General FAQs Why Montessori school? Because Montessori school and the Montessori Method allow children to develop naturally and fully, each at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities. Under the guidance of a certified Montessori teacher, in a specially prepared environment and using carefully designed materials, children are given the opportunity to learn in the best ways – by choice and by discovery. The children’s innate love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, meaningful activities. In Montessori, learning is joyful, empowering and custom-fit to suit each child’s individual learning style. The Montessori classroom provides a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendencies and interests, as well as the necessary tools for successful future learning and living within a community. A key element to Montessori Education is that it stresses “learning how to learn”. Students are encouraged to do their own research, analyze their findings, and come to their own conclusions. Montessori teaches students to think, not simply to memorize, reproduce on tests or exams and forget. They literally learn how to learn, discovering along the way that the process of learning is fun! Learning the right answers may get you through a test, but learning how to learn will get you successfully through life! Is Montessori all about the academics? No. The Montessori Method is more than an academic program. It is a whole approach to life, which is one of respect, compassion, and guidance in all areas of learning. It is designed to help children with the task of their inner construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. The Montessori Method develops the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellectual faculties. Children develop creativity, social skills, cooperation, initiative, independence, responsibility, self-esteem, self-discipline, problem solving, critical thinking, care and respect for others and for the world – all which lead to becoming fulfilled individuals and contributing positively to society. Is Montessori for all children? Yes, the Montessori Method is an international approach to learning with no distinctions of class, intelligence, socioeconomic and cultural levels. What about children with learning disabilities or gifted children? Montessori is designed to help all children of varying capabilities to reach their fullest potential at their own unique pace. A Montessori classroom is an environment where everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Also, mixed-age group allows each child to learn at his/her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers. Montessori education allows each child to progress towards whatever he/she can become, as it focuses on the whole child, addressing intellectual, physical, emotional and social needs as well. Are all Montessori schools the same? What to look for? Unfortunately the answer is no. Parents desiring to enroll their children in a Montessori school should be made aware that the name “Montessori” was not copyrighted. Therefore, anyone may use this name in various ways. It is very frustrating to the Montessori community to know there are schools out there claiming to be what they are not. When choosing a Montessori school for your child, make sure to ask what kind of training the teachers have. Ask what kind of materials is used. Look at the tidiness of the classroom and the materials on the shelves. Visit the school and observe the classrooms in action. You should see bright and warm classrooms. Later ask the School Director or teachers to explain the theory behind the activities you saw. Most of all, talk to the school about the Montessori philosophy, child development, and Montessori Education to see if it is compatible with your own views. The children are the concrete proof of a quality Montessori environment. While observing the class, one should be able to see children moving about and choosing their work freely and independently most of the day. The children should be fairly independent of the teacher, showing the ability to be self-directed in their activities and capable of great concentration. Their movements should be careful and precise and their social interactions respectful. One should also see calm, gracious teachers who are respectful of the children, with the teacher focusing mainly on presenting lessons, while the assistant redirect the children when needed. The physical environment should consist of lightweight, movable child-sized furniture suited to the dimensions of a child’s body. The materials should be Montessori specially-designed, sensory-based, and auto-didactic, in perfect condition. There should be a mixed-age group in each classroom where the older children assume a great role in helping to care for the environment and in assisting the younger children in the class. The classroom atmosphere should encourage social interaction for cooperative learning, peer teaching and emotional development. The schedule should allow for large blocks of uninterrupted time to allow for concentration and problem solving, to see connections in knowledge, and to create new ideas. How does Montessori affect children? Research studies have shown that children educated according to the Montessori system are more self-disciplined, self-confident, independent, and creative. Scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are above average in following directions, adapting to new situations, turning in work on time, listening attentively, taking responsibility, asking provocative questions. They are said to be enthusiastic about learning, to concentrate well, and to have a good foundation in academic skills and in organized problem solving. Children find joy in learning itself rather than in the teacher’s approval or a “gold star”. Montessori education provides a framework in which intellectual and social developments go hand in hand. Are the children free to choose what they want to do in the classroom? Children are free to move about the classroom at will, to observe, explore, experiment, talk to and work with other children, work with any equipment whose purpose they understand and to which they have been introduced, or to ask a teacher to introduce him/her to new activities. Children are not free to abuse the environment or to disturb other children at work. In order to learn there must be concentration, and the best way children can concentrate is by fixing their attention on some task without interruption. With all of the freedom, isn’t there confusion? The concept of ‘freedom of movement and choice’ used in each classroom (Toddler, Casa, Elementary), is a freedom within limits. Freedom exists within defined limits of appropriate behavior, and is balanced with responsibilities. This freedom in a safe space is crucial to Montessori program. However, it is always tempered by two important limits that will be beneficial for a lifetime – respect for others and respect for the environment. Non-intervention by the teacher is a sign of respect for the child and beneficial to his/her development. However, when disorder occurs, then it is the responsibility of the teacher to intervene immediately by modeling appropriate behaviour and redirecting the child to an appropriate activity. Are the children doing anything? Our teachers are trained to observe children as they engage with