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What is Casa?
The word Casa comes from the Italian phrase "casa dei bambinin", a phrase Maria Montessori used when she first began working with young children.  "Casa" often refers to the preschool classes for children ages 3-6, encompassing the preschool year, Canadian Junior and Senior Kindergarten aged child.  

I've heard the words "Absorbent Mind" and "Sensitive Periods" being used by people when talking about Montessori.  What do they mean?
These are terms that Montessori coined to describe specific learning characteristics in young children.
The absorbent mind is just as it sounds,  children "absorb" the environment and experiences that they are exposed to. These experiences change the brain physically and make the child into who they will become as they grow. This type of learning is only seen in the child from birth to age 6. During this time the child does not need to put forth an effort into the learning process but learns simply by doing, or through the absorption of the environment.
"Sensitive Periods" are times in which the child is drawn to specific areas of learning. The child has an inner drive to master a specific skill. These windows of opportunity are developmental and once they have passed learning skills related to that period  take more effort on the child's part.  A Montessori teacher is trained to observe and recognize when a child is entering certain sensitive periods and specific lessons and materials will be used in order to maximize learning.

I've heard people say that Montessori doesn't allow the use of imagination or that there isn't a lot of creativity allowed.  Is this true?

Montessori believed that it was very important that a young child have a firm grasp on reality before they are introduced to imaginary characters or fairy tales.  She believed that the distinction between reality and fantasy is quite blurred for young children and that it is best to give them a firm understanding of reality before launching into fantasy.  When young children engaged in imaginative play they are developing their sense of self and beginning to understand their environment.  The use of imagination on the part of the child is developmentally necessary and encouraged.  However, when adults present fantasy in the form of fairy tales, movies and fictious characters this is not the child developing but the child having to discern what is fact and what is fiction - a difficult task for a young child.  Imagination and creativity are encouraged in the classroom, however it is encouraged as part of the work of the child when s/he is developmentally ready. 

Why are there mixed age groups in the classroom?

The mixed age group classroom allows for many different social and academic advantages.  As adults we deal all the time with people from different age groups - the Montessori classroom is an extension of society.  A mixed age group makes for a less competitive environment where everyone is allowed to work and achieve at their own pace.  Children needing more time to master a skill are not pressured to move on before mastery has been achieved, at the same time children who master a skill quickly can move forward to the next step without having to wait for others.  A child may excel in one area but require frequent repetition in another area.  Younger children have the opportunity to observe the older children thereby "seeing" what they will be learning in the future.  Older children have the opportunity to peer teach, reinforcing and fully internalizing previously learned concepts, as well as developing leadership skills.  The Montessori classroom is a small community where positive social interactions and cooperative learning takes place.

I want to know everything that's going on, I'm a bit of an overprotective mom - is Montessori the right thing for me?

You've come to the right place!  At Echo we believe that communication between home and school is essential and in the best interest of your child.  We encourage parents to ask questions, to let us know what is going on at home and to speak with us frequently. We are your child's first experience outside the home and we want the beginning of the journey to independence to be a positivie and successful one.  

I thought Montessori was just for Gifted Children.  My friend thought the program was for children who had Learning Differences - which is it?

Well you are both right - Montessori is for everyone.  As the program is based on the individual child, children who are gifted can learn at their own pace, as can those who might have a learning delay. 

I like that my child needs me - I'm not really ready to let her put on her own coat.

Your child will need you in many way throughout her lifetime.  Just because a child is learning to be independent does not mean that she won't need you.  The greatest gift you can give your child is the ability to make independent choices in life.  And this is what we do in the classroom - we teach children how to learn, where to find answers and how to do for themselves.  We want children to be able to put on their own coats not to help us out so we don't have so many zippers to do up, but because of the sense of accomplishment the child feels from doing it herself.  This leads to the building of confidence and self esteem, both vital for success in life. 

Catch me a fish.and I will eat today, teach me to fish and I will eat for a lifetime.
- Ancient Chinese proverb