Frequently Asked Questions

Are all Montessori schools alike?

Montessori schools vary widely because the name “Montessori” is in the public domain. This means that anyone wishing to use the name “Montessori” for their school may do so. The best way to insure that a program is faithfully incorporating the Montessori approach as developed by Dr. Maria Montessori is to ask if the school is affiliated to any Montessori governing organizations such as AMI (Association Montessori Internationale, the Montessori organization formed by Dr. Maria Montessori), etc. Orion Montessori School follows the curriculum/principles set forth by AMI. At OMS we believe that a well-rounded child is confident, an independent thinker, optimistically solves problems and resolves conflict, and is able to grow into a responsible, benevolent and forward thinking citizen.

What do children do in a Montessori program?

There are several different, yet integrated, areas of learning in a Montessori classroom: practical life skills, sensorial development, language, mathematics, history, science, and cultural studies (geography, art, music). In addition to the available materials in each area, children might also take time out during the day to sing songs, read a story, or enjoy nature.

Children have both individual and group lessons in each area. Throughout the day, children are free to work with the activities. Emphasis is placed on helping children choose pursuits that are of interest to them, thus supporting the child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. At the elementary (6-12 years) level, you can also expect to see children working together on projects, since collaboration at this age helps the child to become socially adapted to society and aware of the needs of others.

What you won’t see in a genuine Montessori program are systems of rewards and punishments to promote work or control behavior. There will be no lost recess, gold stars, or grades. In a Montessori class, children are engaged, active, and respectful because they are internally motivated, spending their time in an environment that consistently supports development of their will — that is, positive willpower and self-control.

What is the advantage of having a three-year age span in the classroom?

Children have a wide range of experiences, skills, abilities, and interests. A three-year age span in the classroom allows children the opportunity to use a wide range of engaging materials that keep them challenged to learn. As the child’s interests change, the range of available materials allows the child to move from one level of complexity to another.

Additionally, children have the opportunity to be learners and teachers simultaneously. This allows a child to experience the joy of providing leadership to those who are younger and the satisfaction of receiving useful assistance from those who are older or more skilled. It is a win-win for all the children in a Montessori classroom.

How is discipline handled in a Montessori classroom?

It is the development of self-discipline that is encouraged and valued. By maintaining a carefully prepared, structured environment that encourages exploration, creativity, and choice within clear boundaries, the child learns self-control and problem-solving skills that foster independence and responsibility. In this setting, discipline is viewed as a maturation process that evolves, supported by guidance from the teacher. With gentle, prudent assistance, children eventually become comfortable and equipped to accept the consequences of their own behavior. Skilled AMI-trained teachers use Montessori materials and activities to promote a classroom atmosphere that reinforces personal discipline and harmony by offering each child the opportunity to gain a sense of direction, confidence, cooperation, and self-control.

Why is there such a non-competitive atmosphere in Montessori programs when we live in such a competitive world?

In a Montessori program, children are on their own journey at their own pace toward maturity, acquisition of skills, and incorporation of knowledge. Therefore the emphasis is on assisting and supporting children to develop and learn based on their own interests, desires, and timing. Attention is also paid to promoting collaborative social and educational relationships that enhance learning through shared ideas and insights.

Using systems of rewards in the classroom distracts a child’s personal journey by intentionally directing his or her attention to the progress of other children. Ultimately, many studies have shown that competition inspired through the environment does little to build confidence or strengthen internal motivation and self-direction over the long-term. There certainly are situations where competitive activities can move children to greater efforts and improved skills, but as Maria Montessori stated, “The prize and the punishment are incentives towards unnatural or forced effort, and therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them.”

Do children have difficulty transitioning to a public school after going to a Montessori school?

Moving from a Montessori school to another school setting is an issue often raised by parents and family members. Happily, the habits and skills a child develops in a Montessori class last a lifetime and stand a child in good stead no matter where they go. Montessori children tend to be adaptable, working well alone or with a group. They have solid decision-making skills, practical problem solving abilities, and generally manage their time well. Since children in a Montessori classroom are also encouraged to share ideas and discuss their work, fitting into new situations is made easier, thanks to good communication skills.

