Frequently asked questions

What are the main differences between mainstream kinder and Montessori pre-schools?

The main difference between a main stream Kindergarten and a Montessori Pre-school are the environment and the multi-ages of the children. The Montessori approach recognises the developmental needs and characteristics of each individual child. We create the corresponding activities within the environment that best meets your child’s needs. This supports and fosters your child’s emergent independence and need for personal movement, as well as his social and emotional development.

The mixed age group promotes community participation, and the more experienced children and you will note that we refer to the more experienced rather than the older children, the more experienced children the opportunity to take on the role as a peer teacher, a mentor, a modeller and that also feeds back into that child’s feeling of self-esteem and Belonging, Being and Becoming.

How large are Montessori classes?

The current National Education and Care Service regulations require a 1:15 teacher to child ratio. Currently, our class sizes are capped at 24. This allows for a higher 1: 12 ratio.

At what age should a child enter a Montessori class?

Children should commence Pre-School as soon as possible after turning 3 years of age.

Why are fees significantly higher than mainstream?

The preschool is a not-for-profit organisation and the fees reflect the cost of running the program. The level of qualification offered by our staff exceeds the current regulation requirements. Our full-time educational staff both hold teaching qualifications and we believe this directly contributes to the quality of program we offer. Current regulations require only one staff member at this qualification level with the second staff member to hold a minimum of Certificate III – Children’s Services. In addition, one full-time staff member holds a Montessori Diploma and the other has a Bachelor in Education. As this Centre also provides 30 hours of education ‘contact’ time per week (6 hours per day), we also employ a part-time (Cert III - Children’s Services) qualified staff member to relieve full-time staff for administrative responsibilities and lunch breaks.

Eligibility of the preschool for government funding is based on the number of children attending who meet criteria as a ‘funded 4year old”. Approximately only half of the children attending will meet these criteria as we highly value the multi-aged grouping. This may differ to other preschools/ kindergartens that only have ‘funded 4 year olds’ in attendance.

Can I do extended days if my child is 3 years old?

Not on initially commencing at the centre. It is however possible for a 3 year old to be invited to take part in an extended day later when they have become familiar with the program and are coping well with attending three mornings per week. Parents and teachers will discuss this option when the child has been in attendance at this centre for some time. Extended sessions are usually introduced gradually again so that your child has time to adjust to the longer time period.

What does ‘extended day’ mean?

Morning sessions run from 9.00am – 12.30pm and an Extended day finishes at 3.00pm.

Do all 4 year old children have to attend extended days?

In line with the National Universal Access policy all funded positions (4 or 5 year olds funded for one year in the year prior to attending school) are required to be offered 15 hours per week. To ensure we are able to meet this policy requirement, the 4 year old sessions will include 2 extended day sessions plus one morning (=15.5 hours/week) with the option of taking on a third Extended day (18 hours per week).

Do you teach another language?

Currently all children are involved in learning German.

Do I get a government rebate?

A subsidy is available through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) to Health Care or Pensioner Concession cardholders. Please contact our Administration Officer for further information.

Do you have a transition period from playgroup to pre-school and pre-school to school?

During the final 3 weeks of playgroup prior to Pre-School entry the Play Group Leader will accompany the playgroup children into main pre-school room. Parents remain in the playgroup room at this time. This provides the children with the opportunity of separating from parents with a familiar staff member knowing that parents are still within the centre but not being directly involved with the child. This allows the child to experience some independence in the new section of the centre, which has already become familiar to them while involved with the playgroup. This time also provides both staff and parents an indication as to how comfortable the child feels separating from parents.

Each individual School provides their own transition program for those moving into the school and this will vary from school to school However, Macedon Ranges Montessori Pre-School also works closely with the Riddell’s Creek Primary School in providing a transition program where the children visit the school during the year to work with the prep children in their classrooms. This opportunity again allows the children to experience an operational school and is open to all children regardless of which school they will be attending in the following year.

Why are the 3, 4 and 5 year old all in the same room? What is the advantage of multi-aged classes?

The mixed age group promotes community participation. More experienced children have the opportunity assist the less experienced children; to take on the role as a peer, teacher, mentor and modeller. The less experienced children have the opportunity to learn from their more experienced peers. This feeds back to the children’s feeling of self-esteem and Belonging, Being and Becoming. It is important to note that ‘more experienced’ child is not necessarily the older child but the child with more confidence and practice at a specific skill, task or process.

Does my child have to go 3 times a week, if not; do I still have to pay for it?

The Montessori program is designed for children to attend on a frequent basis of three or more sessions per week. This centre provides 3 sessions per week for all 3 year old children. This allows children to quickly develop strong relationships with staff and become familiar with the routines and equipment. If you choose to attend for less than the recommended 3 sessions per week you would still pay for all sessions as this place is being held open for your child and another child can therefore not be offered the required 3 sessions in line with Montessori philosophy.

Why is the classroom so structured?

We know that learning doesn’t take place in isolation. Learning, skills and knowledge are layered and build upon prior developed skills, experience, and information, and so we have an integrated curriculum that takes into account the child’s development, experience, and interests. 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*.

