Black and white photo of Marie Montessori surrounded by children

About Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, innovator, and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children learn naturally.

She opened the first Montessori school in Rome in 1907. Using scientific observation and experience gained from her work with children, Montessori designed learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered children’s natural desire to learn and provided them freedom to choose individually appropriate materials to which they had been previously oriented.

Fast-forward several decades, there are now thousands of Montessori schools all around the world. Today, Montessori classrooms and the Montessori method itself are largely unchanged from a century ago, yet the learning outcomes they support are more relevant in the 21st century than ever before.

“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

Three Montessori Differences

Photo of young boy and girl sitting on the floor reading a book together


Multi-age, family-like communities
Most play-based preschools segregate children by age into the 3’s, 4’s, Pre-K, and so on. Authentic Montessori schools, on the other hand, group 3-to 6-year-olds into one class and and children stay in the same community for three years.
This builds a strong, family-like community with lasting relationships between child and teacher as well as friendships between children of different ages. Young children look up to and learn from older ones, while the older children gain confidence as they become classroom leaders and mentors to their younger peers.
Young blond hair boy in orange shirt leaning forward using moveable alphabet to spell out words


Uninterrupted 3-hour work periods

Most preschools follow tight, adult-led schedules with a new group activity every 30 – 45 minutes. In contrast, authentic Montessori schools offer long, uninterrupted work periods that allow children to fully engage in tasks that they have chosen for themselves under the careful, individual guidance of their teacher.

Montessori children thus have repeated opportunities to get really engrossed in their activities and experience regular states of concentrated focus. As adults, it is hard to focus when we know we will be interrupted soon; the same goes for children. Unstructured, child-led time is key in building concentration skills which lies at the heart of all learning.
Seated young blond girl buttoning a red shirt on a Montessori practical life teaching tool as a young asian boy wearing a surgical masks looks over her
Close up on young boy in a blue Hawaiian inspired shirt holding a pair of small metal tongs picking up pretzels
Young boy wearing a white and yellow striped smock standing at a child size sink washing dishes with water, soap and green sponge
Arrival // 7:30—8:00am

As children arrive, they begin their day in the classroom or on the playground with self-initiated exploration and free play.

Morning Work Period // 8:00–10:00am

One of the hallmarks of authentic Montessori is the uninterrupted morning work period which extends from 8:00am until 10:00am. It affords children the opportunity to choose from appropriate activities that interest them and helps develop concentration, order, cooperation, and independence while satisfying their natural curiosity and affinity for exploration.

Morning Snack + Outdoor Play // 10–11:30am

Children sit down for a morning snack that they themselves help prepare and serve. This is followed by group circle time where children sing songs or read stories. From about 11:00am until 11:30am, children play outside to develop gross motor skills and expend some of their boundless energy.

Lunch + Recharge // 11:30am–2:30pm 

Children eat lunch brought from home as a group, encouraging both independence and social skills. After helping to clean up and getting themselves ready to rest, the children nap to regain energy for the rest of the day.

Afternoon Snack + Afternoon program // 2:30–4:30pm 

Children take part in another group circle activity and then a snack. They spend the afternoon working on interesting crafts, participating in thematic activities, and/or additional time playing outside. Children may be picked up anytime between 3:00pm and 4:30pm.

Female toddler learning about landforms using sponge with blue and green colored water


Carefully sequenced

activity-based curriculum

Authentic Montessori schools group 3- to 6-year-olds into one class so a child stays in the same community for three years. This builds strong, family-like bonds with lasting relationships between child and teacher as well as friendships between children of different ages. Young children look up to and learn from older ones, while older children gain confidence as they become classroom leaders and mentors to their younger peers. As adults, since we do not work or interact exclusively with others our own age, the multi-age classroom reflects real life in preparation for the real world.

“…in every child is the seed that will mature into an adult.”

