How does Montessori differ from traditional preschool?

One of the key elements of a Montessori program that differentiates it from a traditional preschool is the multi-age grouping of children. This grouping reflects the children’s stage of development, so that in the Montessori Primary program 3-, 4-, and 5- year olds work together in the same classroom with the same teachers. This arrangement recognizes the importance of peer interactions to foster interest in the materials, and to instill confidence and competence.

Materials are carefully sequenced from easy to more difficult, from concrete to abstract in Montessori curriculum areas. Lessons are given individually or in small groups, so that each child is guided through the scope and sequence of materials and work in a way that recognizes that child’s unique development.

Once a particular lesson is given, that works stays on the shelf for an extended period to ensure that children have an opportunity to repeat that work as often as desired. In traditional settings lessons are taught to children and children may or may not get an opportunity to repeat or practice.

For the most part, children are self-directed. Because work is individualized, children select their activities and their work place, choose to work individually or with others, and move about the classroom as they need.

The role of the Montessori teacher differs from that of teachers in traditional settings in that teachers observe children carefully and keep detailed records of their activity so they can plan which lessons to give. They note errors or needs and give new lessons, rather than directly correcting children, and they minimize rewards and punishments, including praise for children’s work, so as to foster self-directed, engaged learning in children.


Are all Montessori schools alike?

Dr. Maria Montessori did not legally protect her innovative ideas of how children learn and how two teach them, so there is nothing prohibiting any school from using her name whether or not the school uses her ideas in whole or in part.

There are several questions to ask to determine if a school is truly a Montessori school. Is the school accredited or affiliated with AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) or AMS (American Montessori Society)? Does the lead teacher in each classroom hold a credential from either AMS or AMI? Does the Director of the school hold a credential from either AMS or AMI? Does the school day schedule a 2-3 hour uninterrupted work time? Are the classes made up of children from 3-6 years old all learning together (multi-age classroom)? Does the school have Montessori materials and are the children using them? Does the representative from the school seem knowledgable and excited about Montessori theory?


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

A Montessori education is an individualized approach within a large multi-age group of children. It offers the opportunity for your child to socialize with other children through parallel play and cooperative work in a controlled setting. Learning how to operate within a group can be tricky, so we do not require children to spend every moment of the day with another child. For young children working independently is extremely satisfying. Each activity is tailored to fit the needs of your child. That means the teachers are continuously searching for works that are not too hard and not too easy, but just right so that your child can gain confidence with each success. Lessons are special one-on-one time with a teacher. Each child gets our full attention without interruption creating a strong bond between the student and guide. Appropriate socialization experiences, individualized education, and a happy classroom are a few reasons why Montessori education gains praise from masters in the child education field. They are also the reasons why a Montessori Primary education (Preschool and Kindergarten) will fit the needs of your child. At Gateway we partner with you the parent, the one who knows your child the best, so that your child receives just the right amount of instruction during these formative years.


Why do you call the children’s activities in the classroom ‘work’?

In a Montessori classroom children have a chance to do real work, not just imitating adult activities. Each day they serve themselves snack, wash their dishes, and clean the table. They can chooses clothes washing, where they wash napkins and place them on a clothesline to dry. They can sweep and mop the floor, polish wood, and clean mirrors. These are just some of the real tasks practiced by the children on a daily basis, tasks that allow them to feel confident about caring for themselves and the environment.

Dr. Montessori once said, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age six; for that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed. The essence of independence is to be able to of something for one’s self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play, it is work he must do in order to grow up.”


How does self-directed learning work? Does my child do whatever he wants?

The Montessori philosophy has profound respect for the ability within every child to learn from his or her surroundings. One of our tasks as adults to connect individual children to carefully chosen activities through precise and interesting lessons. Then we stand back and allow the child to use the material in a purposeful way. The child is free to explore, repeat and refine every skill until they feel satisfied. There is no rush. There is also no delay if they want to move quickly to a harder challenge.

