Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to FAQ
1. A student may be ahead or behind of his chronological peers in terms of his/her ability to perform certain tasks. Whether he/she is ahead or behind, the student is provided with the opportunity to progress individually and is not held back or pushed forward based on so-called norms for a certain age. Moreover, it is not unusual that a student is working effortlessly through one area of curriculum but much more slowly through another. Montessori classes are organized to encompass a two or three-year age span, which allows younger students to benefit from the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models.
2. Heritage has made a conscious choice to limit the number of facilities it operates, because we understand that quality can only be attained through direct personal involvement. This fact is quickly evident the first time a parent visits an HMS campus. It is undeniable that "corporate" child care, even within the Montessori community, leads to a lower quality school not only because there is less hand-on involvement, but also because corporate enterprises prioritize gross revenue over the children's needs. HMS will never put financial considerations above the children.
3. Almost any child will be comfortable in a properly functioning Montessori class. Dr. Montessori knew very acutely that the developmental level of each child is different and therefore his/her needs are different. The Montessori method is purposely malleable to the child, and in our experience, there are very few children that do not thrive in a properly functioning Montessori environment. That said, some Montessori schools have teachers that lack the skill needed to assimilate all of the children in the class. So, the short answer to this question is, it depends - on the school, the teacher, and the learning environment.
4. At first, Montessori may look unstructured to some people, but it is actually quite structured at every level. At the early childhood level, external structure is limited to clear-cut ground rules and correct procedures that provide guidelines and structure for two to four year-olds. By age five, most schools introduce some sort of formal system to evaluate students' progress. Elementary Montessori children normally work with a written study plan for the day or week. It lists the tasks that they need to complete, while allowing them to decide how long to spend on each and what order they would like to follow. Beyond these basic, individually tailored assignments, children explore topics that capture their interest and imagination and share them with their classmates.
5. HMS teachers carefully observe their students at work. They give their students informal and formal exams or have the children demonstrate what they have learned by either teaching a lesson to another child or by giving a formal presentation. The children also take and prepare their own written tests to administer to their friends. Montessori children usually don’t think of assessment techniques as evaluations so much as challenges. Students are normally working toward mastery rather than a standard letter grade scheme. However, a properly managed Montessori school will provide grade equivalents in a progress report for parents in the event that the child leaves the Montessori system. While Montessori students tend to score very well on standardized tests and such tests do have their place, Montessori educators are legitimately concerned that many standardized tests are inaccurate, misleading, and stressful for children. Well trained teachers know far more about their students' progress than any paper-and-pencil test can reveal. Remember, sometimes test taking simply reveals how well a child takes a test and does not indicate what kind of student he is in a classroom setting. We consider test-taking skills to be just another Practical Life lesson that children work to master.
6. At HMS, an individualized curriculum is implemented for certain subjects which require cognitive skills (e.g. math, grammar, reading) as opposed to the subjects which are content-centric (e.g. history). For example, there is typically no reason to individualize the presentation of the U.S. westward migration or the movement of tectonic plates.
7. Montessori children are generally curious, self-confident learners who look forward to going to school. They are normally engaged, enthusiastic learners who honestly want to learn and who ask excellent questions. These skills obviously carry over well to traditional learning programs and will serve the child their whole life. Some Montessori children will be bored in a traditional program; others may not understand why everyone in the class has to do the same thing at the same time. But most adapt to their new setting fairly quickly, making new friends, and succeeding within the definition of success understood in their new school.