Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Montessori? 

Dr. Maria Montessori gave the world a scientific method, practical and tested, for bringing forth the very best in young human beings.  She taught how to respect individual differences, and to emphasize social interaction and the education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body of knowledge.

Montessori practice is always up to date and dynamic because observation and the meeting of needs is continual and specific to each child.  When physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs are met, children glow with excitement and a drive to play and work with enthusiasm to learn and create.  They exhibit a desire to teach, help, and care for others and their environment.

The high level of academic acheivement, so common in Montessori schools, is a natural outcome of experience in such a supportive environment.  The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural mixed age group is very much like the society they will live in as adults.

Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses not just through listening, watching or reading.  Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities.  Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a love of learning.

Montessori classes place children in multi-age groups forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share knowledge with the younger ones.

Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other - cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community.

Montessori education is a balanced program that address all aspects of a child’s development: intellectual, social, moral, physical and aesthetic. Montessori education is highly individualized which is why it works so well for such a wide variety of children, from typical learners to gifted learners to children with learning disabilities.


What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

Montessori found that children learn best through their activity and the use of all five senses.  Children in a Montessori environment are active learners, learning by doing, rather than simply watching or listening.  Children in Montessori classes learn at their own individual pace and according to their own interests and abilities from numerous possibilities.  Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.


Why are Montessori classrooms multi-age?

Children are divided into multi-age groupings in order to foster peer-teaching and spontaneous group interaction. The teacher focuses on helping the children discover and fulfill their maximum potential, acting as a catalyst as they learn academic skills and to use their time effectively and wisely. This blended grouping nurtures the feeling of a community consisting of teachers, students and parents.  Students are able to grow not only academically but also emotionally, socially and spiritually. Multi-age settings permit older children the opportunity to aid younger ones.  This strengthens their own knowledge through the experience of teaching and boosts self-esteem.  Younger children learn through observation how to lead while the others gain experience and learn leadership skills.  When compared to children in single age classes, children in multiage classes are superior in study habits, social interaction, self-motivation, cooperation, and attitudes toward school.


Are Montessori children successful later in life?

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.



Is it true that children in Montessori have too much freedom?  I've heard that Montessori is too structured - that there is too much control?.

It is interesting that some Montessori classrooms are seen to offer too much freedom, while others are seen to be very strict.  In a quality program the perfect balance between freedom and limits is maintained, while helping the children to develop "inner discipline" and "normalization".  Children in the prepared environment are free to make many decisions for themselves are are assisted in their independence.  The Montessori setting offers "freedom within limits", not license to do anything one pleases.  As a child grows in their ability to make decisions for themselves, they earn more freedom.  At the same time, a very young child or a child new to the environment, would be offered less choice or freedom.  One of the beauties of the prepared environment is the ability of children of all ages and stages to work together harmoniously.  A true community is developed with the children helping each other.


What are the ground rules?

Respect is an important aspect of the Montessori environment.  Respect for ourselves, each other and the environment.  A child may not interfere with another child or his work, unless invited to do so.  A child is free to work with any material (at his level and once introduced by the teacher) but must treat it carefully and return it when finished, ready for the next person.  A child has the right to work alone, or in a group, or to observe (he may be learning by observing others; he may be thinking; or he may simply be relaxing), as long as he does not disturb others.


What is the idea of young children teaching themselves?  How can they teach themselves when they don't yet have such knowledge?

Dr. Montessori believed that nature endowed the young child with an inner drive toward self development.  She believed that the child is naturally drawn toward that which s/he needs at that time for development.  She  identified "sensitive periods" in children where they are intent on meeting the needs of that particular sensitivity and drawn to those activities which will aid in that development.  The Montessori philosophy and materials are created to this end.  Not only are the materials designed to follow the child's natural development, they are "self correcting".  As the child works with them they provide immediate feedback to the child.  Montessori terms this quality of the material "control of error".  The Montessori teacher observes the child and helps connect her/him to the various materials, continuously presenting until finding an activity that the child fully engages in, concentrates and emerges from it with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.


What are Montessori materials?

The Montessori materials play an important role in the Montessori environment. They are different from traditional “teaching aids” because their purpose is to give the child the chance to discover and learn for him or herself.  The self-correcting materials permit the child to use and learn from them without constantly checking back in with the teacher to see if they 'got it right'. Exploring the materials (learning how to learn) is as important as 'getting the answer right'.

The materials are designed so that children explore academic subjects (like math, geography or writing) with concrete materials before progressing to abstract concepts. It is because the Montessori materials are self-correcting that the children can progress at their own rate. Children are excited, motivated, and interested.


Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities?  What about gifted children?

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, multi-age grouping allows each child to find his or her own pace without feeling "ahead" or "behind" in relation to peers.  The idea in Montessori education is to "follow the child".


What are the benefits of a Montessori Education?

  • Students work toward becoming independent learners who are deeply engaged in their learning.
  • Students are able to progress at a pace appropriate to their learning needs.
  • Students work towards developing positive social and community skills.
  • Students nurture a respect for themselves, their classmates, the community, and of our earth. 
  • Students develop an intrinsic joy of learning, self control, and concentration.  

At what schools is the Montessori Program located? 

  • Richard McBride Elementary:  Kindergarten to Grade 5
  • Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary:  Grade 1 to Grade 6 (This program will move to Connaught Heights when the new elementary and middle schools are built, and will include Kindergarten at that time.
  • Connaught Heights: Kindergarten


What does it cost?

There are two ways of answering this:

  1. The New Westminster Montessori Program is part of the public school district.  It is available to families at no cost.
  2. Each Montessori classroom has well over $10,000 in special Montessori materials which are paid for by the parents (via the New Westminster Montessori Society).

Many Montessori parents work together to provide the money for these marvelous materials which make the Montessori program possible. Some parents participate in fundraising activities. Some parents make donations (all of which are tax deductible). Some parents actually make some of the materials (thereby saving the Society hundreds of dollars.) Some amazing parents do all of the above.


How can I contribute?

  • Donate Money- the Society will provide you with tax deductible charity receipts.  Please click here for more information.
  • Fund raise - the Society runs a number of organized fundraisers each year. Parent volunteers organise and run them, and parents go out and do the selling.
  • Volunteer - we need people to help in a variety of unpaid ways. Acting as a Board Member, a class representative, a fund raising coordinator, a builder of materials. These are all volunteer jobs that need to be done.

Here is another way of looking at the need for fund raising/donating/volunteering: having to do all of this creates a community of parents and families who care for and help one another and work towards a common goal. It demonstrates to the children how much we care about their education.

How do I apply for my child to enter Montessori?

See Enrol your child. For More Information:

  • Contact us
  • Contact Sandra Pace, Director of Learning Services, New Westminster School District. 604-517-6111 or

See also: