Choosing a good Montessori school or preschool can be tricky. Placing your trust in other people regarding the education of your precious one can be daunting. Since a term ‘Montessori School’ can be used by anyone, it can be hard for parents to select an ‘authentic’ or ‘good’ school that follows the Montessori philosophy properly and provides the best environment for their children.
Just because a school has a complete set of materials from a Montessori catalogue does not make it a ‘real’ Montessori school. It requires having properly trained teachers, following the Montessori philosophy and a knowledge of how to set up the environment and use the equipment, to mention a few factors.
So what questions do you ask Montessori Schools in your area? What do you look for when you visit them? Following are a few guidelines that will help you to make that important decision.
What to Ask
- Ask what Montessori certifications the teachers have. There are certificates from a number of Montessori training schools that are good, however there are some certifications that can be taken online – which may not provide teachers the same level of understanding and details.
- Does the school have any affiliation with Montessori organisations? These organisation inspect and accredit Montessori schools to ensure the highest standards and quality are upheld. Examples of Montessori organisations: Association Montessori Internationale, American Montessori Society, Montessori Foundation and International Montessori Council.
- How many teachers in the classroom are formally trained in Montessori? How many from the total number of teachers?
- Ask about the class schedule, e.g. Do they follow the routine of an allotted 3 hour work cycle or close to it?
- Do they follow the multi age grouping of a Nido ( 0-14 months), Infant Community ( 14 months to 2.5-3 yrs) and Primary (3-6 yrs old)? The philosophy behind the multi age grouping is to continually challenge younger children. The older children may be seen as mentors to the younger children. Learning and understanding can be enhanced by teaching someone else.
- Ask if you are able to observe the classroom during the work cycle, so you can get a better understanding of their approach.
- Ask about a typical day/schedule in the classroom.
What To Observe
- Are the children mostly working by themselves?
- Are the children choosing work/activities by themselves and are only redirected or aided by a teacher at times? The children should not dependent on the teachers to initiate activities.
- Do teachers treat the children with a mutual respect?
- When Montessori materials are presented by a teacher, can you observe the deliberate and logical methodology? Is it presented in a calm and focused manner that gets child’s full attention?
- Are the materials in the classroom kept clean and taken care of not only by the teachers but by the children as well?
- Do children have enough activity space to work on the floor or tables?
- Is mood in the classroom generally calm and the children seem to be focused most of the time?
Things to Watch Out For
- Are there many cartoon characters in the classroom?
- Is the children’s artwork used for decorating or displayed all over the classrooms? Montessori believes in natural and uncluttered environment that is beautifully decorated but not overwhelming.
- Are there reward charts on the wall? Montessori believes in children doing their activities not for the purpose of receiving external rewards but to develop self motivation and intrinsic satisfaction in learning new things.
- Is the furniture size suitable for the children, so they are not having a hard time using adult sized furniture and having difficulty moving around.
We are glad that you are considering a Montessori school as we strongly believe in the benefits Montessori method provides. We hope the above tips on choosing a Montessori school will help you to select the one that properly follows the Montessori philosophy. It is important that you and your child feel good about the school you choose.
Also, Montessori education doesn’t have to end the moment your child leaves the school in the afternoon – consider also applying Montessori principles at home environment! Good luck!