Frequently Asked Questions

Montessori FAQs

The Montessori method is an educational philosophy and approach to learning that educates the whole child through hands-on learning, collaborative work, and self-directed activity. Our 100% individualized curriculum supports the educational needs of each child and promotes critical thinking, executive function, and social-emotional skills students need to be successful in life.


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How is Montessori different from conventional education?

Montessori is characterized by hands-on learning and individual pacing. Instead of a teacher at the front of the room directing all the children in the same lesson at the same time, Montessori classrooms have:

  • Mixed-aged groups, in which older children serve as role models and helpers;
  • A full array of developmentally appropriate, hands-on learning materials, specifically designed to help students master an array of knowledge and skills;
  • Teachers prepared through a Montessori teacher development program;
  • The Montessori instructional approach, with teachers serving as guides.
  • Freedom of movement, with the classroom set up as an open space to encourage movement. Montessori students are not required to work at a desk and can work where they feel most comfortable in the classroom.

In a Montessori environment, children receive lessons from teachers about how to use a variety of high-quality materials; the children then learn by exploring and working independently with these materials. Each material teaches one concept or skill at a time and is presented in a careful sequence. The work lays a concrete foundation from which students can comprehend increasingly abstract ideas. Children work with materials at their own pace, repeating an exercise until it is mastered. The teacher may gently guide the process, but their goal is to inspire. Throughout the classroom, beautifully prepared, inviting curriculum areas contain a sequential array of lessons to be learned. And all the while they are developing qualities with which they’ll approach future challenges: reflection, independence, cooperation, and satisfaction in a job well done.

How do Montessori teachers keep track of how children progress?

Montessori teachers closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to move on to new lessons. They may orally question a student about what she has learned, or ask her to teach the lesson to a fellow student. We will hold family conferences a few times a year so parents may see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment. Teachers typically provide written narrative that explains a student’s progress in relation to his own development and developmental norms. In addition, at Sankofa Montessori, you will be given information about your child’s performance on standardized tests, which you can use to evaluate their progress.

How does Montessori work for children with special needs?

Children with special needs, such as learning differences or physical disabilities, often thrive in a Montessori setting. Montessori teaching materials engage all the senses, which is important for students with distinct learning styles. Students can move about, an advantage for those who require a high level of physical activity. And each child has the flexibility to learn our excellent curriculum at his or her own pace, rather than an arbitrary schedule.

How much freedom do children have in the classroom?

Dr. Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose their focus of learning on any given day, but their decision is limited by the material and activities that the teacher has prepared and presented to them. One way to think about is that students have choice about what work they do when, but all working towards excellence. Beginning at the elementary level, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance.

How do children keep up when working at their own pace?

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 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 sometimes causes children to “fall behind”. And because every child has unique gifts, our personalized learning program means that children are not held back by a group average, either.

What curriculum do Montessori teachers follow?

Montessori schools teach similar skills and knowledge 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 they 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 is a natural bridge to geometry. This approach to curriculum shows the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows student to thoroughly immerse themselves in a topic that inspires wonder.

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

A growing body of research comparing Montessori students to those in traditional schools suggests that in academic subjects, Montessori students perform as well as or better—academically and socially—than their non-Montessori peers. These benefits grow as children have more experience in a Montessori environment.

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 the important influences in their life.

Is it hard for a child in a Montessori setting to transition to a traditional educational setting?

Everyone’s life involves change. And this is actually a good thing, so long as you are equipped with the necessary coping tools and skills.

The Montessori Method is all about developing such coping tools through building confidence, independence, and problem solving skills. As a result, most Montessori students are adaptable than their non-Montessori peers. Most of the parental concerns regarding transition can be lumped into two main categories: academic and social.

Some people believe that because the Montessori Method involves choices, Montessori students fall behind academically. Happily, this fear has been proven unfounded as research data shows that Montessori children do better on benchmark tests than students in traditional schools.

When it comes to social transitions, again, the Montessori students have an edge. Children in Montessori classrooms have learned principles such as courtesy, respect, positive decision-making, conflict resolution, and more. These skills serve them well as they adjust to new schools and meet new people.

Credits: American Montessori Society
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