Frequently Asked Questions
Montessori is a preschool system, isn't it?
Although Maria Montessori’s early work was with children at the preschool age, she developed a philosophy and materials to support education from infancy through adolescence. Children at all levels benefit from the type of hands-on, child-centered, integrated learning that Dr. Montessori developed and promoted.
Aren’t Montessori children free to do whatever they want in the classroom? How do you ensure each one gets a fully rounded education?
Montessori children are free to choose within limits, and have only as much freedom as they can handle with appropriate responsibility. The classroom teachers ensure that children do not interfere with each other without invitation, and that each child is progressing at her appropriate pace in all subjects. Through observation and record keeping teachers are aware of the areas where each child has received lessons and requires new lessons. The teacher, as guide, helps children make choices that will ensure that they are spending appropriate time in each subject area.
Montessori classrooms look so different… Where are the students’ desks? Where do teachers stand?
Rather than putting the teacher at the focal point of the class, with children dependent on her for information and activity, each classroom employs a child-centered approach where the child directs his daily activities with the guidance and support of the teacher. Children work at tables or on floor mats where they can spread out their materials, and the teacher circulates about the room, giving lessons or managing needs as they arise.
Are Montessori schools as academically rigorous as traditional schools?
Yes, absolutely. However, our approach may look different than what you would see at a traditional school. At Christian Montessori School of Ann Arbor we encourage deep learning of the concepts behind academic skills rather than rote practice of abstract techniques. We also honor human physiology (hand development, brain development, etc.) first as we introduce new concepts to our students. Lastly, we take into consideration the individual strengths and needs of each students, allowing teachers to keep children challenged at all levels and in all subject areas, rather than expecting every student to be challenged by the same work.
Without objective measurements like grades, how do you assess a Montessori child’s performance?
Parents of children at all levels at Christian Montessori School of Ann Arbor meet at least twice a year in conference with their children’s teachers to learn more about classroom work and behavior. Classroom teachers keep extensive records of lessons given and work practiced and also offer the benefit of their individualized observations of the child’s work in the classroom. Written progress reviews are sent home twice a year.
Through work journals, homework, and completed work sent home, parents are able to track the work their student is doing. Our elementary students create work portfolios that allow them to self-reflect and evaluate their effort and progress, as well as share their academic accomplishments with their parents. CMSAA third level elementary students participate in standardized testing the latter half of the school year with results shared with parents. Additionally, teachers are always available for additional conferences if a parent has any concerns or questions about a student’s performance.
Is it true Montessori schools have no textbooks and no homework?
Montessori education is experiential and hands-on; children work with specially designed materials in the classroom before learning abstract pencil-and-paper methods. As students grow into the Elementary years, written resources make more and more appearances, though usually in the form of novels or reference books. Students tend to do their own research rather than relying on a class textbook’s descriptions.
Homework shows a similar progression, from none at the Children’s House level, slowly increasing as student ability and maturity warrant.
Since Montessori classrooms emphasize non-competitiveness, how are students adequately prepared for real-life competition later on?
Montessori classrooms emphasize competition with oneself: self-monitoring, self-correction, and a variety of other executive skills aimed at continuous improvement. CMSAA students are offered frequent opportunities to address their peers, teachers, administrators using grace and courtesy. Students typically become comfortable with their strengths and, over time, learn how to address their weaknesses.
What about Enrichment classes that offer subject matter beyond the classroom curricula?
CMSAA is proud to offer students, beginning in our Children’s House programs, various supplemental Enrichment classes that are naturally woven into their school week. Enrichment classes for Children’s House students currently include: Physical Education, and Spanish. Kindergarten through Elementary students are offered Physical Education, Spanish, Music and Art. This is in addition to the natural integration of these subjects in the daily classroom programming.