Is Montessori right for all children?
The Montessori system has been used successfully with children from all socioeconomic levels, representing those in regular classes as well as the gifted, children with developmental delays, and children with emotional and physical disabilities.
There is no one school that is right for all children, and certainly there are children who may do better in a smaller classroom setting with a more teacher-directed program that offers fewer choices and more consistent external structure.
Children who are easily overstimulated, or those who tend to be overly aggressive, may be examples of children who might not adapt as easily to a Montessori program. Each situation is different, and it is best to work with the schools in your area to see if it appears that a particular child and school would be a good match.
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 his/her 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/her own comfortable pace, without feeling pressure to “catch up.”
We might note that from a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in his/her own way. For every child has his/her own unique strengths—it is all a matter of degree.
If children work at their own pace, don't 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 his/her learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps him/her master the challenge at hand—and protects him/her from moving on before he’s/she’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”
Do Montessori teachers (guides) follow a curriculum?
Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar—such as math, science, history, geography, and language—but are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together.
While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. The study of the pyramids, of course, is a natural bridge to geometry.
This approach to curriculum shows the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic—and to give their curiosity full rein.
The schedule - A three-hour work period
Under the age of six, there are one or two 3-hour, uninterrupted, work periods each day, not broken up by required group lessons. Older children schedule meetings or study groups with each other or the teacher when necessary. Adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt someone who is busy at a task. Groups form spontaneously or are arranged ahead by special appointment. They almost never take precedence over self-selected work.
Teaching Ratio - 1:1 and 1:30+
The teaching ratio is one trained Montessori guide and one non-teaching aide to 30+ children. Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the guide is trained to teach one child at a time, and to oversee thirty or more children working on a broad array of tasks. The guide does not make assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.