Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

Montessori education emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own, individual paces from activities they choose themselves from hundreds of possibilities. Montessori teachers keep detailed records on each child, so they know when the child is ready to be introduced to a new skill or concept. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, and self-discipline. Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (e.g., 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12), forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. Montessori represents an entirely different approach to education.

How is Montessori children’s progress tested, and are they successful when they leave the Montessori environment?

There are no “grades” assigned in a Montessori classroom. Assessment is by portfolio and the teacher’s observation and record keeping. Each child’s academic progress, happiness, maturity, and love of learning are carefully followed by the teacher and discussed with the parents. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life–academically, socially, and emotionally. They typically adjust well when introduced to a traditional school environment. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.

What about gifted children?

Montessori classrooms are designed to help all children (those who are “gifted” as well as those with learning disabilities) reach their full potential at their own pace. A classroom with children who have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.

Who accredits or oversees Montessori schools?

Unfortunately, there is no way to limit the use of the name “Montessori.” To choose a real Montessori school for their child, parents must do some careful research. There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones operating in the United States are the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA). The Montessori School of Huntsville is an affiliate of AMS.

What special training do Montessori teachers have?

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, teachers who have Montessori certification have completed training ranging from 200 to 600 class hours and a yearlong internship. The training covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials. There are Montessori training centers in various locations around the United States and the world. In this country, most of these centers are affiliated with either AMS or AMI-USA.