Why does Montessori group different age levels together?

Sometimes parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one group or the other will be short-changed. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers’ time and attention, or that the importance of covering the Montessori curriculum for the older children will prevent them from giving the younger children the emotional support and stimulation that they need. Both concerns are misguided.

At each level, Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental characteristics normal to children in that stage.

• Montessori classes are organized to encompass a two or three year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. Each child learns at their own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in their own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. In a mixed-age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level.

• Children normally stay with the same school friends for two years. With over half of the class normally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable.

• Working in one class for two or three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers and therefore do not feel emotionally out of place.


Should I be concerned by the high number of children in a Montessori Classroom?

Montessori classes commonly group together a maximum of twenty children covering a three-year age span. The best teacher of a three-year-old is often another somewhat older child. This process is good for both the teacher and the younger child. In this situation, the teacher is not the primary focus. The larger group size puts the focus less on the adult and encourages children to learn from each other. By consciously bringing children together in larger multi-age class groups, in which over half of the children normally return each year, the school environment promotes continuity and the development of a stable community.

Why does Montessori encourage a five day programme?

Two and three day programs often suit parents who do not need full time; however, five-day programs create the consistency that is so important to young children and which is essential in developing strong Montessori programs. Since the primary goal of Montessori involves creating a culture of consistency, order, and empowerment, most Montessori schools offer five days a week.

How can Montessori teachers meet the needs of so many different children?

Great teachers help their students get to the point where their minds and hearts are open, leaving them ready to learn. In effective schools, students are not so much motivated by getting good grades as they are by a basic love of learning. As parents know their own children’s learning styles and temperaments, teachers, too, develop this sense of each child’s uniqueness by spending a number of years with the students and their parents. Dr. Montessori believed that teachers should focus on the child as a person, not on the daily lesson plan. Montessori teachers lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover. Their ultimate objective is to help their students to learn independently and retain the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born with. Teachers don’t simply present lessons; they are facilitators, mentors, coaches, and guides. Normally, Montessori teachers will not spend much time teaching lessons to the whole class. Their primary role is to prepare and maintain the physical, intellectual, and social/emotional environment within which the children will work. A key aspect of this is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate learning activities to meet the needs and interests of each child in the class.

Montessori teachers usually present lessons on a one-to-one basis or to small groups of children at one time and limit lessons to brief and very clear presentations. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the learning materials. Montessori teachers closely monitor their students’ progress. Because they normally work with each child for one or two years, they get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well. Montessori teachers often use the children’s interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success.

Is it true that Montessori children never play?

All children play! They explore new things playfully. They watch something of interest with a fresh open mind. They enjoy the company of treasured adults and other children. They make up stories. They dream. They imagine. This impression stems from parents who don’t know what to make of the incredible concentration, order, and self-discipline that we commonly see among Montessori children. Montessori students also tend to take the things they do in school quite seriously. It is common for them to respond, “this is my work,” when adults ask what they are doing. They work hard and expect their mums and dads to be as excited about their work as they are! But it is joyful, playful, and anything but drudgery.

Is Montessori opposed to fantasy and creativity?

Fantasy and creativity are important aspects of a Montessori child’s experience. Montessori classrooms incorporate art, music, song and dance throughout the curriculum. Imagination plays a central role, as children explore how the natural world works.

What about children with special needs in a Montessori setting?

Every child has areas of special gifts, a unique learning style, and some areas that can be considered special challenges. Each child is unique. Montessori is designed to allow for differences. It allows students to learn at their own pace and is quite flexible in adapting for different learning styles. In many cases, children with mild physical handicaps or learning disabilities may do very well in a Montessori classroom setting. On the other hand, some children do much better in a smaller, more structured classroom. Each situation has to be evaluated individually to ensure that the program can successfully meet a given child’s needs and learning style.

Why is there a lot of emphasis on freedom and independence in Montessori?

Children touch and manipulate everything in their environment. In a sense, the human mind is handmade, because through movement and touch, the child explores, manipulates, and builds a storehouse of impressions about the physical world around them. Children learn best by doing, and this requires movement and spontaneous investigation. Montessori children are free to move about, working alone or with others at will. They may select any activity and work with it as long as they wish, so long as they do not disturb anyone or damage anything, and as long as they put it back where it belongs when they are finished. Many exercises at the early childhood level are designed to draw children’s attention to the sensory properties of objects within their environment: size, shape, colour, texture, weight, smell, sound, etc. Gradually, they learn to pay attention, seeing more clearly small details in the things around them. They have begun to observe and appreciate their environment. This is a key in helping children discover how to learn. Freedom is a second critical issue as children begin to explore. The goal of Montessori is less to teach them facts and concepts, but rather to help them to fall in love with the process of focusing their complete attention on something and mastering its challenge with enthusiasm. Work assigned by adults rarely results in such enthusiasm and interest as does work that children freely choose for themselves. The prepared environment of the Montessori class is a learning laboratory in which children are allowed to explore, discover, and select their own work. The independence that the children gain is not only empowering on a social and emotional basis, but it is also intrinsically involved with helping them become comfortable and confident in their ability to master the environment, ask questions, puzzle out the answer, and learn without needing to be “spoon-fed” by an adult.

What if a child doesn’t feel like working?

While Montessori students are allowed considerable latitude to pursue topics that interest them, this freedom is not absolute. Within every society there are cultural norms; expectations for what a student should know and be able to do by a certain age. Experienced Montessori teachers are conscious of these standards and provide as much structure and support as is necessary to ensure that students live up to them. If for some reason it appears that a child needs time and support until he or she is developmentally ready, Montessori teachers provide it non-judgmentally.

Will my child be able to adjust to primary school after Montessori?

At the time for moving on to school Montessori children are normally curious, self-confident learners who look forward to going to school. They are normally engaged, enthusiastic learners who honestly want to learn and who ask excellent questions. Montessori children by age five have spent two years in a school where they were treated with honesty and respect. While there were clear expectations and ground rules, within that framework, their opinions and questions were taken seriously. It is not hard to imagine an independent Montessori child asking his new teacher, “But why do I have to ask each time I need to use the bathroom?”, “Why do I have to stay sitting on this chair all day?”, or “Why do I have to stop my work right now?” We also have to remember that children are different. There is nothing inherent in Montessori that causes children to have a hard time when they progress on to primary school. Some may say they are bored! Others may not understand why everyone in the class has to do the same thing at the same time! But overall children always adapt to their new setting quickly, making new friends, and succeeding within the definition of success understood in their new school.