Montessori schools are very different from traditional schools. The use of materials and the multi-age groupings are some of the more obvious practical differences. The biggest difference, however, is our goal: Montessori seeks to build the WHOLE CHILD. You can sense this difference in orientation just by stepping inside of our doors. Our goal is to prepare your children for life, not to prepare them simply for high school or college admissions. Montessori schools all over the world work to help children to become people who think for themselves, creatively solve problems, and who possess balance, peace-making skills, compassion and moral courage that will prepare them to lead lives filled with purpose, meaning, and joy.
Children learn at their own pace and they learn in different ways. We often hear parents talk about their children as "late readers" or "early readers". Learning is not a race. We believe that the more we as parents or educators push children to do things they're not ready to do, the more likely it is that many will begin to feel that learning is a chore. Dr. Montessori writes:
An interesting piece of work that has been freely chosen has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue and adds to children's energies and mental capacities, and leads them to self-mastery.
… children must be free to choose their own occupations, just as they must never be interrupted in their spontaneous activities. No work may be imposed; no threats, no rewards, and no punishments used.
We believe that children are born intelligent, creative, and curious. We believe that they'll learn and explore most deeply when their attention is captured, without need for external pressures, rewards, or punishments. When a younger child observes an older child working, the younger child will express curiosity and a desire to master the work. This is nature! When parents and teachers put pressure on children to perform to adult standards and set timelines, we are showing them great disrespect, though we may mean to inspire. With the right approach, with the right materials and opportunities available, we can increase the odds that when our children are ready to learn something new, they will learn with real passion.
Why don’t we assign homework like everyone else? Don’t we want children to get into good colleges? Of course we do, but we ask a simple question: why do we believe that assigning hours of homework to children after a long school day is the right way to go about things? Do we believe that memorizing facts for a test will truly teach a child? Montessori children who transition to traditional schools have no trouble mastering the art of the worksheet, though they may feel particularly frustrated as they are accustomed to seeing true value in their work.
School is only one part of your child's day. Your children work very hard here at The Children's House. They may feel, at the end of the school day, something like you feel at the end of a day at the office. Our job here at school is to sow seeds of knowledge during the confines of a full school day by offering them "grand and lofty ideas to explore", as Dr. Montessori writes.
The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core. We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones. We seek to sow life in children, rather than theories, to help them in their intellectual, emotional, and physical growth, and for that we must offer them grand and lofty ideas to explore.
After a day of learning at school, we deeply believe that children should have time to play, to pursue their own interests and be with family and friends. This is time for their brains and bodies to rest, to absorb, to allow what has been sown to take root and grow.
As human persons, we need periods of rest so that we can begin a new task with new energy. Homework can easily become a power struggle between children and adults. Montessori schools aim to instill a true love of learning, rather than requiring work through instilling a sense of obligation and fear. Is requiring a child to sit still teaching the child self-mastery, or are we forcibly imposing our own will on the child? We believe in the dignity of each child; we believe strongly and whole-heartedly that each child CAN achieve self-mastery! Whenever children voluntarily decide to learn something, they tend to engage in their work with a passion and attention that few students will ever invest in tasks that have been assigned. Our goal is to inspire joyful thinking above rote compliance.
While most Montessori schools do not require homework, many schools ask children to read and write daily. Our Lower Elementary students will work at home on spelling. All of our children are asked to practice math facts at home, as learning these facts by memory makes math more enjoyable. Our Upper children often bring home a project to work on, but they are fueled by their own passion, not by exteriorly imposed repercussions. Connection between home and school can be achieved through parent involvement, rather than sending your child home with papers to evidence their learning. Our greatest goal at The Children's House is to nurture the love of learning in all of our children, making them joyful learners for life.