Frequently Asked Questions

What is Montessori?

Montessori is a philosophy and approach to learning which at its core believes that children are naturally good and intrinsically curious. Montessori classrooms are characteristically beautiful, inviting, and orderly, and everything in the environment is designed to enhance the children’s overall happiness, engagement, and independence. In Montessori classrooms children learn by playing and working with a myriad of scientifically designed materials that are presented on open shelves in the classroom. These materials are all self-correcting which allows for the learner to make their own learning discoveries at their own pace. Montessori classrooms foster independence, empathy, tenacity, and intrinsic motivation in children. Read More…

How is a Montessori school different from a traditional school?

In traditional schools children all learn the same concept at the same time regardless of readiness, interest, or learning style. This sometimes leads to students feeling frustrated, bored, or disengaged- especially when the lesson is either too easy or too difficult. In traditional schools, there is a clear differentiation between learning time and play time- creating a dichotomy in children’s minds that learning is serious and play is fun. In traditional schools, the emphasis is on the product, the grade, and the result.

In Montessori schools, children learn at their own pace and in the way that best meets their learning style, developmental stage, and interests through hands-on interactions with scientifically designed Montessori materials. In this way, Montessori children do not see any difference between play and work- as everything that they do in the classroom is valuable, interesting, and enjoyable. In Montessori schools, the emphasis is on the process, the learning experience, and the next step- fostering a lifelong love of learning.

How are Montessori Teachers different than other teachers?

All lead teachers at Philly Montessori hold at least a master’s degree, and a Montessori certification from the American Montessori Society. Montessori teachers undergo extensive and rigorous training beyond a typical 4 year degree in early childhood education. This training consists of a full year of academic work, followed by a year of supervised teaching. During the course of Montessori training, teachers not only learn about the Montessori philosophy, and how to present each of the Montessori materials, but they also undergo a period of self-reflection which prepares them to always be present, reflective, gentle, and kind with the children that they serve. Montessori teachers are further trained to work like a scientist in their classrooms. As such, they learn to take careful, detailed observations of each and every child in the classroom, and to use these observations to inform their practice, the lessons that they present, and the way in which they arrange the classroom. This practice transforms Montessori classrooms from static environments to dynamic spaces that change along with the developing children within them.

If children are free to pursue their own interests, how can I ensure that my child receives a “well-rounded” experience?

In Montessori classrooms, it is true that children are free to pursue their own interests; however, this process is always guided under the direction of the classroom teacher. It is the teacher’s role to observe children, and to connect them with materials and activities that will enhance a child’s natural interests, as well as build upon areas that the child may shy away from. For example, in a Montessori classroom, if a child is naturally drawn towards art, and typically shies away from literacy activities, the teacher may create an activity for the class that incorporates art into literacy, such as book making. This aspect is often what differentiates a high quality Montessori classroom from others- the skill of the teacher to observe and connect children with their environment in meaningful ways is imperative. What’s more, in Montessori classrooms, multiple concepts and skills are woven into each area of the classroom. For example, within a simple practical life activity such as table washing, children are also gaining essential skills such as hand eye coordination, muscle memory for writing, sequencing skills for reading, and measuring skills for math. In this way, in any activity that a child chooses, there is a multitude of concepts and skills embedded within, thus ensuring for the development of the whole child.

Is there room for free play and imagination in a Philly Montessori classroom?

Yes! Philly Montessori classrooms are full of opportunities to play, collaborate, tinker, create, relax, and imagine together. Every activity in our classrooms is intended to excite and inspire the children in our care. What is different about our classrooms is that play and imagination are not limited or led by adults, allowing children to freely express themselves in their own individual ways. What also separates Philly Montessori classrooms from other classrooms is that there is no differentiation between what may be viewed as “work”, and what may be viewed as “play”- thus the saying, “work is play, and play is work”. In our classrooms, a child completing a division table, is having just as much fun in their work as a child building a house with their friends- both are engaged in meaningful activity that is adding to their individual development.