If a child avoids a particular area in the classroom or type of skill such as handwriting or math, it is important that the adult discover through careful observation the reason why. Sometimes it may be because the child just has a temporary fascination with maps and geography that we would not want to obstruct. Other times it could be a lack of confidence or a lack of preparatory skills with hand strength. The adults in a Montessori classroom are skilled at the art of gentle and personalized instruction that can ensure all children receive the benefits from the entire curriculum.


Does a teacher have more flexibility in Montessori than a traditional classroom?

One of our joys every year is to discover different personalities, interests, and learning styles within each group of students, then find ways to bend where they need us. It is our job to be flexible! While we have clear and time proven framework developed by Dr. Montessori, we know that we must create and inspire a slightly new way for the children we are given each fall.


Will my child be well prepared for public school?

In a Montessori setting, all children work on, and many excel in the basic language and math skills that are necessary to succeed in first grade. What our children also bring with them are many important skills that are not found on the tests. Brain research shows that there are very specific conditions that build better brains in young children, and the recipe that Montessori classrooms use is both current and effective. Our classroom provides uninterrupted time to concentrate; learners have a sense of control of what to do, when to do it, how many times to do it, whom to do it with, where todo it and more. Probably most important, our children learn through trial and error and through their own experiences (not receiving red checkmarks or gold stars). They have self-control, have learned various techniques to solve problems with friends, and have been encouraged to explore multiple answers, different points of view and creative insights (the opposite of standardized tests).


How does the Montessori environment benefit the child?

The Montessori classroom is set up to allow children to be self-paced and self directed. When children enter a Montessori classroom they enter a prepared environment where materials are developmentally sequenced from easiest to hardest. Each child’s ability level is noted, and careful and precise lessons are presented at his level. He can work independently and uninterrupted, practicing and refining skills that serve the development of the whole child.


Why is it important for my child to complete kindergarten at Gateway Montessori?

First of all, the third year in the same Montessori program is a gift. Children are able to reap all of  the true academic and social benefits that have been at their fingertips since they were three years old. As five and six year old children, they have the rare opportunity to walk into a classroom with confidence and lead the class through examples of cooperation, good work, and maturity.

The Gateway Kindergarten is a rare and special experience. The class is small. It is highly individualized. The space is warm and beautiful. Children are happy and eager to learn about their world and how they fit in it. Young children are worthy and so ready to learn about BIG ideas; Rocky Mountain animals, the Scientific Method, sign language, Relief Maps, Vincent van Gogh, the Prehistoric Timeline, Robert Frost, Author Studies, Grammar, Dynamic Addition, Martin Luther Kind Jr., Arthropods, and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name a few. Through these beautiful topics, enthusiastic language instruction abounds, and children begin on their paths to become lifelong learners. We encourage you to come and see! Maria Montessori said about The Child, “He often suffers from too much work, but from work that is unworthy of him.”


What do your ‘grace and courtesy’ lessons involve?

‘Grace and courtesy’ lessons are a very important part of Montessori curriculum and encompass a wide range of skills. Included in this category are lessons to help children develop effective social interactions and communication skills as well as personal hygiene lessons, Research shows that poor social skills in preschoolers can be a predictor of future problems in school. So we give the children examples and have them practice things like: how to meet people, how to resolve conflicts, how to invite a friend to work with you or how to nicely say that you would rather not work with that person right now.

Preschool aged children have already learned to do many things on their own, such as walk and talk, and they are capable of meeting many of their own needs. We give careful, thoughtful lessons on self-care such as hand washing, nose blowing, coughing in your elbow, dressing and hanging up clothes. Careful instruction and practice give children confidence in their own abilities that builds individual dignity and self-respect. We as teachers try to model and teach love and respect for others and ourselves.

“The first duty of the educator, whether he is involved with the newborn infant or an older child, is to recognize the human personality of the young being and respect it.” Maria Montessori