Are children in a Montessori program prepared to take state required examinations?

Children in Montessori programs are required to meet state regulations. It is the responsibility of the teacher to insure students are prepared to take tests.

I have seen only Montessori preschools. Are there Montessori schools for older children as well?

Dr. Montessori first developed her educational approach while working with a preschool population. She gradually extended her approach to children and youth of all ages. Today, some Montessori schools provide all levels of learning, from infant & toddler though the secondary (high school) level. Others offer only certain levels.The benefits of Montessori—the emphasis on independent learning, for example, and the warm, supportive community—continue to be important at each stage of development as children grow into lifelong learners and responsible citizens of the world.

How many students are typically in a Montessori class?

Unlike some private schools, which strive for very small classes, Montessori values the lessons of community when the size of the class is somewhat larger.Montessori classes for children above the infant & toddler level might include 20–30 students whose ages span 3 years. All members of the community benefit from this set-up. Older students are proud to act as role models; younger ones feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. Classes for infants & toddlers and home-based childcare facilities are smaller, with typically 10–15 children.

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.

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.

If children work at their own pace, don't they fall behind?

Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not doing it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance his/her learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps the child master the challenge at hand—and protects him/her from moving on before he/she is ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”

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.

Is it true that Montessori students have the same teacher for all subjects rather than work with “specialists” in different curricular areas?

Montessori teachers are educated as “generalists,” qualified to teach all sections of the curriculum. But many schools choose to also employ specialists in certain subjects, including art, music, foreign language, physical education, and science.

Why don't Montessori teachers 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 most Montessori teachers don’t assign grades, they closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to advance to new lessons. Most schools hold family conferences a few times a year so parents may see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment—and perhaps even their child’s self-assessment.

Do Montessori students take standardized tests?

Public Montessori schools are mandated to administer the same standardized tests as other public schools.Some private Montessori schools also administer standardized exams, particularly if they will be required by schools into which their students may transition. Other schools choose not to administer these tests.

Can Montessori accommodate gifted children? What about children with other special learning needs?

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, without feeling pressure to “catch up.”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.

Are Montessori schools expensive?

Private Montessori schools are independently owned and operated, and each sets its own business practices, including the cost of tuition. Typically, tuition fees vary from region to region and from school to school.

Some private schools offer scholarships for families in need of assistance, and many offer reduced tuition when parents enroll more than one child.

There are also more than 400 public Montessori schools in the United States. These include charter schools, some of which enroll students through a random lottery process. Like other public schools, charter schools are tuition-free.

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.By less stringent measures, too, Montessori students seem to do quite well. 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.

Why should the primary level be three years long?

Children in the Montessori system remain in the same classroom for a period of three years. This is done for two reasons: (1) The Montessori curriculum is structured over the three year period, advancing and progressing with the child’s age and ability; each year builds on the other as it takes three years to complete the whole curriculum. The third year is particularly important, as it is the culmination of the first two years. (2) It is recommended that a child remain in the same classroom and with the same teacher for the three years in order to facilitate your child’s adjustment; each year they will find themselves in a familiar environment with a person they already trust and will thus conserve the energy they would otherwise spend on adjusting to a new environment, and use that energy for growing and learning instead.

Does your primary program cover a kindergarten curriculum?

Our primary program not only covers a Kindergarten curriculum but also manages to cover certain concepts that go far beyond Kindergarten level. The very hands on materials allow the children to explore and experience very advanced concepts in a very concrete form, allowing them to understand many concepts that are often covered much later in their educational career. In addition to this, the third year in the Primary program (which would parallel a child’s Kindergarten year) is the most important year in the three-year period. It is in this third year that we see the culmination of the first two years of work and experience. Since each year builds on the other, and each year prepares them for the next; it is in this last year that everything they have learned up till then comes together, as the child draws many connections and becomes aware of the incredible abilities they have acquired through the years.

