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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Montessori education?

Dr. Montessori designed her lessons, materials and classroom activities to work in harmony with the way children learn. Her programs are designed to support the specific, innate needs children have at various stages of development. Montessori education provides for a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development.

How does a Montessori classroom work?

Montessori classrooms are large, open and orderly. Work materials are beautifully and neatly displayed on shelves carefully arranged throughout the classroom. Spacious work areas are also provided. Classroom materials, lessons and work activities are matched to the educational and developmental needs of the children using the classroom. Students receive lessons from a trained Montessori teacher in all areas of the curriculum. Students then practice their lessons independently or in small groups, depending on their age levels.  

How do I know if my child is a Montessori child?

At White Rock Montessori, we believe this method of education benefits every child. We also recognize that the approach may not be the best fit for every family. Understanding the developmental needs of your child and believing in the process of a Montessori education are two important components for families pursuing this method of education.  Individual family values, trust in the professional training of Montessori educators, and a desire for one’s child to become a lifelong learner, productive worker, and global citizen help to define whether this method of education will be a fit for your child.

How many students are typically in a Montessori classroom?

At White Rock Montessori, our preschool and elementary classrooms consist of three year age groupings with a teacher to student ratio of 1:12 or 1:13. All members of the community benefit from this set-up. Older students are proud to act as role models, while younger students feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead.

Is it true that children are free to do whatever they want in a Montessori classroom?

While children are allowed to make their own work choices (within a framework established by their teacher), to walk freely around the classroom, and to interact with each other, they are also expected to follow rules of conduct. Children earn their independence and freedom during classroom time through personal responsibility, cooperation, self-control and respect for others. When children don’t follow class rules and practice personal responsibility, their freedoms are limited. The teacher then takes a more active role in directing and guiding the child’s behavior and work choices.

If children work at their own pace, do they fall behind?

Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not going it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance their learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps him master the challenge at hand and protects him from moving on before he’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”

What happens when children want to practice only the lessons they like?

Children are not allowed to practice only the lessons they like. Instead, they are expected to practice all of their lessons and work from the full range of sujbect areas. Teachers are responsible for observing their students and enforcing well-balanced work habits. Teachers will provide children with the instructions and supervision they need to acquire age appropriate skills.

Are Montessori schools all work and no play?

Dr. Montessori realized that children’s play IS their work - their effort to master their own bodies and environment. Out of respect she used the term “work” to describe all their classroom activities. Montessori students work hard and they experience this an expression of their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

With multiple ages in a classroom, how do teachers meet the needs of each level?

The work itself is made to teach multiple levels of development and engage a child’s attention. Teacher’s undergo rigorous training to develop a practice of meeting the needs of the children in their classroom. They learn how to present lessons, monitor progress, engage children in their learning, and establish ground rules for developmentally appropriate behavior in the classroom.

Can Montessori accommodate gifted children?  What about children with other special learning needs?

An advantage of the Montessori approach—including multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests—is that it allows each child to work at their own pace. Students whose strengths and interests propel them to higher levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their peers. The same is true for students who may need extra guidance and support: each can progress through the curriculum at his own comfortable pace, without feeling pressure to "catch up."

We might note that from a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in their own way. For every child has their own unique gifts and strengths to contribute to society.

What is Peace Education and how does Montessori Education impact social growth?

Dr. Montessori believed that the way to peace was through the education of children. This is most strongly represented in her popular quote:

“Establishing lasting peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war.”

Montessori schools around the world utilize a process for conflict resolution that is grounded in the fundamentals of Peace Education. When conflict arises, students are encouraged to resolve the conflict by sitting together and communicating in the following way:

When you… (describe the situation), I feel… (describe the emotion). 

What I want is… (describe a possible resolution).

In this way, children develop the ability to communicate their concerns and feelings, listen with empathy, and find solutions to problems that are respectful to all involved. These important skills build partnerships with others, create a sense of respect for varying perspectives, and develop cultural sensitivity and prosocial skills. Dr. Montessori believed that adults with these types of skills and perspectives would be able to strive and advocate for a peaceful world.

