Is it true that Montessori allows children to do whatever they want to do, for as long as they want to do it?
A Montessori classroom is a carefully prepared environment with a variety of materials and activities to satisfy the youngest to the most advanced student. Children in a Montessori environment may choose their own work; however a teacher must first present a lesson on that material. A child may work on the material as long as he or she likes. Montessori teachers are trained in observation. The teacher keeps careful records of what lessons have been given, observes the child and his 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. Children are free to move about the classroom at will, to talk to other children, to work with any equipment that they understand, or to ask a teacher to introduce new materials. A child is not free to disturb other children or to misuse the materials.
What is your approach to discipline?
There tend to be very few discipline problems in a Montessori classroom. When discipline issues do occur at MSM, we have two solutions. First, most discipline problems occur because a child has not found work which is sufficiently interesting to hold his or her attention. Therefore the teacher will introduce a new activity to the child. Second, a child may be asked to remove himself from the group to a space, within the classroom, designated as the "quiet spot" to take a few minutes to "quiet their body." Children learn how to calm themselves down and regain control during circle time lessons given at the beginning of each year. Individual children may have repeated lessons in this area. The child who has been removed from the group may return when he or she feels "quieted". Children also learn to remove themselves to regain control. Sometimes an adult will speak with a child away from the group. If a child disturbs another child, physically or verbally, the children are removed from the group and walked through the steps of conflict resolution with the aide of an adult.
How do the children in a Montessori class learn to socialize and share?
Socializing and learning to share come very naturally in a Montessori classroom. Children are not required to share their work nor is any child permitted 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 children are so excited about what they are able to do that they want to give a lesson or demonstration to someone else. Throughout the day there are many opportunities for this natural, spontaneous socializing. Children are also given ample opportunity to share ideas, information, work and special items during group lessons and daily circle time.
How do children do in other schools after a Montessori education?
Studies have shown that Montessori children are very adaptable to new situations. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they have been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, Montessori children are problem solvers who are able to make choices and manage their time well. They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others and good communication skills ease the way in new settings. Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop positive self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.
How do I know if a school is a "true" Montessori School?
There is no legal way to prevent any unethical person from labeling any early childhood program "Montessori". In many areas there are a few schools labeled Montessori, without trained teachers, Montessori materials, or the use of Montessori methods. The best way to identify a "true" Montessori school is to familiarize yourself with the Montessori method and to check the school's credentials. Check to see that the school you are looking at is affiliated with a national or international Montessori organization such as the American Montessori Society or the Association Montessori Internationale. Check to see that the teachers have their Montessori certification.
Where can I get more information on the Montessori Method?
Many books are available about Dr. Montessori and her work. At the Montessori School of Manhattan, we recommend A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom by Ailene Wolf, and Montessori - A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard.
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