the materials, and to guide them toward purposeful and challenging activities. The children are invited to a multitude of lessons that are appropriate for their developmental level. Each lesson is presented in a way that engages, allows for the tactile manipulation of materials, and sets up a process which the child can repeat. When a child has mastered a skill, the teacher will give the child a lesson that is more challenging, giving special attention to the age and interest of each child. As the children get older, they collaborate with the teacher in setting daily goals that are aligned with topics for research, skill lessons and personal interests. Furthermore, because the environment itself is so stimulating and exciting, children always engage in many tasks. Isn’t Montessori too individualized? What about socialization and group work? While it is true that many of the activities are individualized (so that children can work at their own pace without feeling competitive or frustrated about their own progress), socialization is a fundamental part of Montessori education. Both in and out of the classroom, children interact continuously, working together and helping each other. The multi-age setting facilitates socialization and encourages children to seek help from one another. There is a spirit of respect, love and cooperation among the children in the classrooms. One of the principles of Parkdale Montessori School is to help your child develop socially so that he/she can achieve a respect of others and work well together within a group environment. What is Parkdale Montessori School approach on discipline? Montessori, is a perfect blend and balance of freedom and structure. It is on that foundation of freedom and structure that the child builds self-discipline. Discipline of Parkdale Montessori School is not something that is done to the child or a technique for controlling behaviour. Dr. Montessori said that discipline is “not …a fact but a way”. True discipline comes more from within than without and is the result of steadily developing inner growth. Self-discipline is not something that is automatically present within the child and it cannot be taught. Consequently, the role of the teacher is to be a model and a guide while supporting the child as he/she develops to the point where he/she is able to choose to accept and to follow the “rules” of the classroom community. One of the clear ground rules is “be respectful of everyone and everything.” This level of obedience is the point where true inner discipline has been reached. One knows this level of discipline has been reached when children are able to make appropriate behavioral choices even when adults are not present. Why is the three-year cycle (in Casa) and six-year cycle (in Elementary) important in Montessori? To receive the full benefits of a Montessori education, a child who enrolls should remain in the program for 3 to 6 years (depending on the program). Each step of a child’s development and learning from the time he/she enters the Montessori classroom serves as a solid foundation for the next. The child who does not finish the program will never experience the same benefits, joy and satisfaction of having reached the end. The best analogy would be reading a book but never know what the last chapter is. If you never know how it ends, your experience will not be the same. The Montessori program works in the same way. Therefore, the importance of the 3-year/6-year cycle is crucial in Montessori. How do Montessori students adjust when they go into a traditional school? Whether the child attends private school or goes on to public school, Montessori education provides an excellent background for education. Children who complete the full cycle are well prepared academically, emotionally and socially. They have a strong academic foundation, but most importantly, they are usually adaptable, have a positive attitude toward learning, a sense of responsibility and respect for others. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they have been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others and good communication skills ease the way in new settings. These qualities will serve them well in any future educational system whether it will be in continuing Montessori education, public or traditional private institutions. Furthermore, research has shown that one of the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop good self-images, and the confidence to face challenges and changes. Isn’t Montessori expensive? Tuition in independent schools throughout the country is costly because of the extensive materials (especially in the case of proper Montessori schools), encompassing environment, curriculum, and specialized staff. Independent schools are self-supporting; depending on tuition and the generosity of parents to meet the cost of a superior education. We believe the expense is a profitable long-term investment in your child. A good academic education creates a solid building stone for any and all future learning. In this age of increased competition for employment, the benefits learned at Parkdale Montessori School will form a foundation for your child which they will carry throughout life. It is through our Montessori education that a child will learn consideration for others, independence, self-confidence, and the foundation of an intellectual and well-rounded life. There is no question that private schooling is expensive and even may require a greater investment in family time and effort. The sacrifices which some may be required to make, are far more balanced by the benefits to your child, both now and in their future. Parkdale Montessori School offers payment plans designed to help meet your family’s specific needs and budget. What about parental involvement? We encourage you to understand what “Montessori” is, and to educate yourself in the Montessori Method and philosophy. While not required, we encourage parent participation through observations, parent evenings, etc. The more parents understand the classroom experience, the better able they are to follow through at home. When parental support is given, the child benefits even more because they have a consistent environment in which to grow and develop. We also encourage you to support your child’s development at home by allowing them to do things for themselves – even if it takes longer or may make a mess. Be sure to set the ground rules (even demonstrating how a task can be done safely and carefully), observe while your child is performing the task, and ensure that they help to tidy up any mess. It is easier to do it yourself, but your child actually enjoys the process. They are learning valuable fine and gross motor skills in a satisfying manner – your child is gaining independence. You can also, by using numbers in a natural way as part of the everyday routine, prepare your child for future understanding of mathematical concepts. When your child is becoming aware of numbers, they should be encouraged to spot them in the environment, perhaps on outings, bus routes, number plates, and prices. Each child can look for their own special number – his or her own age. Meal times are excellent for discussing the concept of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You can talk about: “You’ve got three blueberries. If I give you two more, how many will you have?” We, also, encourage