Below are a few of our most frequently asked questions regarding our Montessori Preschool program:
1. What is the curriculum?
The Montessori curriculum is organized into seven main areas: practical life, sensorial, mathematics, language, science, history/geography and art. The materials are available to children on low shelves with each subject area found in a different part of the room. Each work is designed to be used by hand and absorbed by the mind, providing a strong kinesthetic approach to learning from which all children benefit. Children are usually presented “lessons” individually or in small groups to maximize their learning potential and teach to each child’s readiness. An additional benefit is that this affords an opportunity for the teacher and child to cultivate a strong relationship.
2. Why don’t I see paper work coming home?
As is mentioned in the previous question, the focus in Montessori is on process, not product. It has been proven that children learn through movement and paper products do not afford children the focused movement that generates true learning. At the 3-6 year age range, children are focusing on developing coordination, concentration, order and independence and the Montessori materials are scientifically designed to support these learning goals. As your child works in the environment over time, you will see some work coming home, often art work. We will send this work home in paper bags about once a month. After the Back to School Night, please feel free to schedule a time after school to find out more about the curriculum and specific classroom materials.
3. Will my child be prepared for 1st grade at ASA?
Yes! Although each child will learn at their own pace, the majority of children will enter 1st grade with advanced language and social skills, as well as an exceptional academic experience. Three to six year olds are at a crucial time for developing language skills and numerical awareness and this is capitalized on in the Montessori environment. The children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and will absorb far more than often expected, allowing them to expand their learning to geography, history, math calculations, botany, biology, as well as language. The foundation they will receive in these areas will more then prepare them for 1st grade. While appreciating the value of academic preparedness, children in the Montessori classroom will also benefit in even more important ways. They will be encouraged to develop their sense of order, coordination, concentration, and independence, love of learning, respect and self-discipline. These skills, in and of themselves, will prepare students to be successful learners in any school setting.
4. How can the classroom be structured with all that freedom?
The balance between independence and structure in the environment is finely orchestrated by the classroom teacher. Children are encouraged to make responsible decisions and choose their own work. Research shows that when children (or adults) are allowed to choose to work on something, the quality, as well as length of time they spend on it is positively affected. All of the material available to the children has a specific developmental purpose, so no work being used properly is a waste of time. However, the use of the materials in the Montessori room is carefully monitored. Children are allowed to use work purposefully and safely, but if that ground rule is violated, the child will be redirected to another work or activity.
The Montessori classroom fosters respect for others and respect for the environment. Through this respect there is a great deal of structure that emerges as students relate to each other with the appropriate language and consideration.
5. My child says he did “nothing” today! Is that true?
Of course not! However, much of what your child does is process versus product oriented and may not show up at home in paper form. We want to encourage use of the specially designed materials in the classroom, so constantly asking your child if he has anything from school to show you will be counterproductive and may cause your child to exclusively choose material that is in paper format. If you wish to hear from your child about what he did today, try starting the conversation by telling him about your day, what you were doing and how you were thinking about him during the day. That provides a nice segue into asking if he would like to tell you about his day. Try asking if he did any work from the sensorial shelf, or maybe from the practical life area.
6. What are ground rules?
These are a set of rules or code of conduct for the classroom that are based on respect and safety for all members of the environment. They are formulated to give children the best opportunity to succeed in the classroom. When a child breaks a ground rule, the teacher will respond immediately, with firm, but reasonable expectations and without condescension, so that child feels they are part of a collaborative environment but also experiences the necessary consequence to let them be successful in the future.
7. What are the benefits of attending a full day program?
Parents are encouraged to enroll children for either five half-days or five full-days a week so that students have consistency in their environment. Older children are especially encouraged to attend full days so that they can receive additional one-on-one support in the afternoon as well as specialty classes in Greek and Music. However, it is not uncommon for a younger student starting at half-time to beg to be allowed to stay the whole day at some point in the year. Don’t be dismayed by this, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be at home too! It is a sign that your child has settled into the environment and is craving the benefit they receive from the work.
8. When can I visit the classroom?
Parents are welcome to visit the classroom after scheduling an observation time with the lead teacher. The first half hour of the school day is our designated time for getting settled in the environment, so all observations will be scheduled for after 9:00 am. Please be aware that your child will most likely perform a little differently with a parent in the classroom. In order to maintain the classroom environment, we ask that you stay seated in the observation chair, unless your child asks you to do a work with him, and also to refrain from engaging with other children. The morning class time is crucial to the development and concentration of the children, and in the beginning of the year especially, they may be easily distracted from their work.
9. Why are the shelves mostly empty in the beginning of the year?
In the beginning of the year the most important emphasis will be on the children becoming functionally independent within the classroom and able to concentrate and focus on their work. The practical life work that is on the shelves offers the best opportunity for students to learn how to use basic apparatus and develop their natural sense of order. Since the curriculum builds on itself, other materials will quickly be introduced into the environment as children move through the material already available and by the end of the year there won’t be room for all the work the children can do!
10. How can I support Montessori at home?
Young children love the functional independence and orderliness of the Montessori environment. Some simple ways to encourage these attributes at home are to purchase some basic household equipment and place them where your child can have easy access, (a small broom and dust-pan in the kitchen etc.) Within about a month or two of school, your child will become familiar with pouring different materials from alternating containers. You might consider investing in a small pitcher (with a handle) and glass so that your child can pour their own milk or juice. When shown in simple steps how to use the child-size materials you provide, children will be able to properly use the materials on their own.
Children from ages 3-6 are especially interested in order and small things. They notice little details that often pass right by an adult. Besides ensuring that your home is as pleasant and orderly as possible, your child will love any games or materials (home-made is great) that give them an opportunity to sort, arrange, design or otherwise be used in a methodical way. (Make sure that the games/materials belong in a specific, child-accessible place and can be put away neatly.) Children may take longer to clean up after themselves, but schedule in the time and let them have the pleasure of arranging their materials back in order!
11. Where can I find out more about Montessori education?
There are a number of literature sources available for parents and teachers alike. In addition to the list below, please attend our New Parent Orientation in August, Back to School Night in September and read the Weekly Wisdom for additional information later in the year. You may also schedule a time to meet with the lead teacher by calling the school office at 503-641-4600.