Mammolina Children's Home Montessori Kindergarten
School location: Chaoyang District, Xiangjiang Beilu, Liyuan
Postal Address: Jianguomen Guojiyouju 100600-6739
PR of CHINA
Tel. (8610) 84705128
Fax. (8610) 84705127
THE MONTESSORI APPROACH TO EDUCATION:
This page attempts
to answer any questions you may have regarding Montessori
philosophy or principles. For any questions regarding our
school, please check the
School FACTs page. If there are
any questions which are not answered here, please do not
hesitate to contact us.
Please click here to email us.
THE MONTESSORI APPROACH
What is Montessori?
The name “Montessori”
refers to a person (Dr. Maria Montessori) and the
approach to Education which she founded.
Dr. Maria Montessori was Italy's first woman medical
doctor. Through direct observation of children, and
drawing on the work of other educators and researchers,
she developed a s a unique approach to learning. Rather
than "teaching" the child facts and concepts, a
carefully prepared environment is designed to stimulate
the child's interests and facilitate natural learning.
The “prepared environment” includes many features which
differ from the traditional classroom. These include the
special role of the adult (not a teacher, but a
director) and a set of aesthetically pleasing and
scientifically accurate didactic materials. These were
to be used in a child-sized, child-centered environment.
Dr. Montessori revolutionized educational thought and
practices, stressing respect for the child, freedom of
expression, self-education, and training through use of
movement and the senses. Montessori’s work influenced
most modern early childhood educational theories and
researchers, including Piaget. Although many Montessori
principles have been absorbed by and integrated into
other educational approaches, only an authentic
Montessori school can provide the full benefit of this
carefully planned and integrated program.
Can you outline the main differences between Montessori
and the traditional methods or approaches to education?
click on this link for a table comparing Montessori
and traditional educational methods.
Why should I send my child to Montessori and not just
day care or any other preschool?
It is commonly agreed by
most educators and psychologists today that the single
most important period in the development of children
occurs between birth and age six.
The child's mind, Dr. Maria
Montessori observed, possesses at this age an
"absorbent" quality that is later lost. The child's
sensitivities, curiosity and capacity to learn all sorts
of things are at a peak during these early years, when
language is also effortlessly acquired. If properly
nourished and stimulated the child's mind forms patterns
for learning that will stay with her throughout life.
Montessori has proven, over
the last more than 100 years, to be one of the most
effective ways to meet the child's needs through these
critical first six years of life. All of these findings
have been confirmed by recent research.
In regular day-care
children cared-for and entertained all day. Although
most regular day-care programs include an “educational”
component, these do not necessarily meet children's
needs. Because Montessori schools provide an environment
specially prepared to meet individual developmental
needs, each child is able to develop his or her full
potential. The Montessori apparatus is appealing to
children which encourages the children to handle and
explore the materials. In this way young children can
learn even complex math concepts spontaneously.
The main objectives of
Montessori preschool are to foster independence,
self-esteem, cooperation rather than competition, and
make sure that children's individual paths of learning
are not hindered.
The training of Montessori
staff enables them to respond appropriately to the
child’s needs, rather than requiring that the child
conform to the needs of the adult. Montessori said that
children should love all that they learn. For children
to love what they learn, they must be allowed to set
their own pace, and chose their own work, not coerced
into doing curriculum-dictated activities.
What is a
A Montessori classroom,
commonly referred to as a "prepared environment" is a
child-size world. Furniture and tools are specially
adapted so that even the smallest child can use them
Montessori teachers, or directresses, strive to present
the broadest possible spectrum of wholesome learning
opportunities to the child in a meaningful and
In a Montessori classroom,
the child is offered the Universe and the World in a way
that she can -- literally -- touch it! Step-by-step, the
directress sets up the environment so that children
progress and explore life in ways they can comfortably
handle. "Help me do it by myself" is a motto
taken seriously in Montessori. All materials and
exercises are designed to arouse the interest of each
child, stimulate independent exploration, and, most
importantly, to ensure success.
Children do not experience
failure in Montessori, as directresses and assistants
always make sure the child is presented with many
different kinds and levels of work which can guarantee
of success. Thus the child’s confidence grows
progressively and her self-esteem is nurtured.
In this carefully prepared
environment, children proceed at their own pace, from
simple to more complex activities. Within the same
activity there is a progression from basic to higher
The basic materials, or didactic apparatus, are more or
less standard, and all Montessori classrooms are
equipped with these materials. These are supplemented
with materials which the directresses develop
themselves, in order to meet the individual needs of
each and every child. Often, based on the directresses’
observations, variations and extensions are developed to
meet the needs of one single child. No effort is spared!
The curriculum is
traditionally centered around five basic areas:
Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture.
The content is very flexible in order to satisfy the
child's curiosity. From Arts to Zoology, the Montessori
environment can be said to cover all areas of interest
and knowledge fro A to Z.
