Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between Montessori school and traditional education?

In early childhood Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just trough listening, watching, or reading. In Montessori elementary classrooms children learn all subjects as part of whole culture and not as separated subjects. Children in all Montessori levels learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities from a multitude of possibilities while guided by a generalist AMI diploma holder adult. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.

Where did Montessori come from?

Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a doctor. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities. Now more than a century after Maria Montessori’s first casa dei bambini (“children’s house”) in Rome, Montessori education is found all over the world, spanning ages from birth to adolescence.

A Montessori classroom doesn’t seem to have any opportunities for pretend play?

(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children’s House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long. They were allowed to do real things – i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true. Children love to use real items, and work real activities.

(2) The materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.

(3) There is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder in true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all “work” is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.

Montessori children

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. Just like a child who needs more time to grasp certain math concepts can take additional time to reach abstraction a child who is ahead of their grade level in math comprehension can attend lessons with older classmates to work on their own level. A classroom where children have varying abilities is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes. Moreover, multiage grouping allows each child to find his or her own level without feeling “ahead” or “behind” in relation to peers.

That said, being a small alternative program Lisbon Montessori School has a limit on special support our professionals can provide. A limit of one child with a diverse developmental need may attend any of our Montessori classrooms at a time in the case where the student’s presence doesn’t demand an overly increased amount of attention from the classroom teachers who are there to support all classroom students. Our belief that the number of adults in a prepared environment directly impacts the level of independence in children is behind why shadow adults are not allowed in our classrooms. This is why we may not be able to serve children with severe developmental delays where an extensive one-on-one academic or behavioral support is needed. 

Further considerations regarding enrollment of students with neural diversities.

Young children with developmental delays may be invited to attend their Montessori environment on a half-day basis, because we aim to protect the child’s right to spend enough time in the safety of their home environment in order to avoid much frustration that may come from being daily in a social group for overly long stretches of time. Moreover, a child with more severe developmental needs may need to attend special education classes outside of their school environment.

LMS lead adults will make sure to raise alarm with the family if they observe any developmental delays. A child may be asked to go through a complex developmental assessment at an external child development centre (examples of such centres in our area are SEI, CADIn) in a case where a child’s skills remain below grade level for longer than a few months. This assessment allows parents and teachers to obtain valuable advice from a team of developmental specialists in order to support the child in achieving their potential.

Lisbon Montessori School will consider applications of all students with special needs, giving priority to the youngest applicants, because enrolling a student at an early age will give the school a better chance to make an optimal impact, something that Montessori education is designed to make.

What ages does Montessori serve?

Montessori serves all ages. Nido is for children from a few months old to about 18 months. Many toddler programs (ages 18 months-3 years) exist, preschool, also called ‘children’s house’ or ‘casa’ (ages 3-6), elementary (ages 6-12), adolescent (ages 12-18). Lisbon Montessori School hosts two casa communities (ages 2 & 10 m-6 years), one lower elementary (ages 6-9) and one upper elementary classroom (ages 9-12). 

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 very 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.

However, it is the success that is rarely measurable in positions on the social ladder or money that Montessori graduates enjoy in life. Recently carried out research reveals that Montessori alumni enjoy a higher life satisfaction and well-being than people who graduate mainstream schools.

Montessori teachers

What special training do Montessori teachers have?

As with the choice of a Montessori school for children, an adult must also exercise wisdom in choosing a teacher training course. Anyone can legally use the same name “Montessori” in describing their teacher training organization. One must be sure the certification earned is recognized by the school where one desires to teach.

Montessori training centers can be found across every continent. Lisbon Montessori School employs guides that hold AMI (Association Montessori International) certified diploma for the level they teach. International AMI training centres are numerous around the world. More information on the training centres can be found here:

Some specific details of he montessori method as practiced at lisbon montessori school

The schedule – The three-hour work cycle

In Lisbon Montessori School casa and elementary classrooms there are two three-hour, uninterrupted, work cycles each day, not broken up by required group lessons. Some casa children nap in the afternoon cycle. Older children schedule meetings or study groups with each other and the teacher when necessary. Adults and children respect concentration and do not interrupt someone who is busy at a task. Groups form spontaneously or are arranged ahead by special appointment. In casa they almost never take precedence over self-selected work. In elementary students work on projects in small self-chosen groups or individually. Presentations are given by the teacher in small groups. There is 45 – 60 minutes outdoor recess every day. Children will play outside, rain or shine.

Work centers

The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects – math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., will be presented, practiced or researched, at all levels.

Teaching Ratio – 1:1 and 1:30

Except for infant/toddler groups, the teaching ratio is one trained Montessori teacher and one non-teaching aide to 30 children. Rather than lecturing to large or small groups of children, the teacher is trained to teach one child at a time, or a small group, and to oversee thirty or more children working on a broad array of tasks. A Montessori guide is facile in basic lessons of math, language, the arts, and sciences, and in guiding a child’s research and exploration, capitalizing on his interest in and excitement about a subject. The teacher does not make assignments or dictate what to study or read, nor does she set a limit as to how far a child follows an interest.

