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  • Montessori Philosophy
    WHO WAS MARIA MONTESSORI?

    Maria Montessori, doctor, educator and feminist, was one of the most brilliant and original thinkers of the early 20th century. Montessori was a passionate advocate for the welfare and rights of the child. Her work in education was revolutionary at the time and her influence continues today in countries all around the world.

    Born in Chiaravalle, Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori became, in 1896, the first woman to graduate in medicine from the University of Rome. After graduating, her first work as a doctor involved research with the Psychiatric Clinic at the University and this brought her into contact with children who were physically and intellectually disabled. Dr Montessori was quick to realise that their needs were as much educational as they were medical and from here developed her interest in education.

    She furthered her study in the areas of philosophy, psychology and anthropology, and became a professor of anthropology at the University before directing her attention more fully towards the education of children. This then became her lifelong work. Maria Montessori worked with children of diverse social and cultural backgrounds. She developed her educational ideas through close observation and experimentation as well as freely using ideas from contemporary education. By 1909, she had become a public figure, spending her time lecturing, writing, travelling and establishing schools and training centres. She died on 6 May 1952, aged 81.

    WHAT MAKES MONTESSORI PRE-SCHOOL DIFFERENT FROM CHILDCARE AND KINDERGARTEN?

    Montessori is formal education, not child care or kinder. The activities are part of a carefully planned purpose-filled formal curriculum that starts the first day the child enters the school at two or three years of age. There are many differences, among them:

    • Children learn at their own pace, choosing tasks from among the available classroom materials according to their own need to learn.
    • Our environments are structured. Young children have a strong need for order so they can trust their environment, feel secure within it, and react to it in a positive way. It aids their quest for independence as they are assured of completing a chosen cycle of activity. Independence and adaptation are vital work for young children.
    • The classroom is free of clutter, walls covered with disorganised work and/or art activities or bright murals. The walls are painted in neutral colours and the shelves are well organised, tidy and not overloaded with tasks.
    • The materials themselves are designed, on the basis of close observation of children, to respond to different stages of learning needs. They provide a self-correcting path from concrete, sensory understanding to abstract knowledge.
    • The Montessori Pre-school curriculum is much wider than a mainstream curriculum and we introduce skills (in maths for example:- division, geometry, fractions etc) before mainstream pre-schoolers and junior school aged students are exposed to these concepts.
    • Montessori teachers are trained to have confidence in the children’s learning process. They are thus able to take the time to observe each child at work, and intervene with gentle direction when necessary. Each child receives individual attention, wherever possible and certainly wherever needed; most presentations are one to one.
    • Because the method allows each child to succeed in his or her own time, it is very reinforcing to the child’s own confidence. We do not have extrinsic rewards or give out stars or certificates. The work itself becomes the only reward required.
    • Following the example of the teacher and the older children, each child learns to take responsibility for the materials, putting them back in the correct place for the next child to use. This becomes an active sharing in maintaining a harmonious environment for all.
    • Children have continual opportunities for independent decision making while learning to respect the needs of others.
    • The system not only suggests, it demands a close contact and co-operation among parent, teacher and child.
    • All the Pre-School rooms are multi-aged. We do not divide 3, 4 or 5 year olds into different rooms.
    WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF MULTI-AGED CLASSES IN THE PRE-SCHOOL?

    Multi Age Classrooms offer a number of advantages which enhance a child’s educational experience and are more sensitive to the needs and development rate of each child.

    • Older children act as role models for the younger, they instruct younger children, reviewing concepts themselves in the process. Patience and confidence are reinforced and practised. The older children are able to work at their own level, if lower than their peers, without this becoming obvious to their peers. Younger children can also work at a level above that of their peers without it becoming obvious. Younger children learn to seek help and assistance of those more experienced than themselves. They begin to learn to help themselves.
    • All social groups interact within a wide range of ages; it’s the natural way for humans to relate. A child may benefit from working with older children in one subject, younger children in another, and still have social interaction with children of their own age.
    • A family/community atmosphere is fostered within the class and school.
    • The multi-aged class structure makes it possible for each child to choose their own work, progress at their own rate, work independently or seek companionship when desired. There are always groups of children working at the same developmental, academic or interest level.
    IS THE MONTESSORI PHILOSOPHY RELIGIOUS?

    The Montessori Early Education Centre is not religious, nor do we tend towards any particular religion. We do however, incorporate many of the basic spiritual concepts and principles like grace and courtesy, love, kindness, joy and confidence in the fundamental goodness of life. We acknowledge and accept all religions and races and ensure that we all respect each other’s cultures. Dr Montessori recognized that just as children of three and four aren’t too young to be introduced to maths or science, they aren’t too young to be exposed to life’s biggest issues. Dr Montessori saw cultural issues as an intricate part of the responsible freedom the child needs to find and learn about. (Daniela Donaldson, 2001. Montessori in a Nut Shell).

