’s learning styles? Overall, trust your child and communicate with him or her to get to the root of what is going on. Trust your own instincts as well, and advocate for your child, even if it isn’t congruent with messages you receive from the school. Parents are the experts when it comes to their own children.
Once the problem is identified, work cooperatively with the school and the teacher to address the problems at hand until they are resolved. Good schools and teachers are always concerned with what is in the best interests of each student over inconvenience.
Families are also invited to contact MCHD for support. Graduates are still very much a part of the MCHD community and MCHD is committed to supporting their success in their new situation.