you to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to help develop your child’s language skills at home by exposing them to rich vocabulary, songs, poetry, rhymes, and books. FAQs for Toddler Do toddlers have to be toilet-trained? No. The program offers toddlers the opportunity to toilet train at school as an essential part of the program along with care of self, care of the environment, language, etc. Do toddlers eat at school? Yes. The toddlers eat snack twice a day. They also regularly prepare food during the day and offer them to their peers. Toddlers are also provided with a hot lunch every day. What is the student/teacher ratio in the Toddler program? The ratio is 5:1 at all times. There is one Montessori-trained teacher who introduces each toddler to the various activities of the environment, and two assistants who redirect your child’s needs. Do toddlers have to go for nap all together at the same time, and do they have to awake at the same time? No. Toddlers go for a nap after their have finished their lunch or when they are tired. They awake on their own and are able to naturally go back to their activities in the classroom. How do toddlers make transition into the Casa program? A couple of months before the toddler transitions from the Toddler program to the Casa program, he/she goes with the teacher for a few visits into to his/her future new classroom environment. The length of each visit increases in time as the toddler becomes more comfortable. The transition is gradual and results in a joyous, positive move. FAQs for Casa Do Casa children have to be toilet-trained? Yes, children must be toilet-trained before enrolling into our Casa program. Do Casa children eat at school? Yes, all children are provided snack twice a day. Children who are enrolled in the full-day program, can either subscribe to our meal program or bring their own lunch each day. We encourage parents to involve their child in the process of shopping, preparing, and packing a healthy meal. If my child stays all day, can he/she nap? Yes. Children under 44 months go for a nap/resting period after recess. They awake on their own and are able to engage in quiet activities in our nap room. Children over 44 months, have the option to either nap or go back to class. Are there any group activities in the Casa program? Yes. Although the emphasis is on the child’s ability to grow and progress individually, children do gather for lunch, recess and some classroom activities. Children also help, support and teach one another so there is a lot of social interaction during the day. How do Casa children make transition to the Elementary program? Towards the end of the school year, Casa children go for a few visits into their future new classroom environment. The length of each visit increases in time as the child becomes more comfortable. Often the Elementary student who offers help and support is one old friend who was a classmate just the year before. The gradual process helps the child in making an easy, positive transition into Elementary. FAQs for Elementary Why Parkdale Montessori does not assign homework? In a Montessori classroom, children develop skills needed to work independently, to manage their time, and to use resources effectively. In most systems, the only time left for acquiring these skills is at home doing homework after a highly demanding school day. Montessori supports the idea that when the school day is structured differently, work can be completed during school hours and not at home. However, there might be small exceptions when special circumstances arise (e.g. line memorization for drama, reading, etc.) or when children with special challenges need to spend some extra time in the evening to go over some tasks. Children are encouraged to pursue their interests in the evenings and doing activities with family and friends. These activities can be as important as school work in developing responsibility and independence in children. Further, parents are encouraged to participate in activities with their child(ren), which contributes to the well-being of the family. How do Elementary students transition to other school settings at the end of the program? Montessori children are extremely well prepared to succeed to their greatest potential in other settings. Studies show that Montessori children score high on standardized tests and are ranked above average in terms of responsibility, self-motivation, listening skills, adapting to new situations, questioning, and showing enthusiasm for learning. Transition time is expected with any changes but the children graduating from the Montessori Elementary program are well prepared academically, socially and personally for the future. How does the Montessori environment prepare a child to go into “the real world”? Very well. In fact, in the Montessori program, the children plan their day, execute their responsibilities, work in collaboration with others during the day, and they are faced with choices, decisions and consequences. The real world is not just about challenges; it is about developing the skills to deal with challenges. The Montessori program has given each child the tools to do so, not just in terms of academic foundation but also in terms of social skills, interpersonal skills, confidence, creativity, and the knowledge that he/she can contribute positively and actively to society. Each child has been prepared to the best of his/her potential to succeed in the real world of ideas, enterprise, and challenging perspectives. How is the Montessori Elementary different than other systems of education at this age level? In Montessori, the children literally “learn how to learn”. They are encouraged to do their own research, analyze their findings, come to their own conclusions, to think and not simply to memorize, to question and not simply to reproduce and quickly forget. The children are asked the right answers which will then trigger exploration, questioning, and the challenges to find the answer, as opposed to be giving the answer. This is a key element of the Montessori Elementary program. Learning the right answers may get children through a test, but learning how to learn will get them successfully through life. Do Elementary students typically work alone? No. Much of the lessons and projects are done in small groups. This is the age where children are very social and therefore much of the work is done in collaboration with others. Not only do research show that learning is effective when done with other children, but also social interactions offer many opportunities for personal and social growth. How is competition handled in Montessori? In Montessori, children are strongly encouraged to focus on the joy of learning and collaboration rather than on competition. In this type of atmosphere where children can learn at their own pace, they realize that it is all right to make mistakes and that they can try again without inhibition, fear of embarrassment or external judgment. Competition being an ineffective tool to motivate students, in Montessori, we do not create artificial motivation to get the children to achieve. However, we do allow for competition to evolve naturally among children both in the classroom and during sport activities, without adult interference. The key is to have the child’s voluntary decision to compete rather than having it imposed on him/her.