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1. Montessori vs. Daycare: What does the difference mean for your child?

Montessori programs support a focus on child-led exploration that fosters the child's independence and self-discovery. Daycare programs are adult-set group activities, where instruction happens in a group setting, at a group pace, even if some children move more slowly or more quickly then others.

Montessori schools use specifically designed educational materials. Daycare centers use toys with little educational value. Montessori materials are ingeniously designed to intrigue, challenge and promote education across a multitude of subjects. Montessori preschools have a better student to teacher ratio then daycares.

Montessori preschools have a deliberate educational program with a curriculum. Daycare programs focus on all-day play and have a loose curriculum.

Environment. Montessori classrooms are calm, orderly environments that promote learning. Daycare centers are often noisy, messy and internally disorganized.

Montessori focuses on grace and courtesy skills. Daycare centers focus on group conformity where instruction happens in a group setting, at a group pace, even if some children move more slowly or more quickly. In a Montessori program, teachers guide children to develop what we call grace and courtesy by establishing clear rules that support a peaceful classroom. Teachers work to give children the language they need to express their needs appropriately. Teachers model benevolent and cooperative behavior for example, by shaking hands while making eye contact with a child when he/she comes to class, or demonstrating how we politely offer food to a friend at snack time. The Montessori focus on teaching individual, pro-social skills is different from the group conformity children receive at many daycare programs, where developmentally inappropriate skills, such as sitting still for an extended circle time, or indiscriminate “sharing” of toys may be expected from children, without regard for the actual cognitive and emotional needs of the child.

School oversight by a Montessori-trained Head of School. Daycare centers use administrative management or cooperative of parents.

2. How many students are typically in a Montessori class?

Montessori Country Day School values small class sizes, because we believe providing the best student teacher ratio gives our young learners the most individual attention possible. Classes are typically 10-17 students with 2-3 teachers.

3. How can children learn if they are free to do what they want?

Dr. Montessori observed children are more motivated to learn when working on an activity of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose their focus of learning on any given day, but their decisions are limited by the materials and activities—in each area of the curriculum—that the teachers have prepared and presented to the class. Teachers guide students to challenge themselves and explore the different lessons in an open classroom environment.

4. Do Montessori teachers follow a curriculum?

Montessori schools teach the same foundational skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Montessori subject areas are familiar—such as math, science, history, geography, art, and language—but they are presented through an integrated approach to education using unique materials that bring separate strands of a curriculum together.

For example, while studying a map of Africa, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and the history of written language. Or the student may find the pyramids more interesting and a natural bridge to studying 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.

5. If children work at their own pace, couldn't they fall behind?

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

6. Can a Montessori education accommodate children with special learning needs?

The advantage of the Montessori approach, which includes multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests, is that it allows each child to work at their own pace. Montessori students whose strengths and interests propel them to advanced levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their classmates. The converse of this statement holds true for students who may need extra guidance and support. Montessori students each progress through the curriculum at their own pace, without feeling pressure to "catch up." We might note that from a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in their own way. Every child has his or her own unique strengths enhanced by our Montessori curriculum.

7. Are Montessori schools religious?

The Montessori Country Day School is not. All Montessori education is independent of any religious affiliation.