How do children interact in the environment?
Children work in a
different way to adults. They work for the sake of
acquiring independence at all levels, and so repetition
is not only common but natural and essential to their
As they experiment and gain
confidence, their joy and well being starts to manifest
itself in ways often thought to be impossible to achieve
in children of such a young age. Montessori referred to
this as a "New Child" because children spontaneously
chose constructive and purposeful work.
They also develop a power
of concentration and a spirit of respect, for others and
The love and cooperation
among the children and towards adults that is
characteristic of well-run Montessori schools is not
often found in traditional environments.
What is the role of the Montessori teacher?
Montessori spoke of the
adult teacher as a guide and help to life. As such, in
the Montessori prepared environment, the teacher is
called "directress" because she directs the child, and
guides the child, rather than teach.
The directress develops a
power of observation that is essential for her to
support the children in their explorations. The
environment is carefully prepared in order to meet the
As each child progresses
from one activity to the next the directress and her
assistants make sure the child finds what is essential
to her development. Careful, accurate record keeping
allows the directress to provide for each child on a
I heard that Montessori gives children too much freedom.
Is this correct?
In Montessori children are
free to work and move about in a prepared environment.
This environment sets subtle limits that guide children
in an imperceptible way. This is why in Montessori we
refer to "freedom within limits." This environment
allows children to spontaneously develop three basic
qualities that are the basic ground rules of the
classroom: Respect for Self, Respect for Others and
Respect for the Environment.
As they become independent,
children develop their self-esteem and this in turn
promotes respect for self. Respect for one-self leads to
respect for others.
Children learn to treat
others as they want to be treated, by not disturbing
other children while they work. Thirdly, the orderly
environment itself invites children to deal with the
materials in a careful way, return work to their places,
and keep it tidy and orderly.
Freedom in a Montessori environment is always seen in
the reciprocal context of responsibility. It is a
freedom based on choice and self-control. This type of
freedom is the exact opposite of license. In a well-run
Montessori environment freedom and discipline are
Montessori encourage creativity?
Yes, Montessori encourages
creativity. It would go against the very basic
principles of Montessori not to promote creativity.
Montessori fosters curiosity, independence and
experimentation. Creativity is natural and inborn in
every child. Life itself is a constant act of creation.
As with all the other areas
of the curriculum and prepared environment, children are
encouraged to explore and express their innate
creativity. Gentle guidance is provided when needed. For
example, children are shown how to use art materials,
but they are not told what to paint.
By helping a child develop
various skills, and by encouraging self-expression,
creativity is nurtured in the prepared environment.
imagination and fantasy?
A clear distinction must be
made between imagination and fantasy. Young children
find it difficult to understand the difference between
what is and is not real. All children have a fertile
imagination and this is encouraged through the child's
natural and self-directed curiosity, independence and
Fantasy, on the other hand,
is often an escape from reality. It is a way very young
children defend themselves from an aggressive, hostile
environment that gives them neither the space, nor the
means, to develop according to their needs.
As a child's greatest
desire is to do things independently, as soon as she is
presented with a favorable environment, the child
herself chooses the work that is essential for her
growth. As she makes these choices, her imagination is
constantly challenged, and children come up with amazing
ways of resolving problems.
It should also be
remembered that much of what passes as “imagination” is
actually based on adult fantasy. In a Montessori
environment children are encouraged to use their
imaginations to understand and explore the wonders of
the real world, including the marvels of nature and the
diversity of mankind.
Children who are able to do
this have little or no interest in that sort of adult
“ready made” fantasy, because they are imaginative and
creative, not passive consumers.
What happens after Montessori kindergarten?
Many parents wonder if
their children will be able to adapt to a non-Montessori
school when they later move beyond kindergarten.
Children who have spent
their early years in a Montessori kindergarten are
usually flexible, and able to adjust rather easily to
other schools. They often are more focused and become
better students because they have learned independence
and acquired the skills to work in a self-directed way.
They love to learn.
We do, however, encourage
parents to try to find an elementary Montessori school
for their children, or another similar learning
environment, as these benefit children in ways
traditional school systems cannot.
Why do you encourage that children stay at the Mammolina
Children's Home for the three-year program?
The Montessori program is a
continuous and integrated cycle based on the child’s
natural developmental phases. These phases are
accompanied by what Dr. Montessori called “sensitive
periods”. These are now sometimes called “windows of
opportunity” – periods that modern neuroscientists
recognize as times of optimal learning opportunities.
The activities and
materials available in the Montessori environment
provide learning experiences appropriate to the full
three to four year developmental cycle. This enables
each child to develop to his or her full potential.
If a child enters the
Montessori prepared environment early, the directress
gets to know him or her very well, and is thus able to
provide support for each child’s unique learning
patterns, habits, interests and tendencies.
