General Montessori Questions and how they apply to IMA
Q. How does your waiting pool work?
A. Waiting Pool Information:
1. Teachers’ children are automatically moved into available spots after a successful interview/visit.
- Children already enrolled at IMA (e.g., a child moving from the Nesting Room to the Children’s House) will have priority over new children to move to the next level.
- Siblings of children already enrolled in the school are automatically moved into available spots after a successful interview/visit (after teachers’ children).
- New children’s applications go in the waiting pool for each program. We strive to maintain balance within each of our classrooms in regards to a multiple criteria including a balance of ages, gender, and Montessori experience. Application date is also taken into consideration. Children will be interviewed from the waiting pool as spaces become available and families have 10 days after being offered a space to complete the Enrollment Packet and process.
Q. Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities? What about gifted children?
A. 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, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.
Q. What ages does Independence Montessori serve?
A. We have classrooms for children from 2 years old all the way up to 3rd grade. Classes are divided into multi-age groups. 2-3 year olds in the Nesting Room, 3-6 (including Kindergarten) are in the Children’s House, and 1st-3rd grade Elementary students . Extended Exploration is for all ages.
Q. Are Montessori children successful later in life?
A. Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized 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.
Q. I recently observed a Montessori classroom for a day. I was very impressed, but I have three questions.
1. There does not seem to be an opportunity for pretend play
(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children’s House it was full of pretend playthings. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things – i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.
2. The materials don’t seem to allow children to be creative
(2) The materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.
3. Children don’t seem to be interacting with one another very much
(3) There is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Since concentration is protected above all, as all “work” is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.
Q. What special training do Montessori teachers have?
A. 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 organization. The two major organizations offering Montessori training in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Most training centers require a bachelor’s degree for admission. Training ranges from 200 to 600 pre-service contact hours and covers principles of child development and Montessori philosophy as well as specific uses of the Montessori classroom materials. Montessori training centers can be found across North America and around the world. The teachers of Independence Montessori Academy are all encouraged to attain AMS training. This training is costly and time consuming, so we do accept alternative training certifications while the staff members work towards achieving AMS certification. Through our research, we have found International Montessori Council training to be an acceptable temporary substitute for AMS training.
Q. What are “Montessori materials”? They look like wooden toys. How can they teach my child anything but play?
A. It is the philosophy and the knowledge of the teacher that is essential in the success of a Montessori class. One must be wary of the use of the words “Montessori materials” as many people today use the words as a selling point for materials that have no use in the Montessori classroom and can be distracting and impede a child’s progress.
The “sensorial,” math, and some of the language and cultural materials (metal insets, sandpaper letters, puzzle maps, bells, for example) are professionally manufactured according to traditional standards that have been tested over many years. However even some of these are made by newer companies that do not fully understand the reason for certain details and so produce materials that are not as successful.
Montessorians, for very good reasons, make many of their own practical life and language material instead of buying them—as they learn to do in their training, depending on where in the world they live. They gather practical life materials piece by piece. This is an important process that gives a unique quality to each classroom that expresses the culture, and ideas of beauty in each community—instead of all classrooms looking alike with no personal touches.
Materials in the classroom, without being used correctly by a trained teacher, are usually worthless in creating a real Montessori class, but they can help in some ways in non-Montessori situations. For example the math materials have been used to teach a concept sensorially thus helping a child to make the abstraction. Educational materials in the Montessori method serve a very different purpose than in traditional education where the textbooks are ordered and the teacher learns how to use them. This difference is because in Montessori the child learns from the environment, and it is the teacher’s job to put the child in touch with the environment, not to “teach” the child. Thus the creation of the environment, and selection of materials is done mostly by the teacher and is very important.
In Montessori education having too many materials is often worse than not having enough. In this country (USA) there are many materials suppliers, unfortunately, who are not Montessori trained and do not understand the purpose of materials, and who sell items that scatter the child’s energy, or waste time, clutter the environment, etc. It is very important to choose carefully when selecting materials for using the Montessori method of education in school or in the home.
Q. What is the student to teacher ratio?
A. Each class will have a maximum of 1 teacher to 8 OR 9 students, depending on age. The Nesting Room will have a maximum of 3 teachers to 24 students. Children’s House classrooms may have as many as 2 teachers to 18 students. Children’s House will start the year with a maximum of 2 teacher to 16 students, but will allow the classes to grow by 2 students if there is a need to advance any children moving up from the Nesting Room during the school year. These transitions will happen in January. Elementary classes will have a 1:8 or 2:16 ratio. NCDCD does not restrict the class size for our Elementary program, but we will still keep the same ratio so that our Elementary students continue to receive as much 1 on 1 attention and direction as possible.
Q. What time can I drop my child off?
A. The school opens for early drop-off at 7:00 AM. Regular drop-off begins at 8:15. Classes start at 8:30, so we recommend dropping off your child no later than 8:25.
Q. Do students have to be potty trained to start at Independence Montessori Academy?
A. Nesting Room students do not have to be potty trained to begin school. Part of the experience in The Nesting Room is to build a child’s self esteem and confidence in their independence. Toilet training and assistance is part of that confidence building.
Children must be potty trained before beginning in the Children’s House classroom. Children’s House students who may wet during nap are allowed to bring pull ups for nap only. We find that the children quickly adjust to the routine of the school day and will have fewer accidents during nap, but giving them a boost of confidence will help them, and the parent, make the transition smoother.
Q. Do you accept NACCRRA/Child Care Aware or NCDCDEE vouchers?
A. Yes, IMA is now a participating provider within the Child Care Aware network. If you are military, you may be eligible for this subsidy. Visit www.childcareaware.org for more information on how to apply.