Frequently Asked Questions
The Answers You Need
Why are children in mixed-age groups?
In the Montessori approach, children are grouped together in a cohort of their peers, within 2 years of each other. They are taught and shown by teachers how to regard one another as helpers and partners, rather than the traditional school model where children are measured against one another in competition. In educational research this is known as a measure of encouraging "pro social" behavior.
Why aren't there grades and tests?
In recent educational research, qualitative observation and assessment are recognized to be the more in-depth and most effective type of assessment and evaluation of student learning and performance. Grades and tests measure only quantitative, or number-based, data, limiting the scope of each child's learning and abilities to a single type of evaluation. Montessori pioneered qualitative assessment in the modern education of today, and remains unrivaled in its delivery of deep, meaningful, context-based learning.
Why don't students have assigned seats?
In both the preschool and elementary classrooms, children are afforded "flexible seating", meaning it is their independent decision whether they sit with their work at a table and chair, on the floor with a work rug, or perhaps standing at a table to allow their body some movement while they work. Research supports that this flexible seating is the ideal accommodation for a wide variety of learners, one of the many standout features of Montessori education for the last 100 years.
Why should I choose Montessori over traditional school?
Montessori education is a popular choice for families who value their child's development of independence, self-motivation, and intrinsic sense of self-worth and self-value. Due to the consistent teaching techniques based in positive reinforcement and emphasis on student-centered independence in learning, children are able to cultivate a positive relationship with both their academic learning and with themselves, known in today's lingo as a "growth mindset."
Do Montessori students have an advantage over traditional school students?
According to the most recent research on student mental health and well-being, the answer is yes. Students who learn in traditional settings have been shown to develop a conditional sense of self worth based on their performance; when high-achieving students reach their first failures and challenges they attribute that failure to a personal failure of who they are. Montessori students who have been encouraged to develop a growth mindset over the course of their learning, focusing on the process of learning rather than the outcomes or results, have been shown to test more positively on the "grit scale," showing determination and a positive outlook long past traditionally-minded learners.
Is there a daily schedule for students?
Both preschool and elementary classrooms in Montessori facilitate children receiving and practicing their work over the course of 3-hour work cycles in both morning and afternoon, preschool adjusting the afternoon to a 2-hour work cycle; sometimes this is misinterpreted as being schedule-free. This is again another characteristic of Montessori education being based-in and supported by modern educational research, because of the connection between the development of concentration over long periods of time to a child's ability to self-regulate their feelings, emotions, and behaviors, being a clear link.
I heard students are allowed to paint or play all day. Is that true?
This is a common misunderstanding that, no, is not true. However, our society tends to misunderstand the young child's desire to repeat a chosen activity multiples times a day, week or month, as somehow being a display of "playing" or being un-purposeful. For children aged 0-6, they are drawn to repetition as they work to perfect their gross and fine motor movements. Montessori teachers are trained to observe for and recognize these traits, and help children continue to seek out new and purposeful work. Elementary age children move beyond this urge of repetition, and are then taught in class how to make purposeful choices, and how to practice well-rounded decision-making across all academic subjects.
Do Montessori teachers need special training?
Yes. All Montessori teachers must first have a Bachelors degree before they can apply to enter Montessori training. Additionally, Montessori education is a predecessor of the branch of research today known as Cognitive Behavior Development. This requires teachers in Montessori training to have an open mind, to learn to observe the behavior of students, and how to teach from positive reinforcement techniques rather than traditional approaches that may include punishment, ultimatums, or competition as motivators.
If students work at their own pace, don't they fall behind?
Because students are encouraged to follow their interests, and elementary children are supported to then push beyond their interests into more in-depth study, students do not fall behind. In fact, because Montessori children can begin school as young as the age of 3, they tend to be ahead of their traditional school peers, starting first grade with practice of addition in the thousands, beginning to learn multiples and factors, and 6th graders learning how to solve for cube root by hand, how to balance algebraic equations, the anatomy of molecules, and more.
Why don't students have homework?
Just as adults feel healthiest when they have a balance between their personal and their work, children are no different-- they feel healthiest, and are at their strongest in school, when they are able to go home in the evenings and separate from the work of their day. Supported by modern behavioral and educational research, this again bears out in the growth mindset of children developing a positive relationship to themselves and their learning, learning that when work becomes "punishment," their enthusiasm and joy for it dissipates. The exception to the "no homework" rule is for upper elementary students (grades 4, 5, and 6) who begin to practice homework in reasonable amounts as they lead up to transitioning into middle school.