    WHAT IS THE TEACHING CONCEPT BEHIND THE MONTESSORI MATERIALS?

    The pre-school teaching materials are designed to allow the children to always work with their hands, leading the child from the simple to the complex, from concrete perception to abstract conception. The materials are self-corrective, allowing the child to find the answer themselves. This programmed learning approach, ensures that the child will experience success. The cycle of ‘competence breeding confidence’ motivates the child’s desire to learn and work in later life.

    The Montessori didactic materials are also age-appropriate, easily accessible (not requiring any adult interference for the child to complete their work) and sequential. They have been scientifically designed to test a child’s understanding, evoke imagination and aid abstraction. Many of the materials are made of wood or other natural materials, are beautifully constructed and sit on specific shelves enticing the children to work with them.

    WHAT IS THE TEACHER’S ROLE IN A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM?

    In Montessori classrooms, the teacher is termed a ‘directress’. She assumes the role of a guide, observer and maintainer of the environment. She carefully prepares the environment by including stimulating objects and by removing obstacles. She observes the child to help them overcome difficulties and redirects their interest when necessary.

    She acts as a role model for life long learning giving presentations of the Montessori materials to individuals or small groups. She then encourages them to experience and work with the materials themselves. She stimulates students without grades, rewards or punishments. She assesses each student to determine their progress and measure the effectiveness of the teaching method. She keeps detailed records for each student ensuring that they are mastering the necessary skills and staying on track.

    WHAT IS THE MONTESSORI CONCEPT OF FREEDOM AND DISCIPLINE?

    Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. A free child is one who has developed their potential and prefers to work out problems for themselves but is capable of asking for and receiving information and direction when necessary.

    The Montessori discipline is an ‘inner-discipline’-control that the child develops over their own behaviour through their interest in the Montessori materials. Dr Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children were really frustrated by lack of stimulation, and would become happier and more self-controlled after a period of time in her prepared environment.

    There are few discipline problems in our classrooms because of the strong sense of order, which balances structure and freedom. The concept that freedom carries responsibility is introduced from the time a child enters the school. Children can choose from a variety of paths and they are taught the skills and given the tools to succeed in their choices. They are also taught social values to enable them to make those choices. All staff are pro-active in providing an environment in which respect for others is developed and nurtured.

    IS MONTESSORI OPPOSED TO COMPETITION?

    The Montessori approach encourages children to learn to collaborate rather than to compete against each other. Through Montessori education, children discover their own innate abilities and build independence, self-confidence and self-discipline. The environment allows for each child to learn at their own pace and compete against themselves while realising that making mistakes is part of a learning process without humiliation from or before other students.

    Competitiveness is a human characteristic and children do naturally compete with each other both in the playground and in the classroom. Dr Montessori approved of competition in principle but did not promote artificial competition as a motivation for children to achieve.

    WHAT ARE THE MAIN GOALS OF A MONTESSORI EDUCATION?
    • Independence
    • Independent, creative thinking
    • Self-directed learning
    • Self-discipline
    • Self-motivation
    • Good working habits
    • Strong understanding of ethics
    • Respect for others.
    • A profound love of learning
    • Confidence in themselves and their own ability
    • Co-operation
  • MEEC Governance
    DOES THE STAFF HAVE MONTESSORI QUALIFICATIONS?

    Yes all our Montessori directresses have a Montessori Diploma and there is also a qualified teacher in each Pre-School room.

    IS THE MONTESSORI CURRICULUM RECOGNISED BY THE GOVERNMENT?

    Yes in 2011, the Montessori Australia Foundation (MAF) received official notification from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) that the Montessori National Curriculum has been recognised as an alternative national curriculum framework to be included on ACARA’s Recognition Register.

  • MEEC Programmes and Procedures
    HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN EXISTENCE?

    Our centre has been in operation since 1975. Formerly known as the Waverley Montessori School, the centre moved to Templestowe in 1987 and moved to its current home on Donvale Reserve in 1996.

    AT WHAT AGE DO THE CHILDREN START AT M.E.E.C.?

    Children start at Donvale at the age of 2. We have an Early Starter Programme which is for children from 2 to 3 years of age where the children attend for 2 hours either 2 or 3 sessions a week without their parent or caregiver.

    HOW LARGE ARE YOUR MONTESSORI CLASSES?

    In the Early Starter room we have a maximum of 10 children with 2 staff members. In the Sessional Room we have a maximum of 26 children with 2 staff and in the Cycle One Rooms we have a maximum of 27 children with 2 staff. In the afternoon these numbers go down to as little as 10 children still with 2 staff members, as the younger children go home at lunch. Our centre is subject to state laws regulating the ratio of students to teachers.

