FAQS & Resources

How can children learn if they’re free to do whatever they want?
Dr. Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose his focus of learning on any given day, but his decision is limited by the materials and activities—in each area of the curriculum—that his teacher has prepared and presented to him.

Beginning at the elementary level, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance.

Do Montessori teachers 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 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, 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.

If children work at their own pace, don’t they fall behind?
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 is what actually causes children to “fall behind.” More importantly, a Montessori student may continue to advance without having to wait for peers to “catch up.”

Can Montessori accommodate gifted children?
We might note that from a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in her own way. For every child has his own unique strengths—it is all a matter of degree.

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 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 own comfortable pace.

Why are Montessori schools all work and no play?
Dr. Montessori realized that children’s play is their work—their effort to master their own bodies and environment—and out of respect she used the term “work” to describe all their classroom activities. Montessori students work hard, but they don’t experience it as drudgery; rather, it’s an expression of their natural curiosity and desire to learn. Montessori students associate work and school with fun.

Why don’t Montessori schools give grades?
Grades, like other external rewards, have little lasting effect on a child’s efforts or achievements. The Montessori approach nurtures the motivation that comes from within, kindling the child’s natural desire to learn.

A self-motivated learner also learns to be self-sufficient, without needing reinforcement from outside. In the classroom, of course, the teacher is always available to provide students with guidance and support.

Although Montessori teachers don’t assign grades, they closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to advance to new lessons. Parent conferences are held twice a year so parents may see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment—and perhaps even their child’s self-assessment.

How well do Montessori students do compared to students in non-Montessori schools?
There is a small but growing body of well-designed research comparing Montessori students to those in traditional schools. These suggest that in academic subjects, Montessori students perform as well as or better than their non-Montessori peers.

In one study, for example, children who had attended Montessori schools at the preschool and elementary levels earned higher scores in high school on standardized math and science tests. Another study found that the essays of 12-year-old Montessori students were more creative and used more complex sentence structures than those produced by the non-Montessori group.

The research also shows Montessori students to have greater social and behavioral skills. They demonstrate a greater sense of fairness and justice, for example, and are more likely to choose positive responses for dealing with social dilemmas.

Most Montessori schools report that their students are typically accepted into the high schools and colleges of their choice. And many successful grads cite their years at Montessori when reflecting on important influences in their life.

How will the Montessori philosophy help my child’s personal development?
The Montessori philosophy provides the child with many opportunities to become an independent learner as well as a responsible adult. We encourage students to learn for the pleasure of learning. We expect students to begin work each day without prompting, to complete assignments in a timely manner, and to strive for excellence in tackling each new project. The students learn to ask themselves, “Have I done my best?”

We also expect each child to be a responsible member of the class. For instance, each student is expected to help with classroom maintenance. In each class older students are encouraged to act as peer tutors for the younger students.In addition, we stress the need for our students to become aware of their role in the greater society.

Do students take standardized tests?
Because we feel our students need to learn test-taking skills, students in grades two through six take the Stanford Achievement Test each spring. We do not provide report cards but do offer regularly scheduled parent conferences to give specific feedback on each child’s skills.

Does MSC encourage parental involvement?
We rely heavily on the assistance of parents for holding fundraisers, chaperoning field trips, reading or gardening with children, and much more. We have a monthly coffee gathering for parents and a monthly Moms Night Out and Dads Night Out.

Is writing an important part of MSC’s curriculum?
Beginning with the very first week of school, elementary students spend time each week writing. As students progress through the program, writing requirements become more sophisticated. We expect first year students to write mini-reports on such subjects as vertebrates or continents, write poetry, or do free writing. Many parents have expressed their appreciation of MSC’s attention to writing, saying that their children had more experience writing in elementary school than in middle or high school.

Do MSC graduates have difficulty adjusting to traditional classes?
They usually adjust easily. Because the Montessori curriculum provides our students with a sound foundation in all academic areas, our students generally excel in middle and high school. Furthermore, they leave MSC with good work habits and the ability to work cooperatively with peers and teachers.

Where do MSC graduates go to college?
Graduates have attended a range of schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Duke, Mt. Holyoke, Davidson, Wake Forest, the Air Force Academy, Yale, Brown, Wharton, Georgia Tech, and the USC Honors College.