Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you offer 5 days a week?
The children are all working at their own levels and periods of readiness. No child will be doing exactly what another child is doing. Therefore, they are not required to do a particular activity on a particular day. When they come only 2 or 3 days a week, it becomes necessary for the teacher to present lessons in a shortened time frame – it then becomes a teacher directed classroom. Children then lose the chance to work in a relaxed time frame and have to rush to complete learning materials. Remember not all children learn at the same pace or in the same way. It also is more consistent for the child. Three hours truly has never been too long for any of the 2 1/2 or 3 year olds who have been enrolled.
How does the classroom get to this point? My child could never be this quiet or self-sufficient.
The classroom environment is constantly under development. We continuously integrate new students and methods. The first day only returning children attend. They set the pattern. New students are started a few at a time. This gives the teacher time to work with them and present lessons without the child being overwhelmed. Teachers present lessons and give them small amounts of freedom to work with materials (most are not used to having freedom, rather they are used to being told what to do). The Directress then observes them and when they are finished with a material, she will be there to help the child clean up and put things away before beginning another activity. This pattern is repeated until the child is able to do it on his/her own. He/She is gradually given longer periods of time to work by himself/herself. The goal is freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility. The more responsible a child is, the more freedom he or she will be given. Also, the teacher is a role model. She does not yell across the room, but rather speaks quietly. The child observes this and eventually does the same. It is a process, though, and it takes time.
What if a child works only with a few materials to the exclusion of others?
It all depends upon why they are working so long with one material. If they are really absorbed in it (their sensitive period) they are allowed to work with it as long as they wish (may be days or even weeks) because when they have mastered it, they will move on. If they are doing something simply to be busy (they grab the closest activity when asked to find some work) then the teachers will suggest more challenging work. The teacher will make the choice for that child because they are not yet able to make appropriate choices for themselves. This is the goal.
How is discipline handled in the classroom?
Montessori provided us with the concept of natural consequences. This means that the Directress along with a child would try to determine what should happen from a given action. For example, if a child is running with a scissors, naturally a child needs to be shown how to carry a scissors safely and told what responsibility comes with keeping others as safe as himself. If a child, spills something the natural response is to show a child how to clean up his/her spill. The Directress spends time redirecting to find something of interest to a child and the given misbehavior usually disappears.
How does the classroom differ at a Montessori school?
The environment is thought out and prepared by a Montessori trained Directress. The Directress’s main job when selecting things for the classroom is to bring in real things and things of beauty. Everything is child-sized, from the furniture to the pitchers for pouring or the broom for sweeping. The environment promotes exploration by its attractiveness and encourages respect by using real objects (i.e. glass pitchers at the snack table or vases for flower arranging). The environment is setup starting with very simple, concrete activities and moves to the more complex and abstract . A child’s own curiosity is what propels him through the materials. He develops an internal drive to learn more about the world around him. The materials in the curriculum are from all areas, Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Geography, Science, Art, and Music.
What is the difference between a Montessori preschool and other preschools?
At a Montessori Preschool, each child is looked at individually. Most activities or lessons are presented one on one. In most other preschools, a teacher teaches concepts to a whole group. The children’s individual understanding or interests usually do not play a part. In a Montessori setting, the children learn spontaneously through their work/play and their own need to “figure things out.” Children are able to work on socialization, play and educational concepts all in a very non-competitive environment designed especially for them.
What is the Montessori Method of education and its purpose?
The Montessori Method of education is simply an approach to learning. Dr. Maria Montessori believed that a child’s inner-self would spontaneously evolve given the right environment and age appropriate materials. Once children began this journey in life, their love of learning, respect for others and self-esteem would keep them motivated to keep learning and reaching out for more information.
How does socialization occur in a Montessori setting?
Socialization occurs in a very natural, normal way. Children are consistently conversing as they take out activities, plan cooperative work, have snack, greet one another, etc. It is happening continually, with Directresses gently guiding when necessary. Role modeling from the adults as well as from the older children reinforce the social graces. In addition, each day there is some group activity at Line Time and also free play outdoors.
Do we want parents to volunteer in the classroom?
By choosing a Montessori education for your child, you have also chosen the Montessori philosophy. Part of this philosophy is that the classroom belongs to the child. This is the child’s time to develop his or her own sense of self. They need an environment where they are free to develop independence, socialization skills, and problem solving on their own. By 2 1/2 or 3 years of age, a child is ready and typically welcomes the three hours in the morning to do some things on their own. For the older child, even longer periods away from a parent are developmentally appropriate.
The way that the Montessori classroom is designed, even the “teachers” pull away a little at a time so that by the middle to end of the year, the class is very self-sufficient. Montessori even calls the teachers in these classrooms directresses for they are there as guides to provide an environment conducive to the child’s own individual needs as learners and observers. In addition, unlike a traditional preschool or early childhood setting, not all twenty-five children are doing the same activities at once where extra help is needed. So we ask that parents not feel guilty about not being in the classroom. Instead, if a parent wants to get involved, we encourage you to do so in the following ways: parent-teacher conferences, parent nights, orientations or open houses, fundraising, and field trips. Also, if a parent or family member wants to share some talent or cultural tradition with the class, we gladly welcome making arrangements with the teachers to come in and do so. We encourage parents to come and observe anytime.
When I ask my child what they did at school today, they only say "I had snack," or "I played," or even "I don't know." What does my child do at school?
Children are very much in the present. Even when we as teachers ask about what they did over a vacation, that weekend, or what they had for dinner, rarely do they remember or find it significant enough to remember. The best way to learn more about what your child has done at school is to refer to Montessori materials and try to elicit a story based on an activity. Ask them if they used the Pink Tower, or if they did anything in the Practical Life area today. We encourage you to read the small blue booklet handed out at the beginning of the year, or refer to Our Curriculum to see what activities your child participates in. We make sure the child is engaged in meaningful activity while they are in our care. Sometimes it just takes the right approach to get a child to start explaining the day’s activities.