Class size

Except for infant/toddler groups, the most successful classes are of 30-35 children to one teacher (who is well trained for the level she is teaching), with one non-teaching assistant. This is possible because the children stay in the same group for three to six years and much of the teaching comes from the children and the environment. Observing in a Montessori classroom helps understand why such large groups are conducive to a lot of learning taking place.


There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment, subtle or overt. Assessment is by the teacher’s observation and record keeping. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning and appropriate level of work.

At Lisbon Montessori School starting at age 8 the elementary students take an American standardized annual assesment exam. However, they will not be required to study especially for the test with the exception of being introduced to how the test works. Students in grades 3,4,5 and 6 take this test every year.

Character education

Education of character is considered before academic education. Children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other – cooking, cleaning, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community – all of these things are treated as equally important as academic knowledge to the developing personality. Dr. Montessori discovered that when the child’s adults take active interest and care about her character development and wellbeing her academic success is soon to follow.

Multi-age grouping

Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three-years span (Casa 3-6) and six-years span (Elementary 6-12). There is constant interaction, problem solving, child-to-child teaching, and socialization. Children are challenged according to their ability and almost never bored.

The Montessori elementary guide presents lessons in small groups that are formed according to the students’ level and interests. Older students assume the role of models and provide guidance and support to younger peers at various times throughout the day. This type of set up helps children to develop various social and leadership qualities naturally.

Languages Used at Lisbon Montessori School

Our language of instruction is English. Assistant teachers speak with students in Portuguese. International students have a chance to absorb a significant amount of Portuguese in the casa level if they join us at the age of 3, and continue in the elementary where students attend additional Portuguese lessons with specialist teachers in two levels, Native or Non-Native. Joining the school at an older age than 3 may automatically decrease the amount of Portuguese language acquisition because the absorbent mind begins to fade at around the age of 6 and because academic instruction is English-based. Those families who wish for their child to learn more Portuguese should also ensure additional exposure outside of school, like reading Portuguese books, singing, listening to songs, and attending playdates with Portuguese-speaking children. It is also fair to say that because we use both, English and Portuguese in the classrooms, progress in English acquisition in those students who don’t speak either language at the start of attendance might be affected as well.

Teaching method – “Teach by teaching, not by correcting”

There are no papers turned back with red marks and corrections. Instead the child’s effort and work is respected as it is. The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual presentations and projects to enable each child to learn what he needs in order to improve.

Areas of study

All subjects are interwoven, not taught in isolation, the teacher modeling a “Renaissance” person of broad interests for the children. A child can work on any material he understands at any time.

Learning styles

All kinds of intelligences and styles of learning are nurtured: musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intuitive, and the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical (reading, writing, and math). This particular model of integrated learning developed by Dr. Montessori in her schools is backed up by modern-day Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

An elementary child may choose to work with tone bars to compose music for a large part of the day, then record it in her diary. She may choose to follow it up with some mathematics or language work, or she may research history of a particular musical instrument. As this type of process suggests the knowledge is rather actively produced than passively accepted from the teaching source.

Requirements for age 3-6

There are no academic requirements for this age, but children are exposed to amazing amounts of knowledge and often learn to read, write and calculate beyond what is usually thought interesting to a child of this age. There is requirement to know the language of instruction in very young applicants who are 3 or 4 years of age. Applicants who are 5 years or older must be fluent in English.

Requirements for ages 6-12

The teacher remains alert to the interests of each child and facilitates individual research in following interests. There are no curriculum requirements except those set by state, or college entrance requirements, for specific grade levels. These take a minimum amount of time. From age six on, students design contracts with the teacher to guide their required work, to balance their general work, and to teach them to become responsible for their own time management and education. The work of the 6-12 class includes subjects usually not introduced until high school or college.

Still have questions? Contact us!

Lisbon Montessori School

School director: Ivona Rozanovska

The MSA-CESS has granted Lisbon Montessori School accreditation based on how it fulfils the standards of the MSA self-study and peer review process which revealed that Lisbon Montessori School is effectively advancing the quality of educational experiences it offers its students and meets its responsibilities to the public and the profession of education.

Lisbon Montessori School CASA level (ages 3-6) has been fully licensed by the Portuguese Education Ministry. We are currently working with the Ministry on licensing our ELEMENTARY levels.

The MSA-CESS has granted Lisbon Montessori School accreditation based on how it fulfils the standards of the MSA self-study and peer review process which revealed that Lisbon Montessori School is effectively advancing the quality of educational experiences it offers its students and meets its responsibilities to the public and the profession of education.

Lisbon Montessori School CASA level (ages 3-6) has been fully licensed by the Portuguese Education Ministry. We are currently working with the Ministry on licensing our ELEMENTARY levels.


“To provide authentic Montessori education to children and families in our community.”