Montessori too individualistic?
This common misconception
about Montessori is probably a result of the fact that
lessons are usually given individually.
If you observe a Montessori
classroom, you will notice that there is a natural,
happy activity, and children work both individually and
in smaller or larger groups.
Socialization is essential
in Montessori, because children are naturally sociable.
This is indeed one of the reasons why Montessori offers
children a mixed-age environment: older children love to
help the younger ones, and spontaneously assist the new
comers in finding their place around the classroom.
The socialization of the
Montessori classroom is natural and spontaneous
resembling the interactions within a large extended
family, or the community.
Montessori meet the needs of my child?
Montessori is neither a
method, nor a set curriculum, but rather an "approach"
to learning. It has been used with amazing results, in
countries all over the world, and with children of all
cultural backgrounds. It has assisted children across
the spectrum form highly gifted to those with learning
disabilities. It has even been successfully used with
Because Montessori is based
on observation and following the individual needs of
each child, it adapts to and provides for each child in
a unique way. It can indeed be said that, if implemented
as it should, it is as unique as your child!
What about current research and theory in educational
methods? Dr. Montessori died more than 50 years ago.
The Montessori approach to
early childhood education is all inclusive. Although
there are many different ways people use Montessori, the
basic principles set by Dr. Maria Montessori are time
tested and proven, and can be defined in just a few
words: observing the child and following the child.
To properly abide by these
principles, continuous change and experimentation are
needed. Dr. Montessori was a scientist, and as such, she
did not devise a system of education in an abstract way,
first theorizing, and then experimenting. She observed
children, noted their natural ways of learning,
exploring and growing. Then she set out to understand
what she had observed. This led to the development of a
system, including the design of didactic materials and
protocols that could help children in their quest.
What Dr Montessori
developed is not a set of static, dead principles. There
have been changes to the Montessori apparatus over the
years, and new sets of didactic materials have been
developed. What proves effective remains unchanged, but
what can be improved, must be improved.
One of the astounding facts
about Montessori education is how much of Dr.
Montessori’s original work has been validated by recent
neuro-scientific research and borrowed by other
approaches and schools of thought.
Is Montessori opposed to other theories and approaches
to early childhood education? Waldorf, Multiple
Intelligences, Reggio Emilia, Democratic Education,
Pestalozzi, Enki, etc?
Montessori is about taking
what is best for the child and making it available in
the environment in a way that promotes the optimal
development of each child’s potential.
Many other researchers,
scientists and educators have studied children and
designed approaches, materials and systems that can be
beneficial. No properly prepared directress will ignore
the findings of other schools of thought. She will study
and contemplate, and if there are insights which can be
applied in the prepared environment, she will adapt them
to the needs of the children and use those ideas in her
Montessori is not, however,
a patchwork of various approaches strung together in a
haphazard way. Because it is such a comprehensive,
integrated approach, a good Montessori classroom will
exhibit many of the best features of many other
Do you offer separate classes for children of different
ages, according to their needs?
Montessori classrooms are
prepared for a mixed age group, usually spanning 3
years, sometimes more. This is one of the key principles
in Montessori, and is essential for the success of the
program. There are many reasons why it is beneficial for
children of different ages to share the same
environment. There is so much research which supports
mixed-age, non-graded environments that the real
question should be why so many schools continue to
separate children according to age.
In a multi-age class,
children are able to learn from older, more competent
children. In many ways, children learn more easily from
other children than they do from adults. For a three
year old, seeing a five year old reading makes the task
less daunting. Older children learn compassion and
patience from helping those who are younger and less
able to do things.
It is the multi-age
grouping, more than any other feature, which allows the
Montessori directress to treat every child as an
individual, with individual needs and aptitudes.
Separate age classes, on the other hand, encourage
comparison and conformity which are detrimental to
learning and destroy self-esteem.
Are Montessori Directresses and Assistants trained in
any special way?
receive rigorous training which includes most aspects of
regular teacher training in addition to those specific
to the Montessori context.
They learn how to prepare
and maintain the environment so it provides optimal
opportunities for the individual development of each
child. They learn how to select, make and use the
specialized Montessori materials, and how to adapt these
to individual needs.
Training includes aspects
of psychology and education philosophy as well as
detailed content in all subject areas the Directress
will be presenting to the children.
Whereas regular teachers
only specialize in one age group, Montessori training
covers a wide age range, giving the Directress an
understanding of the needs of all the children – an
insight into where they have been and where they are
Montessori training focuses on self-examination. The
Directress is trained to examine herself and her role in
interactions with the children. This inner examination,
and understanding of the role of the adult is what makes
Montessori staff training so special.
Assistants also receive special training, so they may
support the Directress they work with, and the children
in their endeavours. Often, an a Assistant is a student
of Montessori working towards his or her future role, as
s/he studies and prepares to become a directress or
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