School's History and Mission Title
acp logo  
School's History and Mission
Directions and Maps
Enrollment Procedures
Montessori Method and History
Other Information
School Calendar
School Pictures


What is Montessori?
Montessori is a philosophy of education popular throughout the world that encourages and supports the unfolding of a child’s maximum potential by assisting the child to educate herself at her own pace.  Its main beliefs are: 1) each child is a unique individual and has the ability to explore her own capabilities given the right environment; 2) children have sensitive periods for learning (i.e., for language, order, movement, etc.); 3) very young children learn through their unconscious absorbent minds; 4) observation is crucial; and 5) appropriate developmental environments and expectations are essential.  The philosophy respects the individuality of the child, her freedom and choice within limits.  The role of the adult in the environment is to assist the child to meet her needs independently, thus leading her to explore her identity, independence and realize her full potential.  An environment is prepared to guide the child in self directed work with hands-on sensorial activities.  The concrete materials require movement and the use of his hands to develop his mind.  The philosophy respects the natural abilities and progression of each individual child’s development.

Who is Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870 and became the first female physician in her country.  By the age of 36, she was a medical doctor, an educator, writer, and lecturer, with degrees in philosophy, psychology, and anthropology.  Her initial professional research was with mentally challenged children where she formed many of her theories from observation.  Dr. Montessori tested these theories when she opened a school for underprivileged children in the San Lorenzo district of Rome.  With child-sized furniture and specially designed materials, she observed and modified her curriculum based on her first student body of 60 deprived children under the age of six.  Within six months, the children displayed self-discipline, preferred learning materials to toys, and worked with a profound concentration and joy.  They had a love for order, respected their environment, and enjoyed working in silence beside their friends.  The children would carry on “business as usual” with or without the teacher’s presence.  Gradually, Maria Montessori's work became known and is now practiced world-wide.

How does Montessori differ from traditional education?
Montessori education differs from traditional education in many ways but probably the most fundamental difference is that Montessori is child-centered whereas traditional education is teacher-centered.  The list of comparisons below has been adapted from the American Montessori Society:

Montessori Conventional
early start in school (2-3) late start in school (5-6)
3-year age range per class one age per class
freedom to move about & choose work seated at desks
community atmosphere little socialization
individual lessons large group lessons
self-correcting materials teacher as source of answers
natural, logical consequences rewards and punishments
longer free work periods frequent interruptions
enhanced curriculum limited curriculum
progress of student as test peer comparison as test
emphasis on learning emphasis on grades
emphasis on individuality emphasis on conformity
progress at individual rate annual promotion
emphasis on "self" control teacher as disciplinarian
PEACE in education corporal punishment
strong school/home ties little parent involvement
observation based progress reports graded report cards
child centered schedule adult centered education

How does a classroom work with different ages?
Younger children usually want to do what the older children are doing.  A vertically-aged Montessori classroom offers an inherent motivator for children to constantly challenge themselves.  The older children benefit tremendously from this grouping as they become teachers and leaders, developing confidence and independence.  This process of sharing what they know reaffirms what they have already learned.

Children in a vertically-aged classroom advance in the complexity of their work without waiting for the group as a whole.  If a child is progressing more rapidly or more slowly in a certain area, she has the opportunity to work at her own level of understanding.  A child's progress is measured against their own ability not that of others.  Every child will advance more quickly in some areas than others.  This is a natural part of growth and the Montessori classroom is able to adapt to the individual needs of each child.  For instance, if a child is mastering material quickly the teacher will simply give a lesson on more complex materials which is already in the classroom for older children.  If a child is having a difficult time grasping a particular concept, the child is allowed to focus on that area until she is ready to move on.  Often a second presentation or a slight variation will help a child understand a concept more easily.

A multi-age Montessori classroom naturally entails different levels of ability and therefore offers diversity, stimulation, and a path for growth integral to the success of a child.
Is Montessori just for special learners such as the gifted or those with learning difficulties?
Maria Montessori started her research and methods with children experiencing learning difficulties.  Because her methods were so successful, they were extended to a wide range of children.  The environment and methods used in the Montessori classroom are designed to ensure the holistic development and success of all children.

Do Montessori classrooms push children too far?
Central to the Montessori philosophy is the idea of allowing each child to develop at her own individual pace.  Montessori children who are advanced compared to traditional expectations for their age level do not reflect artificial acceleration or pressured instruction.  Rather, they reflect the vast possibilities and potential when children are allowed to learn at their own pace and pursue what is interesting to them during their sensitive periods of learning in a scientifically prepared environment.

Is Montessori just for preschool children?
Montessori is a philosophy of education that starts at birth and continues through adulthood.  The majority of the Montessori programs offered in U.S. schools are preschools (ages 3-6) but there are a growing number of infant and toddler programs as well as 6-9, 9-12, and 12-15 programs in the U.S. as of late.

Is Montessori out of date?
Quite the contrary actually.  Dr. Maria Montessori was a woman ahead of her time and the insights she discovered and observed about children in the early 1900s are just now being confirmed and praised by contemporary research and evaluation.   Traditional educators are adopting some of the Montessori practices in their everyday curriculum.  Some adaptations to the original Montessori curriculum have been updated (e.g., modifications to the Practical Life exercises) to keep it culturally relevant, but the basic pedagogy has not changed much since Dr. Montessori's lifetime because the developmental stages of humans have not changed.
Are Montessori schools religious?
The Montessori philosophy itself is not religiously oriented.  Many schools follow the principle of celebrating and learning about every religion from a cultural viewpoint.  Diversity is an integral part of learning about the world and its happenings.  Montessori schools also work to respect the specific religious needs and desires of each member of the classroom.

There are, however, private Montessori schools in the U.S. who do have a religious orientation so it is important to ask each school.  a child's place Montessori Schools do not have a religious orientation or denomination and honors and respects all religions.
What about transition to traditional schools?
A Montessori environment naturally fosters inner discipline, self motivation, love of learning and a sense of order, the skills necessary for successful learning.  These skills accompany them throughout their academic journey in any environment.  A child’s first educational experiences affect the type of learner they will be throughout their lives.  Good communication in the transition of a child to any new environment is essential.  Both parents and a child’s former teacher must help facilitate a transition through realistic communication of a child’s development and skills.

What special training do Montessori teachers have?
The two major organizations offering Montessori training in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Most training centers require a bachelor's degree for admission. Training ranges from 200 to 600 pre-service contact hours and covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials. Montessori training centers can be found across North America and around the world.

This list of FAQs was adapted from information contained on the North American Montessori Teachers' Association (NAMTA) website.