Frequently Asked Questions
Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a "prepared environment" in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now, a century after Maria Montessori's first casa dei bambini ("children's house") in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world, spanning ages from birth to adolescence.
As with the choice of a Montessori school for children, an adult must also exercise wisdom in choosing a teacher training course. Anyone can legally use the name "Montessori" in describing their teacher training organisation. One must be sure the certification earned is recognised by the school where one desires to teach. Plus, the training organisation must be accredited by the qualifications authority of the host country, also the institution must be registered with the Council of Higher Education. There are courses, such as "distance learning" or "correspondence courses" but they do not fully prepare one for the intensive and fulfilling work with a classroom of children. When choosing a training course it is important to balance the amount of time and money one can spend with the teaching opportunities desired, and to find out ahead of time if your certification earned will allow you to teach in a school you are considering.
Montessori is designed to help all children reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A classroom whose children 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.
There are many Montessori schools in Namibia, but it is important to be aware that the word "Montessori" is not legally protected and can be used by anyone. This may have tarnished the name here in Namibia. Look in your phone book, get the literature of local schools, observe, and compare what you learn with you read on this site.
There are at least 7,000 Montessori schools worldwide. There are between 10 and 14 already in Namibia.
Multi-age classrooms afford us the luxury of adapting the curriculum to the individual child. Each child can work at his or her own pace, while remaining in community with his or her peers. In addition, the multi-age format allows all older children to be the leaders of the classroom community – even those children who may be shy or quiet.
The schedule - The 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 and 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.
Note: For more information on the "three-hour work period" see the chapter "My Contribution to Experimental Science" from The Advanced Montessori Method, Volume I, by Dr. Maria Montessori.
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans: 0-3, 3-6, 6-12 (sometimes temporarily 6-9 and 9-12), 12-15, 15-18. There is constant interaction, problem solving, child-to-child teaching, and socialisation. Children are challenged according to their ability and never bored.
The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects - math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., will be being studied, at all levels.
Teaching method - "Teach by teaching, not by correcting"
There are no papers turned back with red marks and corrections. Instead the child's effort and work is respected as it is. The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what he needs in order to improve.
No one body can accredit the Montessori element of schools, but there are state requirements for schools in general. There are several Montessori organisations to which schools can belong. In Namibia schools can accredit to the South African Montessori Association and The Montessori Professions Council. Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school's affiliation(s).
Parents must carefully research, and observe a classroom in operation, in order to choose a real Montessori school for their child.
Some are, but most are not. Some Montessori schools, just like other schools, operate under the auspices of a church, synagogue, or diocese, but most are independent of any religious affiliation.
The term Montessori is not trademarked and anyone, regardless of training, experience or affiliation can open a “Montessori” school. It is essential that parents researching Montessori act as good consumers to ensure the authenticity of their chosen program.
Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardised 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.