Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional methods of teaching?

In Montessori schools the child is seen as a dynamic learner, full of creative potential and in need of the maximum possible freedom to be allowed to develop as a happy, confident individual. Montessori schools therefore place emphasis on the importance of process. In more traditional schools children are seen to be in need of more active instruction and control from adults – there is less trust in the child’s own inner abilities and more emphasis on ensuring very defined results. So Montessori schools are learner-centred, whereas traditional schools tend to be more teacher-centred.

Is Montessori only for nursery children?

Although most Montessori school in the UK are for children between the age of three to six years, there are a small number of Montessori primary schools. With avoidance of constant competition and tests, here the children can continue to blossom, secure in their own individual skills and abilities. There is more in the way of a curriculum structure, but the children continue to have developmental freedom. And these schools frequently achieve consistently excellent reports and subsequent entrance results.

How is discipline dealt with in a Montessori school?

Montessori schools believe that discipline is something that should come from inside rather than something that is always imposed by others. They do not rely on rewards and punishments. By being allowed to be free in the environment, and learning to love and care for other people, the child develops confidence and control over his own behaviour. So Montessori teachers only step in when a child’s behaviour is upsetting or disruptive to others. And then the child will be handled with deep respect and sensitivity. The belief is that the children are by nature loving and caring, and the emphasis is on helping them develop the vital social and emotional skills needed for participating in true community.

How do Montessori schools view imaginative play?

Maria Montessori saw that there was a difference between truly creative imagination (based on reality) and fantasy (based on non-real events). When she watched children play she realised that they really wanted to be able to do real things in a real world, rather than just pretend. So Montessori schools really value imaginative play but will always try to help children work with real objects and situations.

How will my child fit in with a more traditional system after leaving Montessori nursery?

Montessori children tend to be very socially comfortable. Because they have been encouraged to problem-solve and think independently they also happy, confident and resourceful. So they normally settle into very quickly and easily into new schools. In fact primary school teachers are often delighted to hear that you child has been in a Montessori school!

Are Montessori classrooms too structured?

Montessori discovered that structure was really important to help children feel safe and secure. She did a lot of experimentation to find out which, and how many, materials best suited the needs of the children. What she realised was that too much information was as bad as too little, and that children needed to be able to successfully build on their previous experiences. They could be overwhelmed with too many changing toys and options. So she carefully structured what was available. Montessori teachers, therefore, always watch the children to ensure that the right materials are available to support their individual interests and needs

Does Montessori encourage creativity?

Montessorians believe that true creativity stems from individual freedom of expression. What you won’t (or shouldn’t) find in a Montessori school is 20 pieces of art to take home that all look the same! Your child will be encouraged to express him or herself through singing, dancing, acting, talking, drawing, painting, sticking, gluing, cutting, arranging and writing. What we know is that, unlike adults, children aren’t really interested in the end result… they are much more interested in the fun and fascination of the creative process.

What kind of training do Montessori teachers have?

Montessori teachers tend to be people who really love being with children and who feel strongly about the importance of holistic approaches to learning. The philosophy often attracts more mature students, from very diverse backgrounds, who are disillusioned with conventional educational systems.

The training is comprehensive and includes: in-depth investigation of the Montessori philosophy and materials, exercises of practical life, education of the senses, literacy skills, mathematics, cultural subjects, art and craft, music and movement, drama, child development, observation and assessment, contemporary issues, childcare and health, safety, nutrition and special needs. The UK Montessori awarding bodies are fully committed to ensuring the ongoing provision of this high quality training. This training must include assisted teaching practice.

Is Montessori still relevant?

Research shows us that, far from being old-fashioned and obsolete, Montessori’s ideas are now being recognised by educationalists, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists worldwide. Her emphasis on holistic learning with the importance of structure, intrinsic motivation, sociality and emotional intelligence were all ideas ahead of their time. She felt that it was education that lay at the root of social dis-function and that it was only by celebrating children as the hope of mankind, that we would ever be able to change the nature of society. She fought for a peaceful world that celebrated the fundamental unity underlying diversity and her words remain as applicable today as they were then.