Three Montessori Benefits

Close up of young child holding child safe plastic knife cutting a banana


Independence, confidence and

a growth mindset

Montessori children acquire a level of physical and intellectual independence rarely seen in other preschool environments. From the first day, they learn to take care of their own needs (dressing themselves, preparing snacks) and their environment (cleaning up after lunch, taking care of classroom plants and animals). This daily experience of being trusted with real responsibility for meaningful tasks – and rising to the occasion by successfully accomplishing that responsibility – results in children who have earned the self-confidence that comes from mastery. 

And because we acknowledge that mistakes are necessary for learning – by greeting, for example, spilled water or a broken glass with a calm, constructive demeanor – children learn that it is not only OK to make mistakes, but that we can and should learn from them. Montessori preschoolers develop a growth mindset – a fundamental attitude about the world that is invaluable to living lives fully lived.
Photo of young boy standing at table with two bowls holding a metal tea strainer


Montessori students exhibit a more richly

connected semantic memory network

Young girl in blue dress covered with colorful hearts standing in front of wall of Montessori Golden beads


The joy of reading, writing, and arithmetic in preschool

While many preschools pride themselves in their “pre-reading” or “pre-math” curriculum, Montessori children actually learn to write, read, and do arithmetic into the thousands while in preschool. They do so joyfully with activities they choose such as drawing pictures and writing stories about them, or participating in exercises with the Golden Bead materials. While we do not push children to learn what is beyond their capabilities, we know that children are capable of much more than many people realize.

Group of young kids seated raising their hands as teacher is reading to them

FURTHER EXPLORATION // Frontiers Science News

Montessori preschool boosts academic results

and reduces income-based inequality

Young girl sitting on floor playing with Montessori pink tower blocks


Executive function skills, from attention span to graceful social interactions

While most play-based preschools have the same type of toys you already have at home, authentic Montessori schools offer something different. Displayed beautifully on low shelves, your child will find dozens of scientifically designed learning materials: a Pink Tower; Color Tablets; pouring activities, a Movable Alphabet, math materials that teach the decimal system and arithmetic into the thousands, and so much more. 
Each material teaches multiple skills and enables preschool children to problem-solve, using their hands and all their senses, to repeat an activity and achieve mastery. By progressing at their own pace, Montessori children joyfully refine their gross and fine motor skills and, ultimately, progress to reading, writing, and arithmetic all while in preschool.
Thumbnail from still of video showing teacher seated in chair in front of children seated on the floor


UVA researchers study links between

Montessori school and well-being in adulthood

Additional Resources

Inspirational Montessori Alumni

Head shot of Steph Curry smiling and wearing a pink jacket against a yellow background

Steph Curry

Professional Basketball Player, Golden State Warriors

Photograph of Sergey Brin & Larry Page next to each other smiling

Sergey Brin & Larry Page

Co-Founders, Google

Black and white photograph of Julia Child in a kitchen setting holding a metal whisk in her right hand and ladle in the left

Julia Child

Chef, Teacher, Author, & Television Personality

Black and White photography of Helen Keller in mortar board and graduation gown

Helen Keller

Activist, Author, and One of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century

Montessori & Hawaiian Culture-based Education

Recent research conducted in Hawaii schools shows that the Montessori approach is a natural partner with Hawaiian Culture-based Education. At Hala Kahiki, we build upon the foundation laid by parents as their children's first teachers by integrating local values, customs, traditions, and history into the curriculum.

To get to know better the nexus between Montessori and indigenous education, read more from Nanette S. Schonleber, Ph.D., accomplished early childhood education professor and long-time former resident of Hawaii.

Hawaiian Culture-based Education and the Montessori Approach

Journal of American Indian Education

(Volume 50, Issue 3, 2011)

Red jounal cover with painting of Native Hawaiian classic garb

He 'Ike Pāpālua o ke Ao me ka Pō: Teaching Science in a Hawaiian Cultural Context

Hūlili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-being

(Volume 7, 2011)

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254 Houston Street

Lāna‘i, Hawaii

Licensing & Accreditation

Hala Kahiki is licensed by the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services. The third year of its Primary program (kindergarten) is also licensed by the Hawaii Council of Private Schools (HCPS). Additionally, the school is approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health to provide limited food service.

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