How to Choose a Montessori School
Unfortunately, no one owns the rights to the name or philosophy of Maria Montessori. That means that anyone can open up a school or daycare, put a signature pink tower on the shelf, and call themselves a Montessori school. There are many wonderful, well-run Montessori schools, as well as many that are not. So, how is a parent to know which schools are true to the Montessori philosophy?
Here are some very important things to look for when choosing a Montessori school for your child.
School Licensing. A good Montessori school should hold a license from a reputable Montessori organization. AMI (Association Montessori International – founded by Maria Montessori) and AMS (American Montessori Society) are the two most highly regarded organizations. The school must also have a license from state child care licensing.
Alden Montessori has a state license and is licensed by AMI.
School Directors. In order for the school to run truly as a Montessori school should, the directors of the school should hold a Montessori certificate (AMI, AMS, or MACTE), with experience in the classroom. In our opinion, the owners should also hold the same certifications and have the same classroom experience. It is not possible to provide the teachers, parents, and the students with the support they need when the directors and owners are not well versed and experienced in the philosophy. They are also required to hold a director’s certificate from state child care licensing. Ask to see their certificates. The quality of your child’s Montessori education is directly connected to the knowledge and dedication of your school’s director(s).
Both owners/directors are degreed, Montessori certified, have taught at Elementary and Primary levels, and hold a director’s certification from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – Child Care Division.
Montessori Teachers. The toddler, primary, and elementary teachers should hold a Montessori certificate (AMI, AMS, or MACTE). Elementary teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree.
All Alden Montessori toddler teachers hold a Montessori certification, our primary and elementary teachers hold a bachelor’s degree and a Montessori certification.
Stability of the Staff. Many schools are seemingly beautiful at first glance, yet have internal strife. Be sure to ask how long the directors have been there, how many they have had in the last five years and how long each of the teachers have been there. Though teachers need to leave on occasion, there should not be constant turn over.
We rarely have staff leave our school of their own choice. Our directors are also the owners, dedicated to providing you the highest quality Montessori education for your child.
Read Internet Reviews. Though companies cannot protect themselves from malicious reviews from fired employees or competition, the reviews should be overwhelmingly excellent. If there is a negative review, ask the school you are interviewing their thoughts on that particular review.
Alden only has excellent reviews!
Parent Recommendations. The best reviews of all are those from past and present parents. Ask to have parents call and give you recommendations.
A parent might even give you a recommendation as they drop off their child, right on the spot!
Class Schedule. Maria Montessori was very specific that the children must have a full three hour long, uninterrupted work cycle. Many schools and daycares constantly interrupt the children’s concentration for miscellaneous activities. When the cycle is continually interrupted, the class is never normalized and the children have difficulty maintaining focus. A school that adheres to the three hour work cycle has the classrooms beautifully productive, children happily going about their work, focused and enjoying the day. Subjects like art, science, and others should be built into the Montessori classroom as part of the work cycle. Group activities should be done outside of the work cycle.
We feel very strongly about our three hour work cycle.
Mixed Age Groups. An essential part of the Montessori environment is having children of different ages in the classroom. Maria Montessori discovered that children go through natural developmental planes in approximately three year cycles. It is wonderful to watch as the younger children learn from the older students. The older students gain so much from nurturing their younger classmates, solidifying their own knowledge by teaching and helping them. It is also preferable that the child stay with the same teacher for the full three years as they acquire an amazing relationship built on trust and respect.
Alden maintains 3-6 year olds in the primary classes and 6-9 year olds in the elementary classes, just as Maria Montessori said it should be.
Homework. There should be no homework, even in the elementary grades. If the children have had a productive day and completed their work, they should go home and enjoy their family and after school activities. It is not productive for children to do homework in the evening hours, adding stress for the child and the parent. We, as adults, try not to take work home with us. Why should we ask that of our children?
At Alden we believe in preserving childhood. Homework has its place for teaching study skills, but at a later stage in middle school. Homework will not move the barometer for our students. We prefer giving children time in the classroom for discovery and mastery.
Motivation. There should also be no grades, stickers or other rewards. The child’s best reward is the pride she feels in a job well done!
Their favorite reward is the next beautiful Montessori lesson.
Observe the Classrooms. There is only one way to truly assess the quality of the school and specifically the classroom your child will be in. Schedule a time with the director to sit in the classroom and observe. Compare the things you have learned about a Montessori environment with the things you observe in the different schools and classrooms you visit.
We welcome you to stay as long as you like, visit as many classrooms as you like, and come back as many times as you need to help make your decision.
How does the teacher interact with the children and how do the children interact with her?
How do the children interact with each other?
Is the environment inviting, beautiful, clean, organized and uncluttered?
The child should feel at home in his environment, comfortable and safe.
Montessori Materials. A completely outfitted classroom with all the wooden Montessori materials is essential. As you visit Montessori schools, you will quickly see the difference between them, even without a list of equipment.
Each classroom at Alden Montessori has the full complement of beautiful Montessori materials.
Choose the Montessori school that best fits within these essentials. Sometimes the school you choose may be less convenient to your home and quite possibly a bit more expensive than the others, but worth it. Once you answer the above questions, choosing the right school isn’t as overwhelming as you think.