Frequently Asked Questions about Montessori Education

 
  • Where did “Montessori Education” come from?

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 observations of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr Montessori designed a prepared learning environment in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, nearly a century after Dr 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.

  • What is the difference between Montessori and Traditional Education?

Montessori Education emphasizes learning through all of the senses, not just 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 becomes 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 (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, 15-18) – called VERTICAL GROUPING – forming communities in which older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger children.

  • Is Montessori Education good for children with learning difficulties? What about gifted children?

Montessori Education is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own pace. A classroom whose children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone has the opportunity to contribute in some way. Moreover, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling superior or inferior to its peer group. A policy of Inclusion allows children to realise similarities and differences in all. A key factor in successful inclusive education is parents support and commitment, and working with the school.

  • Can I do Montessori at home with my child and can anyone just “do Montessori”?

Only a trained and qualified Montessori teacher (also known as a directress) should assume responsibility for more formal Montessori Education by using the specialised equipment of the prepared environment, and her skilled knowledge of the complete philosophy and system. However, parents are educated in and encouraged to use the basic principles everywhere and whenever they can: Montessori Education is intended to be an Education for Life and an Aid to Life. To help parents, we suggest looking 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 to do it by myself” is the life theme for the toddler and pre-school aged child. Find ways to help your child participate in meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for their rooms etc. Provide opportunities for independence is the surest way to build your child’s self-esteem.

Through our school’s Parent Education programme, we aim to give parents as many skills and tools to enhance their child’s life.

  • What training do Montessori teachers have?

Montessori Teachers have at least 2 years, usually 3 years, training for each stage of Montessori Education i.e. there is a qualification for 3-6 teaching, an additional one for 6-9, and so on. In other words, teaching at 9-12 level means at least 6 years of training. Montessori teachers often have other qualifications, too, such as traditional teaching diplomas, degrees etc.

Montessori teachers, like all educators, are required to register with the South African Council for Educators.

The Port Elizabeth Montessori School is a training centre for Integral Montessori.

  • Are Montessori children successful later in life?

Research has shown that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardised tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, handing in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning and adapting to new situations.

Some famous Montessori graduates include the Founders of Google, the Founder of Amazon, the Founder of Wikipedia, Princes William and Harry and many, many more.  Just Google it to find out!

Our own graduates have proven the success of Montessori Education too.

  • What happens after Montessori?

Montessori Education focuses on the development of life skills, in all areas of a child’s development. Because of this emphasis, we have found our children adjust quickly and easily to a more traditional environment.

How a child adjusts is very much dependent on who they are as people, and is not only dependent on the fact that they have attended a Montessori school. When a child is going to leave our school, every effort is made to communicate with the new school. We offer any information about the child that would help facilitate an easy transition and support the child in the move.

Any good teacher will meet a child at that child’s own level of development. It is important for parents to monitor their child’s work in the new environment and keep close contact with new teachers.

The habits and skills that a child develops in a Montessori class are there for a lifetime. They will help him or her work more efficiently, to observe carefully, concentrate well and respect his/her fellow human beings. When a child moves into a new environment, his self-education, will continue.

  • Are Montessori schools registered and accredited?

Montessori schools, which extend into formal education are required to register as Independent schools with the provincial Department of Education, and therefore adhere to the laws governing these schools. Through the Rights and Responsibilities for Independent Schools (from the Department of Basic Education) allows for the right to implement a Montessori curriculum. Our school is also a member of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA). Please see the link to our Quality Assurance Report, conducted by the Independent Quality Assurance Agency (IQAA) in 2011.

IQAA Report

Our school, either in its own right or through Sam as the principal, is also members of the following organisations:

      • The Montessori Professions Council of Southern Africa
      • Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)
      • North American Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA)
      • American Montessori Society (AMS)
      • South African Montessori Association (SAMA)
  • How do I know I am making the right decision?

We can never really answer that question. However, parents need to make sure they are informed enough to make a decision that will work best for their child.

Ask questions when visiting schools: do you have vertical grouping? Do you have a good range of Montessori equipment? Is your staff Montessori trained? What is the long-term growth plan of the school? How do you manage discipline? …The questions are endless and you are entitled to ask them.

Remember too to trust your gut feeling/instinct. You know your child better than anyone ever will and so know best what will work for him/her.

You are welcome to contact us at The Port Elizabeth Montessori School to answer any questions you may have.

There are many misconceptions about Montessori Education. Please ask a qualified and experienced Montessorian to give you an accurate perspective.

Informed decisions require education and information. We are always happy to help you in any way we can.

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