So you’re thinking of putting your child into a Montessori school? That’s awesome! When choosing a school, daycare or Montessori school – it can always be difficult, especially if its your first time looking around. I had no idea what to look for at first, so I thought I would put together a list of the top 10 things to look for in a Montessori school.
I should note, I am no expert by any means, but this is what I have learned and gathered from our Montessori experience and from friends who are also in Montessori schooling.
10 Things to Look for in a Montessori School
- Certified Teachers: Having teachers who are MS, AMI, or MACTE certified Montessori teachers. This means that the teachers have been formally trained in Montessori education. The lead teacher or guide as some schools call them, are always certified at Lennox’s Montessori school but the assistants are not always certified yet, but are usually working towards that in their training.
- Mixed Age Classrooms: One thing that we really loved when we were just learning about Montessori schooling was that the children are not broken apart by age as much as in a daycare or preschool environment. When Lennox was in the pre-primary level the children ranged from 18 months old to 3 years old. She is now in the Primary level and it is 3 years old to 6 years old. There is so much that the children can learn from each other, it is great to see what just a few month’s difference can make. I find that the 3 -6 years old classroom is the most diverse and the most teaching by other children is happening.
- Quiet / Peaceful Environment: When we walked through the halls of Lennox’s school prior to her attending, the place was so quiet. We walked through to classical music playing in the lobby and hallways and observed classrooms that were orderly, quiet and peaceful. We didn’t hear children crying, screaming, fighting or anything like that. Of course, you are going to get the occasional tantrum from a child or upset 2-year-old at nap time, but in general, it is extremely peaceful and orderly.
- Bright & Natural Classrooms: The Montessori classrooms are usually made up of natural or wooden furniture. The walls are decorated on a child’s level but empty on an adult level (for the most part). An abundance of daylight into the classroom’s at Lennox’s school allows for a great learning environment. Her classrooms have floor to ceiling windows that allows so much light to come in and a great view of the gardens and lawn outside. They get to watch things grow, animals check out the plants, etc.
- Child Size Furniture: Along with a bright and natural classroom, the furniture should all be child size and at the children’s level. The tables and chairs are small and low to the ground. The shelving is all low shelving. The sink, water fountain, toilet, etc is all low and easily accessible without any help from the teacher or stools. This allows the children to do what they need/want to do without having to ask for help every time. It also is an advantage during their “work” times as they can move freely around the room from station to station.
- Natural Playground / Gardens: Gardening and learning about natural and the world around them is something that is focused on a lot during Montessori schooling. A Montessori school without gardens, fields, or some type of natural area outside most likely won’t focus much on natural and gardening! Gardening season is one of Lennox’s favorite part of the school year! They grow and use all the produce in their gardens! Check out Gardening Day pictures here!
- Long Work Periods: In Montessori schooling, they learn both practical life skills as well as the traditional academic skills. They learn these things through their “works”. Allowing the children to have long periods of work time allows them to complete works at their own pace and have a lesson from the teacher or older student if needed. Having enough time to work helps the children concentrate for as long as they need before moving on to something else.
- No Grades Needed: Montessori schools don’t need to focus on giving out grades for each skill. they believe every child learns at their own level and ability and they will eventually move through all the skills to master each one. In our case with Lennox, we do meet with the teacher a few times of the year and get progress reports on if she has mastered something or if she is still working but no grades are given.
- Open Door Policy: This should be a no brainer – but the ability to stop in and observe the classroom from an observation window, video monitor or even in class is available without notice or appointment.
- Extra Curricular Activities: This isn’t as much Montessori but just child care in general. Our daughter has to stay at school for a full day, plus after-care since we both work so having the ability o put her into extra curricular activities after the school day is over is a plus. At our school we have basketball, soccer, dance, piano lessons, science club, etc. All are great activities to get their bodies moving and learning a skill they may not normally learn at school or at home!
If you are thinking of looking for a Montessori school and have any questions, let me know – I’d love to help out! I hope these tips and information will help you make the best decision you can!