Montessori schools are schools that focus on child-centered learning. Child-centered or child-led learning means the child sets the pace, the topic and how many lessons she wants to do when it comes to learning. Many parents want their children educated at a Montessori school because of its good reputation and wonderful teachers. However, because the name “Montessori” is not patented, anyone can open a school and call it “Montessori.” So, how do parents know they are choosing a good Montessori school with the appropriate qualifications?
- Check for Accreditation: Montessori has two associations related to it–American Montessori Society and the Association Montessori Internationale. Both of these associations require schools and teachers to complete highly-involved accrediting programs. If the Montessori school being researched is affiliated with either of these associations, then parents can feel more secure that the school has the qualifications and training needed to make it a good Montessori school. There are leaders of other Montessori schools who will argue this. Many non-accredited school leaders feel that their Montessori school is still a wonderful place to educate children. That may well be the case. However, having accreditation speaks volumes for the schools that have completed the training.
- Talk to Parents of Current Students: Another great way to get a feel for the quality of the Montessori school is to talk to parents of children attending the school. Talk to as many parents as you can. Ask them for honest answers as to how they feel about the school. What do they think of the teachers and other staff at the school? Ask them to explain what they think of the curriculum. Lastly, ask them if they consider the school to have any problem areas. The more parents you can talk to, the more input you can receive about the school.
- Teachers: Talk to the teachers, and ask each one about his or her philosophy. Ask to see his credentials. A good thing to look for is if the teacher is Montessori trained. As you recall, actual Montessori programs will train teachers to specific standards.
- Observe: Ask to observe a class or two in the Montessori school you are interested in. If the school will not allow observations, a red flag should be raised. When observing, look for the following:
- Students working individually or in small groups, at their own pace
- A classroom that is fairly quiet and peaceful
- Montessori-made materials such as puzzle maps
- A classroom that stresses a non-competitive environment
- Different age groups of children in one class
- Children learning independence. Are the children being taught to do things for themselves and then implementing them at their own pace ?
- Teachers and staff focusing on children being polite and respectful to others
A Montessori school that would be considered good should have all of the above characteristics in all of its classrooms. Montessori schools may be a great educational experience for children. It is essential that parents research the school and ask questions before deciding on which school their children should attend.