Finding and Choosing a School
There are several factors to consider when choosing a Montessori school for your child.
Different fits for different families
Each Montessori school has its own ‘personality’. For example, some are more academically oriented, while others more strongly emphasize the child’s connection to nature and the outdoors. Parents should discuss the school’s mission and programs with the admissions director to ensure that the school is a good fit for their child and their family.
Observe at the school
Parents should observe at a school before selecting it for their child, preferably in the classroom their child will attend. Most Montessori schools welcome observers, and the children are accustomed to visitors. The visitor is typically directed to a chair where they sit and observe the entire room. Observations usually last thirty minutes to an hour, and allow the observer to get a feel for the room. Consider asking to observe at a school more than once; every day is unique!
What to look for
Although every classroom is a little different, there are some general traits that indicate a quality Montessori environment:
- The teacher has received quality Montessori training
- The children seem generally happy and relaxed
- The children independently select activities from the shelf and use them with concentration
- The environment seems orderly and the materials in good condition
- Most interactions between children are positive, but in cases where they are not positive, the children generally resolve the problem by themselves
- The children are treated with respect by all adults
There is no trademark or governing body to ensure the quality of Montessori schools. In 1929, Maria Montessori became aware that there were a growing number of schools using the term “Montessori” to describe their environments, with little evidence of Montessori principles. To prevent this, she attempted to trademark her name, but it was decided by the courts that the term Montessori was already in the public domain. As a result, any school can label itself a ‘Montessori school’ regardless of teacher training.
Maria Montessori created the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) to protect the integrity of her work. Today, schools with AMI-trained teachers have met the high standards for teacher training that Maria Montessori set down over eighty years ago.
Schools in your area
Some states have associations or organizations that compile lists of Montessori schools. An internet search should locate one for your state, if it exists. In the state of Oregon, the Oregon Montessori Association provides a list of its member schools, linked to a Google map.