Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator who is known for educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn.

Maria’s early medical practice focused on psychiatry. She also developed an interest in education, attending classes on pedagogy and immersing herself in educational theory. Her studies led her to observe and question the current methods of the time for teaching children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Maria was given the opportunity to improve on these methods in 1900, when she was appointed
co-director of a new training institute for special education teachers. She approached the task scientifically, by observing and experimenting to learn which teaching methods seemed to work best. Many of the children made unexpected gains, which caused the program to be proclaimed a success.

In 1907 Maria accepted a new challenge to open a childcare center in a poor inner-city district. The youngsters were unruly at first, but in short amount of time showed great interest in working with puzzles, learning to prepare meals, and manipulating materials that held lessons in math. She observed how they absorbed knowledge from their surroundings, essentially teaching themselves.

Utilizing scientific observation and experience gained from her earlier work with young children, Maria designed learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered the children’s natural desire to learn. News of the school’s success soon spread through Italy and by 1910 Montessori schools were acclaimed worldwide.

What is the “Montessori Method”?

Maria Montessori, otherwise referred to as Dr. Montessori, created a developmental approach to education which is often called the “Montessori Method.”

The basic concept of Montessori education centers on a carefully prepared classroom environment that encourages exploration and invites individual discovery. Montessori educators view the child’s education in entirety, recognizing the key roles of parents as the primary educators.

Montessori philosophy supports and nurtures the natural, continual unfolding of the child. It recognizes the child’s need construct inner discipline. Central to this fundamental idea is training the child to work independently, yet cooperatively, since both freedom and responsibility are required for one to be an effective member of society. This method creates a trusting and non-competitive atmosphere where children learn self-esteem, self-reliance, and self-discipline.

What are Montessori Materials?

Montessori materials consist of real objects that translate abstract ideas into concrete form. This comes from Maria Montessori’s belief that movement and learning are inseparable. The child must use their entire body in the process of learning.

Most materials also contain multiple levels of challenge that can be used repeatedly at different developmental levels.  A special set of 10 blocks of graduated sizes called “the pink tower” may be used just for stacking; combined with “the brown stair” for comparison; or used with construction paper to trace, cut, and make a paper design. The pink tower, and many other Montessori materials, can also be used by older children to study perspective and measurement. They are ingeniously designed to allow children to work independently with very little introduction or help. Built-in “control of error” in many of the Montessori materials allows the child to determine if they have done the exercise correctly.

Why do Montessori classrooms group different age levels together?

Sometimes parents worry about having their child in a classroom with children older or younger than their child. Montessori classrooms are organized to include a two-to-three year age span, which allows younger students to be stimulated by the work of the older children, who in turn become role models.  At each level, Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental needs that are normal to children of that stage. Within each level, each child can learn at their own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in their own time. Also with a mixed-age class, children stay in each level for two-to-three years and the classroom environment stays relatively stable. This also allows children to bond and become a small little commuinty within their classroom.

What special training to Montessori teachers have?

All Montessori teachers must obtain a certification from a recognized Montessori training center before being hired as a teacher at a Montessori school. There are two major organizations that offer Montessori training in the United States, which are the AMI (American Montessori Internationale) and the AMS (American Montessori Society). Most training centers require applicants to already have their Bachelor’s Degree. Training covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy, as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials.

What impact does Montessori education have later in life?

Research has shown that Montessori children are better prepared for later life academically, socially and emotionally. They have been recognized for their timeliness, responsibility, attentiveness, adaptablility, inquisitive nature and overall enthusiasm for learning. In one study, children who had attended Montessori schools at the preschool and elementary levels earned higher scores in high school on standardized tests in the subjects of math and science. Another study found that the essays written by 12-year-old Montessori children were more creative and used more complex sentence structuring than those who were not Montessori.

What are some recommended readings about Montessori education?

If you would like to learn more about Montessori education, we suggest the following:

  • The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori
  • Montessori, A Modern Approach, Paula Polk Lillard
  • Positive Discipline, Jane Nelson
  • Montessori Madness, Trevor Eissler