    DO YOU HAVE BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CARE?

    No we do not have before or after school care.

    WHEN WILL I FIND OUT IF MY CHILD HAS A PLACE?

    Offers are made during Tem Two, usually during June/July. For the Early Starter programme, siblings are given preference, then families who are continuing on to Mitcham Primary School in the Montessori stream and who have paid the $500 deposit. Offers are then made in order of registration taking into account gender and age. For the Pre-School programme, Early Starter students are given preference followed by siblings, then families who are continuing on to Mitcham Primary School in the Montessori stream and who have paid the $500 deposit. Offers are then made in order of registration taking into account gender and age. If you do accept a position you are then required to pay a bond to hold your child’s spot. Please ensure you update us if there are any changes to your contact details.

    WHAT IS THE BOND?

    The bond is a term’s fee payable on acceptance of an offer of a place in either the Early Starter, Sessional or Cycle One Programs. Please see Fee Schedule in Latest News. It is refunded when the child has completed their one year Early Starter programme, their two year programme in the Sessional Room or three year program in the Cycle One Room. Early withdrawal from any programme will result in the bond being forfeited.

    AS A PARENT WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME?

    All parents must be prepared to have a continuing involvement with the school. This involvement may include, attending fundraising events, attendance at Parent Education Evenings, helping at working bees and attending Parent/Teacher Interviews. In order to provide a holistic environment for your child, it is expected that the Montessori philosophy be extended into the home.

  • Students
    CHILDREN OFTEN REPEAT THE SAME ACTIVITY OVER AND OVER AGAIN. WHY?

    The child derives pleasure from repetition because it answers one of the basic needs of humans: the desire to gain mastery over movements, to refine and perfect them.

    Repetition allows a child to acquire knowledge, gain understanding, demonstrate concentration, show the power of the human intellect and build self-confidence.

    THE CHILDREN WORK INDIVIDUALLY SO WHERE DO THEY LEARN TO SOCIALISE?

    In going about their daily activities in the classroom, the children meet and talk with one another, discuss common problems, correct each other’s mistakes, answer questions, borrow and lend, and help each other in many ways. Moreover, they often spontaneously form into groups to carry out a task together, and the older children are usually eager to help out their younger friends. There are many meaningful social situations that the children engage in.

    ARE CHILDREN IN A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM ALLOWED TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT?

    No. Montessori students do have considerable freedom of choice and movement. But their work must be challenging and they must not disturb others when they move around the room. They are expected to return all materials and activities to where they belong, ready for the next student to use. With these expectations clearly defined, the children learn self-discipline, management and care for their environment, as well as respect for others.

    DOES MONTESSORI SUIT ALL CHILDREN?

    Montessori education is founded on a belief in the development potential of each individual but our system of education may not suit all parents. A positive learning experience requires that the parents and the school share a common view on the purpose of education. This common view creates the supportive triangle when parents, directress and child are all working together for the benefit of the child.

    Parents have to observe in a classroom and be interviewed by the principal before their child starts at our centre. The Montessori Early Education Centre also offers a series of Parent Information Evenings during the school year where parents as part of the enrolment procedure must attend and learn more about the Montessori curriculum and philosophy and how these educational theories are incorporated in our centre. Prospective parents are welcome to attend these evenings to learn more about Montessori and our school.

    DOES MY 3 YEAR OLD CHILD NEED TO BE TOILET TRAINED?

    No but we do not have nappy changing facilities in the pre-school rooms so if an accident does happen the staff would need to ring a parent to come and change their child.

    HOW DO CHILDREN COPE MOVING TO A MAINSTREAM SCHOOL FROM A MONTESSORI SCHOOL?

    The feedback that we receive from mainstream schools shows that children cope very well. They have a concrete understanding of concepts usually learned in traditional schools at an older age. The transition from one school to another, however different or similar is always unsettling for the child, for some more so than others. However, Montessori students are generally very well equipped to cope with change as they have learned the art of self-motivation, have an excellent work ethic and self-discipline.

    It should be remembered that the foundation of our education system is to develop self-directed learning in a supportive environment. Most Montessori students are great problem solvers, have sound social skills nurtured by their experiences of cross age tutoring in a multi aged class.

    ARE THERE SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN VICTORIA USING THE MONTESSORI METHOD?

    Secondary stream started in 2012 at Templestowe College which is a government school. The Templestowe College Erdkinder Stream inspires young adolescents through experiences of real adult life and meaningful work which brings the curriculum alive. Check their website www.templestowec.vic.edu.au