What is a micro-school, and why is Philly Montessori a micro-school?

A micro-school is a very old concept that is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance today, with a few notable pioneers being the Alt Schools and Acton Academy. Micro-schools can come in many shapes and forms, but they usually share these common characteristics: small school populations, teachers acting as administrators, and strong parent involvement. By keeping the school small, and empowering classroom teachers as school leaders, micro-schools more nimbly and aptly respond to each unique group of students that they serve. As school leaders and classroom teachers, teachers are extremely well-connected to the children they serve, and thus are able to make informed programmatic decisions for the school (as opposed to the traditional model wherein stakeholders and administrators with often times very little experience with children, or knowledge of child development make big programmatic decisions). It is for all of these reasons that Philly Montessori operates as a micro-school- we simply believe that this is the best educational model possible for the children that we serve!

Is Montessori “right” for every child?

Yes! We strongly believe that Montessori schools are the schools of the future, and that if all schools adapted the Montessori way of teaching we would automatically propel our educational system forward by light years!

Montessori is right for every child because it is adaptable, dynamic, and responsive to each child in the classroom. The hands on learning materials allow children to play and learn at their own pace, while simultaneously gaining the social skills, play skills, and problem solving skills they will need throughout their lives.

Why do Montessori classrooms have mixed age settings?

Authentic Montessori classrooms always have mixed age groups in three year age spans. This is because Dr. Montessori discovered, and science has since supported, that children do not learn in a linear fashion, but rather in the shape of an upward spiral; wherein, learning is strengthened and deepened over time. A mixed age classroom allows for these unique advantages: children engage in self-paced learning, younger children have the opportunity to observe the interesting work their older peers are engaged in and are consequently motivated to work towards a self-determined goal, and older children have the opportunity to crystalize their own learning by teaching and guiding their younger peers.

Won’t my child get bored in the same class for three years?

An enthusiastic- No! Montessori classrooms are designed to grow along with the children that are within it- always presenting new, exciting, and interesting activities in a familiar, nurturing, and loving environment. The three year cycle also has the advantage of reducing summer attrition. Think about how much children lose each year when they leave for the summer and return to a new classroom with a new teacher who must then spend the first two months of school assessing what each child’s learning style is like, what each child’s personality is like, and where each child is academically. By keeping the same children with the same teacher for three whole years, children and teachers (and parents) are able to begin each year where they left off the year before. What’s more, the dynamic nature of the Montessori classroom ensures that with each passing year, children are introduced to not only new concepts and skills, but that their existing knowledge is deepened over time. Following the model of an upward spiral of learning, in Montessori classrooms learning is limitless and infinite. As children master new skills and concepts, new materials are introduced, and new ways to use old materials are discovered. Last, the three year age span allows for amazingly strong bonds to be formed between each member of the classroom community- parents, teachers, and children.

I’m worried about how my child will adjust when they will eventually need to transition to a Traditional school for first grade.

In our experience, we have found that Montessori children naturally adjust quite seamlessly into other learning environments. We believe that this is due to the the level of social-emotional maturity that our students acquire, their strong academic background, and their foundations for positive attitudes towards learning and school. In fact, many of our country’s top entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators are children who attended a Montessori school in their preschool and kindergarten years and traditional schools thereafter. When asked, many of these leaders attribute some of their success to their foundations in a Montessori environment. That said, we really do believe that the Montessori approach is the best approach to teaching and learning, and as an organization we will be working towards offering k-12 Montessori schooling in Philadelphia.

How does Philly Montessori approach discipline?

