More a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori developed a comprehensive educational approach based on her observations of children's needs and her understanding of children's natural learning tendencies.

The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life. It is designed to help children with their task of inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child.

The child's innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving him/her opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, children develop concentration and joyful self-discipline. Within a framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities.

A video overview of Montessori education

Mixed Age Groups

One of the hallmarks of the Montessori method is that children of mixed ages work together in the same class. Age groupings are based on developmental planes. Children from 3-6 years of age are together in Primary classes, 6-12 year olds share the elementary classes, often grouped as lower elementary for 6-9 year old children and upper elementary for children ages 9-12 years. The child's innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving him/her opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, children develop concentration and joyful self-discipline. Within a framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities.

The Prepared Environment

The "prepared environment" is Maria Montessori's concept that the classroom environment should be designed by the adult to facilitate maximum, independent learning and exploration by the child. Attributes of a prepared environment include order and reality, beauty and simplicity. Everything is child-sized to enhance the children's independent functioning.

In the Montessori classroom, learning materials are arranged invitingly on low, open shelves. Children may choose whatever materials they would like to use and may work for as long as the material holds their interest. When they are finished with each material, they return it to the shelf from which it came.

Because the classroom is carefully prepared to meet the needs of the child, children can work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Montessori Education

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace. Learning is 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 (3-6, 6-9, 9-12), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.

Are there group activities as well as individual instruction in a Montessori class?

While the emphasis is on a child's ability to grow and progress on an individual basis, there are ample opportunities in a Montessori classroom for the child to become aware of him or herself in relation to the other children in the class. There are regular gatherings of the class as a whole for such activities as lunch, circle time, planning events and activities, and for discussion of matters relating to the group as a whole. In the Elementary Program, children are encouraged to collaborate by choosing to work on projects with a peer or with a group.

What is the role of the Montessori teacher?

Because Montessori theory holds that children learn best through their own efforts, the role of the Montessori teacher is that of an "objective observer." The teacher not only serves as a resource person in the classroom, but also acts in a supportive role by preparing the classroom, evaluating the children, and providing them with new lessons as they indicate their need and readiness, and then by stepping into the background and allowing the children to assume more and more responsibility.

Do Montessori teachers have specialized training?

The two major organizations offering Montessori training in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Montessori training can be found across North America and around the world. Most training centers require a bachelor's degree for admission. Training covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials. Currently, all CFMS teachers hold AMI certification.

Why are different ages grouped together?

Younger children benefit from the guidance and stimulation of older children, while older children gain additional self-esteem and independence by helping younger ones. Children can always find others who are working at their level, regardless of age. The children stay in the same class for several years, developing strong bonds with their classmates and teachers.

How do the children learn to socialize and share?

Socializing and learning to share come very naturally in a Montessori classroom. A child here does not have to share his work. No one is allowed to touch another's work unless invited to do so. As you look around the room you will see many children working together. Many times a child is so excited about what he is able to do that he wants to give a lesson or demonstration to someone else. Throughout the day there are opportunities for this natural, spontaneous socializing.

How do I know if Montessori is best for my child?

Parents considering a Montessori education for their child are encouraged to research the Montessori philosophy of child development and education to see if it is compatible with your own. To explore whether Christian Family Montessori School is the best choice for your child, we encourage you to contact our office to schedule a tour of the school, and be sure to ask about the theory behind the activities you observe.

Can I do Montessori at home with my child?

An authentic Montessori education takes place in the prepared environment of a Montessori classroom with children of different ages led by a trained Montessori guide. All parents, however, can use Montessori principles of child development to reinforce a child's Montessori school education. For instance, children need a sense of belonging, and they get it by participating fully in the routines of everyday life. Providing opportunities for independence is the surest way to build a child's confidence level and self-esteem. A publication entitled At Home with Montessori describes ways to use Montessori philosophy in the home environment. It is available from the North American Montessori Teachers' Association.

My friend told me that Montessori allows a child to do whatever he wants to do, for as long as he wants to do it. Is this true?

A child in a Montessori environment may choose their own work, however it must be selected from materials he/she has already received a lesson on. The child may work on the material as long as he/she likes. The Montessori teacher is trained in observation. The teacher keeps careful records of what lessons have been given, observes the child and his/her choice of activities, and checks each child's knowledge in one area before moving on to the next lesson. The teacher will offer an alternative to a child who has chosen something beyond his ability. The child is free to move about the classroom at will, to talk to other children, to work with any materials that he understands, or to ask a teacher to introduce new materials. A child is not free to disturb other children or to misuse the materials.