What is the importance of completing a 2 to 3 year program?

At Macedon Ranges Montessori we have an understanding that learning takes time, we need to give the children the time and the opportunity to repeat an activity. Through repetition skills and knowledge are improved and opportunities are presented to apply new skills and continue to build on them. This then leads to feelings of self-esteem, self-confidence and the knowledge that you can persist and master new things. A benefit of being in the same environment over this period of time is that your child is able to consolidate and pass on their skills by showing another child how to do something. This is great for confirming their progress and self-identity.

Is Macedon Ranges Montessori religious?

Montessori schools are not religious, nor do they tend towards any particular religion. They do, however, incorporate many of the basic spiritual concepts and principles like love and kindness, joy and confidence in the fundamental goodness of life*.

How do children handle transition to mainstream primary school?

Transition from preschool to school is a challenging time for all children. However, Montessori students are generally very well equipped to cope with change as they have learned the art of self-motivation and self-discipline. Some parents have concerns as to how their children will cope with the change to a traditional (mainstream) school. 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. The students experience conflict resolution in the group meeting and are guided to discuss different strategies*.

What is the teaching concept behind the Montessori materials?

Maria Montessori’s background as medical Doctor meant she had a very scientific approach to her observations and to the ways in which she developed different materials, which we use in the classrooms. As the Montessori approach is concerned foremost with the development of human potential and this approach is based on following the child. Children need to explore, discover, use all their senses, and actively manipulate things in order to learn about them. Our equipment is designed to teach simple concepts, gradually leading to more complex activities using the same principles. They also move also from concrete perception to abstract conception. The activities throughout the classroom are self-directing which allows your child to solve or find the answers themselves.

What is the teacher’s role in a Montessori classroom?

The Montessori teachers are referred to as Directors, and as the name suggests they direct the child through careful observation, planning, and providing learning materials to meet the needs and interests of that child. Our focus is on children learning, not on teachers teaching. A Montessori lesson is given on a one-on-one basis and occasionally in small group lessons. Our lessons are brief and precise, meant to broaden the interests and understanding of your child.

What is the Montessori concept of freedom?

At Macedon Ranges Montessori the concept of freedom within the classroom is within clear limits. We provide the children the flexibility to make their own choices about the kind of work to engage in, whether to do it collaboratively or individually, and for whatever length of time they need to complete their activity. The Montessori method encourages the child to think independently. We achieve this through clearly defined boundaries, the freedom of interaction, association and movement as they choose their own work and learn at their own pace.

What is the Montessori concept of discipline?

Maria Montessori believed and demonstrated that true discipline comes more from within. She taught us that, given the means and in the right environment, a child would reveal their own capabilities for self-discipline. Through watching a young child, order and discipline seemed to be so closely united. Therefore discipline in the Montessori environment is not a technique for controlling behaviour, nor is it something that is done to the child. This is not to say we don’t have rules within our environment, we do. These rules are discussed and the children become the instigators who ensure the rules are followed.

Parents are not rostered to attend each day. Why not?

The Montessori method fosters the independence of children. When children are with parents they are often only too willing to allow their parents to do things for them. This can range from doing an activity that the child perceives as being too hard or sometimes even wanting parents to speak for them. However when children work independently from parents they will often show a greater capability and willingness to become involved with activities. Also, parents often step in quickly when things go astray. So if a child drops a tray carrying glass jugs a parent may immediately try to assist and a child will often recoil into wanting this to happen. However, the jugs rarely break and even if they did this would be part of the learning experience and we just need to clean it up. Alternatively, if there is no need for adult intervention then there will be none. Children are extremely capable beings from a very young age. They just need the opportunity to explore and learn from provided experiences. If however, your child needs you to be at the centre for some time you are very welcome.

Not having parents rostered on a daily basis does not mean that parents aren’t welcome to become involved in the preschool. Parents are the main educator in a child’s life and are highly valued and important to the preschool. Parents will often share special talents with the group be that music, their artistic flair, or gardening. Of high importance is parents’ ongoing contribution to the Committee of Management. Scheduled special days when parents can attend to share some favourite activities with the children are very popular and well attended.

Is pre-school education a good investment?

“Children learn from birth and their learning and development at each stage of life forms the foundation for the next. During the period from birth to eight years, children experience more rapid brain development and acquire more skills and knowledge than in any other period in their lives. By the time they enter school, children have already developed key communication, learning and thinking skills; learned to build and maintain relationships; and formed a strong sense of their own identity. These skills and knowledge are the foundation for learning at school, and for lifelong learning”. Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.

The Federal Government has now taken notice of this information and is investing significantly in the Early Childhood and Pre-School sector by increasing the level of qualification and training required by staff working in this area. In addition, the hours of funded Pre-School (in the year prior to the child attending school) have been increased from 10 hours per week to 15 hours per week.
With this in mind, preschool is an extremely important investment for parents and should be given the same weight of consideration as primary or secondary education for your child. Being the primary educators of your child, parents need to investigate all that is available and ensure that the program available most suits the needs of your child and family values (Australian Government Department of Education and Training).

*Parts of this page have been used with kind permission from Bacchus Marsh Montessori