We believe, and have experienced through years of teaching in Montessori schools, that when children are free to move and work at their own pace, when they are in an intentionally designed classroom, when they have plenty of time to play outdoors, and when they are treated respectfully by everyone in their environment, that there are very few “disciplinary” issues at all! When a behavior does arise that needs attention, we see this as a child communicating a particular need in the only way they may know how. Thus, we see this as an opportunity to observe, and to adjust our environment or our approach in order to better meet the needs of the child. We always maintain open and honest communication with parents about their child’s experiences at school, and we always see parents as our partners in ensuring the very best experiences for the children we serve both at school and at home. Through the Peace curriculum in our school, children are taught from a very young age of how to identify their own emotions, how to identify others emotions, how to communicate our feelings respectfully, and how to work through a problem using our words.

My child is very active, would Philly Montessori be the right fit?

Yes! Philly Montessori is a uniquely designed Montessori classroom, with the needs of every child in mind. Our expansive 1400 square foot classroom is double the size of most classrooms, which will allow for an open and airy space wherein children will be able to move freely between activities of their own choice. Our classroom will also include an outdoor garden which children can visit throughout their day as they please, and an indoor gym which we can utilize on cold and rainy days. Being only two blocks from Weccacoe playground, we will also be able to take advantage of this newly redesigned state of the art playground on a regular basis. Our curriculum is further rounded out by a weekly music and movement class wherein children can practice group movement activities and games.

Does Philly Montessori have outdoor space?

Yes, we will have a beautiful urban garden attached to our classroom where children will be able to move freely from indoor activities to outdoor activities as they please. We will also have an indoor gym, and are just a short walk away from Weccacoe playground.

How will you handle separation?

Many of our new children (and parents) will undoubtedly show either inward or outward signs of separation anxiety in the first few days, weeks, and months of school (every child is different). Our program has many built in processes that will help ease this separation:

  • You as parents will feel well informed and connected to the school before school even begins, thus you will feel comfortable and confidant when dropping your child off at school;
  • On visiting day, you and your child will be able to visit the classroom together in order to help your child feel more comfortable in their new environment;
  • We will follow a phase in schedule so that only a few new children start in the classroom at a time, this will ensure for a calm and welcoming classroom for each set of new children.

We believe in gentle, confident, and respectful goodbyes. If your child is upset for an extended amount of time after your departure, we will let you know! Similarly, if your child is happy moments after you leave, we will let you know! During the first few weeks and months of transitioning to school, communication through emails, phone calls, and pictures is key- we will be your partners through this emotional process.

Is Philly Montessori an accredited Montessori program?

Yes, Philly Montessori is initially accredited by the American Montessori Society, and will be applying for full accreditation as soon as classes are in session in September 2018.

Does Philly Montessori offer enrichment classes?

Yes, in a addition to offering a Spanish immersion program, all children will be a part of weekly music classes led by Ms. Lilly from our community collaborator, Mr. John’s Music. Parents may also enroll their children in a number of after school enrichment classes such as: Soccer (hosted off campus), Sensory Art, Cooking, Foreign Language, and Yoga.

Do parents have an opportunity to be involved in the classroom?

Yes! One of the unique aspects of a micro-school is that a small class body creates an intimate school community. A quick look over our school calendar and you will see many opportunities to connect with parents and families in our school- potlucks, school picnics, and a spring tea are just a few examples. What’s more, every Friday, beginning in November, is a designated “Parent’s Helpers Day”, wherein, one parent from two different families is welcomed into our classroom to observe and work alongside us, or to share a story, interest, or talent with us. These days are completely voluntary and optional, but will be a wonderful opportunity to feel more connected and in tune with what is happening in our classroom on a daily basis.

What is the admissions process?

We follow a rolling admissions process, so that families may apply to our school at any time in the school year. Once your application is received and a space opens up that meets your child’s age and gender needs, you will be invited for a family play date at school so that you can become better acquainted with our programs.

We also invite you to join us for open houses which are held beginning in the Fall of the academic year. To receive direct invitation to Open Houses, please join our mailing list. 

Admissions is offered first in the order that an application is received, and then in order to fulfill age and gender ratios in both classrooms (toddler and primary). Siblings, and families needing full day or extended full day care are always given priority admissions.

“Play is the work of childhood”
~ Maria Montessori