What is Grace & Courtesy and why is it important?

Grace and Courtesy lessons are the cornerstone of a Montessori classroom. These lessons allow children to be a part of the community and develop the tools they seek to be both independent and successful in the classroom.

Some Grace and Courtesy lessons include how to:

  • Greet someone
  • Watch someone’s work
  • Offer or refuse help
  • Ask a question
  • Interrupt a lesson
  • Welcome a visitor
  • Solve a disagreement
  • Serve food
  • Set up snack
  • Excuse one’s self
  • Choose a work
  • Walk in the classroom
  • Use quiet voices
  • Respect others’ work
  • Use materials appropriately
  • Line up
  • Hang up coats and backpacks
  • Sit at the line
  • Use the restroom

Grace and Courtesy accompanies Peace Education as part of the process of cultivating a child’s potential to become a positive, capable, and contributing member of their community.

Will my child have homework?

Children spend most of their school day actively learning. During uninterrupted work cycles, children spend their school time thinking, creating and studying. They also spend this time practicing and developing their skills. During these in-school work periods, children are very productive. The practice of homework grows and changes with the needs and development of the student, as follows:

  • Preschool (ages 3-Kindergarten) - No homework is assigned beyond exploration and discovery.
  • Lower Elementary (Grades 1-3) - Homework is assigned on an individual and as-needed basis as a way to support good time-management skills. Most students do not have homework. Assigned work is generally completed during classtime. If a child chooses to use their time in a way that does not allow them to finish their work, it may be sent home for completion in the evening.
  • Upper Elementary (Grades 4-6) - Regular homework is practiced as a practical life skill. Each level has assigned homework that reflects the developmental appropriateness for children of this age group. Each year, homework experiences are increased incrementally as a way of preparing students for life in an academic world that includes homework.
  • Middle School (Grades 7-8) - In general, Middle School students will have 1-2 hours of homework per night. Homework consists of work not completed during the school day. In some cases, students are able to complete this work during their time in the classroom. Typically this occurs as a student learns to master their time management skills.

Do our Montessori students take standardized tests?

Learning how to take a standardized test is a necessary practical life skill for children today. Many private Montessori schools administer standardized assessments if they will be required by schools into which their students may transition. At White Rock Montessori, we support our students in feeling relaxed and comfortable with this process, so it is approached in a low-key manner. The focus is on the process of taking the test, rather than on the outcome.  

How well do Montessori students perform compared to students in non-Montessori schools?

There is a small but growing body of well-designed research comparing Montessori students to those in traditional schools. These studies suggest that in academic subjects, Montessori students perform as well as or better than their non-Montessori peers.  

In one study, for example, children who had attended Montessori schools at the preschool and elementary levels earned higher scores in high school on standardized math and science tests. Another study found that the essays of 12-year-old Montessori students were more creative and used more complex sentence structures than those produced by the non-Montessori group.

Research also shows Montessori students to have greater social and behavioral skills. They demonstrate a greater sense of fairness and justice, for example, and are more likely to choose positive responses for dealing with social dilemmas.

By less stringent measures, too, Montessori students seem to do quite well. Most Montessori schools report that their students are typically accepted into the high schools and colleges of their choice, and many successful graduates cite their years at Montessori when reflecting on important influences in their life.  

How do children transition to another school after attending a Montessori school?

Montessori students are well-prepared personally, socially and academically. Our students tell us they make friends with a variety of people from different cultures and different backgrounds. Also, they tend not to join one group or another. A child’s temperament and personality will be part of their transition process. Common reflections from students who have completed our program include:

  • Excellent time-management capabilities that have been fostered since preschool.
  • Independence and a strong sense of self.
  • Sense of service and support among peers and among the world at large.
  • Love of learning and discovery that has been nurtured and is retained throughout life.
  • Creative problem solving skills and innovative, out-of-the-box thinking.