Is there too much structure in a Montessori classroom?

There is order in the classroom, but NOT orders. The orderly external environment helps young children construct the “inner” order that they seek and need. Initially, the classroom Guides give clear and detailed lessons on how to use each new material or activity when they see that a child is ready for that introduction. However, as children experience more and more materials and activities, they are free to choose from the entire array and to discover new possibilities. This freedom to choose is of course governed and balanced by classroom rules, which create a certain level of structure, but this structure is there to provide order and predictability that in turn helps the children feel secure.

Does Montessori education push children academically?

Montessori philosophy supports following the child, allowing each child to develop at his/her own pace. Stories of Montessori children being far ahead of their peers do not reflect an artificial acceleration; it reflects a possibility when children are allowed to follow their interests in a specially designed environment.

Does the freedom that the Montessori method allows the child lead to chaos in the classrooms?

Freedom of choice, movement, and speech are not a recipe for chaos when children are in a supportive, child-centered environment that engages them in interesting learning. The children learn self-discipline, as well as a respect for others, their environment and the learning materials as a part of being in the classroom community. Furthermore, the younger children enter a classroom with a culture already in place because there are older children in their second and third years who have already established a peaceful and cooperative dynamic. The younger children absorb and emulate the behavior and culture of the older children.

How can I help my child at home?

Orion Montessori School encourages parents to show respect for their children and to model respect toward others. Love your child, support your child’s growing independence, listen to your child, involve your child in your daily life activities (cooking, cleaning, etc.), provide order and routine, and read to your child. Come to parent education events, schedule classroom observations, attend parent-teacher conferences, and read Montessori books, so that you can be better informed about your child’s day. You also can support your child’s educational experience by adopting Montessori methods of speaking to your child and using Montessori methods for developing a “prepared environment” at home.

Why should my child attend a full day primary (instead of a half day)?

The full-day option offers Primary children a consistent and familiar afternoon in their Montessori classroom where they extend their opportunity to reach their fullest potential — intellectually, socially, and personally (physically, creatively, and emotionally). For example, a child who requires more repetition to master a task, has more opportunity to repeat his work and gain that mastery; a child who masters tasks more easily, has the opportunity to move on to more advanced materials. Further, all the children grow emotionally and socially from their greater interaction in their classroom community.

Why does Orion Montessori School only offer a 5-day program?

The Montessori philosophy promotes consistency and order and therefore believes that children need a consistent and orderly routine, which in turn gives them a sense of predictability and security. In addition, consecutive days facilitate the teacher’s need to follow through or follow up on an individual child’s progress in a particular area or lesson. In short, consecutive and consistent daily attendance will allow your child to progress and benefit more from the learning opportunities that are presented there, as well as provide them with a sense of security and predictability.

Do you offer an extended morning and evening care?

Yes. Our extended morning care is from 7:30 A.M. to 8:00 A.M. Our after-care/extended evening care is from 3:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.

What is your monthly tuition, payment options, and how can I make an appointment to visit your school?

Kindly contact our office at (408) 247-7474 to know more about out tuition and payment options, and to schedule a private tour of our facility.

Where can I view your daily schedule and what does it look like?

You can view our daily schedule here. To get an idea of our typical day, click here.

Does my child need to be toilet trained?

Having a toilet trained child in the primary program (3-6 years) is important for two reasons: (1) If a child has control and awareness of his/her bodily functions, it generally means they are developmentally ready and mature for the Primary environment and will be in an age-appropriate context.

(2) The Montessori method emphasizes independence and being toilet trained is an important step towards independence. If a child still has accidents or needs to be reminded to go to the bathroom, we are more than happy to offer support and reinforcement. We also understand that there are special cases where a child may be developmentally mature in all areas but that. We are open to work on an individual basis with such cases, but having toilet trained children at the primary level is highly preferred.

Do you have a financial aid program?

Yes we offer financial aid assistance and scholarships to families on a case-by-case basis. Families are encouraged to apply for this program through our FAST program here or on our financial aid page. Parents will be notified of final decisions via email.


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