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Frequently Asked Questions

Who started the Montessori Method of education?

Maria Montessori was an educational visionary. Born to middle-class parents in an Italian village in 1870, she defied convention by becoming a doctor. During her training, she toured asylums and became aware of the plight of children with developmental disabilities. She opened a school for these children, applying the sensory-based educational approach she’d learned from two French educators. The children responded favorably, even passing entrance exams to public schools. Later, in 1906, Montessori drew the attention of the education world with the success of her school for children living in slum conditions. Montessori traveled extensively, training educators and opening new schools. Modern research has affirmed many of her beliefs about how children learn, proving the extent to which she was ahead of her time.

What philosophy guides the Montessori method?

At the root of Montessori’s method was a deeply held belief in the dignity and spiritual worth of every child. A disciplined observer of children’s learning patterns, Montessori recognized each child’s natural desire to master new skills. Montessori school classrooms encourage children to touch, manipulate and explore. Subjects traditionally reserved for older students, such as geometry, grammar, botany and zoology, are introduced early. Montessori was the first to recognize that the minds of children under six are receptive to these subjects.

How does Montessori curriculum differ from that of traditional schools?

Young children are attracted to practical life exercises because they sense that mastery of these activities will allow them to function independently in the adult world. You’ve heard your preschooler declare, “I can do it myself!” Montessori encourages and fosters this independence. As students move into the lower and upper elementary programs, classroom materials encourage a move from understanding the physical world to grasping abstract concepts. The learning environment provides the groundwork for study of mathematics, grammar, geometry, botany, zoology and geography, all in a manner that meets this age group’s need for both inspiration and an orderly world.

How old must a child be to attend Wichita Montessori School?

Our Primary program offers both half-day and full-day programs for children 3 to 6 years old. Kindergarten is a full-day program. It's ideal if children have two years of Primary education before going into Kindergarten; however, we will gladly welcome students at any point providing the student and the program are a good match.

How do multi-age classrooms help Montessori students develop social skills?

Maria Montessori’s theory of child development was based on a three-year cycle. Therefore, 3 to 6-year-olds are grouped in the Primary program, 6 to 9-year-olds make up the Lower Elementary program, and 9 to 11-year-olds are in the Upper Elementary Program. The multi-age setting allows children to learn FROM each other, as well as BECAUSE of each other. Older children reinforce their knowledge by teaching younger ones, and younger ones get a preview of what’s to come by watching older students. Children also learn to get along with people of different ages and abilities, to respect each other, and to treat each other with courtesy. When a child masters a project, they may be invited by the teacher to share their accomplishment with older students. It is not unusual to overhear a 6-year-old sincerely telling an even younger student, “You did a great job!”

What is an average class size, and how many teachers serve each group?

The ratio is 12 students to each teacher for Primary and Kindergarten. In the lower and upper elementary areas, the ratio is about 16 to 1.

How does introducing foreign languages at such a young age benefit Montessori students?

Research supports Montessori’s conviction that young children (our 4-year-old students begin exploring foreign languages) are developmentally sensitive to language acquisition. Exploration of a foreign language introduces and clarifies abstract concepts such as words, their meanings, and the ability to combine them to communicate ideas. This facilitates the learning of other languages later in life.

What is the enrollment process?

The Wichita Montessori School is currently accepting new students into both its primary and elementary programs. You can download an application from this web site or call 686-7265. Each year of the Montessori program builds on skills learned the previous year. Prior to a new student’s acceptance, teachers in the program will evaluate each child and interview his or her parents to discuss goals and concerns. For details, see application process.

Why does WMS encourage such a high level of parental involvement?

The parent is the child's first and most influential teacher. - Maria MontessoriMontessori educators consider themselves to be collaborators with parents in the encouragement of each child's absorbent mind. Parents are encouraged to visit with teachers at any time; formal conferences are held twice a year. Wichita Montessori School's parents' group helps parents keep in touch, too.

How does the initiative instilled by the Montessori method help students throughout their education?

Studies following Montessori graduates through their transition to more traditional educational systems yield reassuring data. Typically students excel both academically and socially; their experience with multi-age groups gives them insight into other children’s personalities, and they make friends easily. Montessori graduates tend to have a balanced outlook and are good problem solvers. Their attitudes toward learning are based on a desire to understand and to master material, so they typically go beyond set limits, motivated by a love of learning rather than a desire for grades. Wichita Montessori School's first graduates are now young adults, some with WMS students of their own! Of our graduates there have been five National Merit Finalists, four National Merit Commended, one who also achieved a perfect SAT (1600) score, one Coca Cola Scholar, two awarded Cum Laude Society, one Kansas Scholar and one Presidential Scholar. It is also important to mention that we are proud of our graduates for their leadership in art, sports, music and citizenship, all qualities nurtured at Wichita Montessori School.

Why is self-discipline a by-product of the Montessori method?

The amount of self-direction allowed by the integrated approach described above leads children to a natural love of learning. From an early age, they understand that they are responsible for the quality of their work. When a child's mind is "sensitive" to a particular interest, the topic's incremental parts begin to make "sense" to the child, and tremendous satisfaction and joy comes from exploring it fully.

How does the integrated approach ensure that students receive a well-rounded education?

In a setting where students are encouraged to pursue their own interests at their own pace, parents may be concerned about a child avoiding an area of study. Several characteristics about the Montessori classroom's "prepared environment" prevent this from happening. First, a child's natural curiosity will lead him or her to explore every aspect of a thing. (For example, geography of a country naturally leads to investigating the art of that region.) The second safeguard is the Montessori educator. Teachers are intimately familiar with each student; they can draw out a student's curiosity about an untried area.

What are the school's hours?

Half-Day Primary Program8:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.Extended Day Primary, Kindergarten, Lower & Upper Elementary8:00 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.After School Care is available on the campus for elementary aged children through The Independent School's Panther Care program. Younger children through kindergarten may attend our in-house After School Program, which is billed separately.

Is Wichita Montessori School part of The Independent School?

While WMS is located on the campus of The Independent School, it is a separate entity. The two schools enjoy a relationship of mutual respect and do collaborate on certain projects.

What is the Geography-a-thon?

Each spring, WMS students excitedly prepare for the school’s Geography-a-thon. The event challenges each student to learn specific geographic facts and culminates with both oral and written testing. Parents and friends can sponsor students on a per-answer basis, creating a fundraiser that benefits the school. The ultimate goal of the Geography-a-thon is to give students a larger sense of the world and its cultural diversity.