Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions!

Where did the Montessori curriculum come from?

Dr Maria Montessori started the Montessori curriculum in her native, Italy. She was born in a small town called Chiaravalle in 1870 but later, in 1882, moved to Rome with her parents! After her schooling she went to medical school and was the first women ever granted a degree in Medicine in Italy. When she started working as a physician first she worked with the mentally deficient and this is where many of her findings and theories come from.

Montessori opened her first “Children’s House” in a poor area of Rome in 1907. Most of the children that attended the first Casa de Bambini were poor and some were also mentally deficient. Montessori used her finding from her work as a physician and created the materials based on scientific facts and through her observations of the children working with materials her curriculum was developed! Most of the equipment used in a Montessori classroom today has been tested and worked on by Dr Maria herself.

Montessori spread around Europe first and in 1915 she was brought her curriculum to America. She established the Montessori movement in India during the war and left India in 1946. She continued to work on her philosophy and studying theorists and philosophers until her death in 1952 in Holland at the age of 82.

Why are Montessori teachers called guides?

In a Montessori classroom the adults in the class are not teachers! They do not teach anything! They are guides or directresses. They do not teach the children anything because the children are capable of self-learning. The adults guide the children through the curriculum at the child’s pace and show the child how to use the material correctly.

Does Montessori curriculum benefit all children, including children with special need and extremely gifted children?

Yes! Children in the Montessori curriculum work at their own pace and to their own strengths and advantages! Montessori guides or directresses guide the children through the materials according to their own abilities. A child learns self-praise through the independence and self-confidence or completing tasks at their own pace and therefore neither feel like nor compare their achievements to the other children in their class.

What age do children have to be to attend a Montessori classroom? 

The Montessori Curriculum starts at birth and goes right up until 18 years old.

The class structure is a multi age grouping system. From 0-3 Years, 3-6 Years, 6-9 Years, 9-12 Years, 12-15 Years and 15-18 Years! At I AM Montessori our Family Day Care Educators run Montessori Family Day Care from 0-3 Years and our classes at Yeronga are from 0-3 Years, 0-6 Years and Drop Off Classes from 3-6 Years.

Why are classes multi aged?

Montessori’s observations in the early 20th century in Casa de Bambini recognised that children work better in a multi aged classrooms. She found that the older children take pride in setting good examples for the younger children, they like to show younger children how to use materials correctly and they act as guide themselves. The younger children then in turn learn from the older children and strive to be independent like older children.

Is Montessori too structured or strict for my child?

This is a common misconception about Montessori. The Montessori environment is actually a lot freer than other classrooms. The children experience ‘freedom within limits’ in our environment. The children are free to choose any activity that they have been guided through by the directress. They are free to choose activities that they have mastered as well as well as activities that they are still in the process of mastering!

How can I, as a parent, ensure that my child is learning the necessary skills to be ready for school or ready to move onto the next level of their education?

Although the children choose their own activities in the environment every Montessori Directress observes the children and their progress at their own rate. We work with the children at their own pace and we are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, using their strengths to build up and improve their weaknesses. Through the curriculum in 0-6 years the children learn through the practical life area, sensorial area (working through the senses), mathematics, language and culture. Everything they learn is in a concrete way and therefore the children learn it easier than trying to learn the abstract thought for each activity and lesson.

Why Montessori is for every child…

My son is currently 4, and is lucky enough to be attending a Montessori School here in Brisbane.

I have been looking at different Education systems for the past three years for my work, however only this year have I had to look at it from personal circumstances with my own child.

In Australia we have the Public School System, Catholic Education and Independent Schools, with Montessori schools falling under the latter.

I have visited schools in all of these categories, looked at our local options and been blown away at how little has changed in the 25 years since I started at school. Behaviour systems that endorse public shaming, very little concrete learning, and everything becoming digitalised. Interactive white boards, and ipads being spruiked like it’s the best thing in the world. In both situations I’ve left with my heart and head hurting at the thought of all these children missing out on the Montessori method of education.

When researching Montessori at the start of your journey, you may read things like ‘Montessori is not for boys, ASD children can’t do Montessori, Montessori is too structured, Montessori is too free, and so on and so forth’.

After three years of running classes, observing schools, managing centres and talking to parents, I strongly believe Montessori is for EVERY child.

The prepared environment, the individual lessons and materials with isolated concepts, the way the Educators speaks to students, the structure of the work cycle; everything that happens in a Montessori school, happens because it’s proven to work. Science shows this is how children learn, this is what makes them happy.

And because this is how CHILDREN learn, whether they are auditory, visual or tactile learners, the equipment speaks to all of them and draws them into want to learn, inviting them to play.

As Maria Montessori stated ‘Play is the work of the Child’. Children play in a montessori environment, it is just not what society typically pictures play to look like. When we hear ‘play’ as adults, we envision children running around loudly, toys everywhere, dirt and no structure. This is a version of play, however so is the calmness and focus in a Montessori classroom. It is a version of play that children crave. Their developmental need for a sense of order, for repetition and freedom in choices. Their need for boundaries and for uninterrupted time.  All of this is in a Montessori setting, and for over a century, all over the world, it’s WORKED.

Boisterous boys who could never sit still, or created chaos wherever they went can sit for almost an hour straight building a tower out of ten pink cubes. Children who couldn’t focus on anything for more than a minute, sit there for hours, day after day, pouring water from cup to cup, spooning beans from bowl to bowl with a calmness and beaming face like you’ve never seen before.

I see children bouncing out of the car, running to class, bursting with excitement to start their day. I see children not wanting to leave the classroom at the end of the day because they want to keep playing. I hear children helping younger children, whilst two others are sitting at the Peace table sorting out their conflict better than many adults I know can.

Until you have really observed, really seen Montessori in action, I promise you, you won’t believe me. I also promise you, that the moment you see your child’s face light up and look towards you with pride and such happiness after completing work from one of the shelves, you won’t be able to look at Education the same way again.

I know globally, it is extremely hard for services to keep up with the demand for Montessori, which makes access to a school difficult, starting a centre difficult with a lack of trained teachers available. I know that in some countries it is extremely expensive to attend a Montessori School and then there are some centres that are just not Montessori.

As a parent, I feel the pain and I know how hard it is to make decisions about a future we cannot predict, amidst the busyness of our own lives that are over-scheduled, hectic and overwhelming.

But as the world changes, and technology shifts the way we function, the way we work and live; as environmental impacts come to light, and the world seeks new solutions, there has never been a more important time for creative, innovative, motivated citizens than right now.

Dr Maria Montessori designed her method of education to ensure students would become contributing members of society. The only education method that provides this holistic opportunity is Montessori, and the world needs it more than ever.

Nothing is more important than education. With education, we can change the world. But the world has moved on, and the system remains the same.

Its time for change; it’s time for an education revolution.