“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment” – Dr Maria Montessori
The term ‘Montessori’ is not trademarked nor is there a patent on it. So, any school can call themselves a ‘Montessori school’. American Montessori Society(AMS ) and American Montessori Internationale(AMI) are the organizations that help promote and maintain quality of Montessori education across the globe. Schools that are accredited by these organizations are expected to implement the fundamental principles of the Montessori philosophy and are held accountable by them through the years. On top of that, if a Montessori school is AMS/AMI accredited or affiliated, they are bound by their regulations to implement the philosophy effectively.
The location – country, state, city, county etc. may have certain provisions in place that govern how schools should function. In USA, the state licensing governs how and if all the mandatory regulations for child safety are implemented effectively in the child care setting/school.
Now the question is … If you are looking to enroll your child in a ‘Montessori’ school, what should you look for?
There is not a specific checklist for an ideal school, as every child, parent, family is unique and their needs could be different. What each family looks for in a Montessori school would vary on their specific child and their own parenting styles. But, the list below can serve as a guideline and if most or at least a few are checked at the school you are touring, that could be a good Montessori school.
*The first and foremost thing is for a school to have a ‘home’ like setting with neutral painted walls.
Children spend most of their waking time with the guides at a school, so a nice beautiful home away from home would work perfect to serve as a great Montessori school for ages 0-6.
*Classrooms with Montessori materials, big enough to accommodate about 20+ children without restricting their movement.
Children especially those in the 0-6 years of age are in the big developmental phase for movement. A classroom that helps the child move their body freely without overwhelming them at the same time would be a perfect bet. Authentic Montessori materials made of wood or other natural materials. Less or almost no plastic is preferred.
*A real kitchen, preferably with a dishwasher, oven, counter space to comfortably include cooking/baking as part of the curriculum
Food preparation activity is an integral part of the Montessori Practical life. A classroom with real utensils, baking supplies, counter space to make snack/bake simple things etc would be a great component of a lovely Montessori classroom. Use of real utensils, cloth placemats and napkins, family style lunch are such lovely concepts of Montessori environment.
*Large windows and Good natural lighting in the classrooms
This is important to maintain a good mood inside the room and also for children to do window washing, observe different color objects etc by the window, look outside to see nature etc.
*Nice backyard for children to run around and play.
Even if play structures are not present, there should be activities to promote movement, imagination and curiosity. Wheel barrow to move dirt around, gravel pit to scoop and play , balance beam etc are great additions to have to a play ground area.
*Indoor live plants and outdoor gardening area. Beautiful real flowers for children to do flower arranging.
Indoor plants in the classroom can provide for great Practical life activities like watering the plants, Leaf polishing etc. Gardening both indoors and outdoors is a great way for children to understand and contribute to care of environment.It helps children learn the process of plant care, germination, life cycle of fruits and vegetables etc.
Flower arranging is a great Practical life activity that teaches the child care of environment, cutting skills, math skills to estimate volume of water required to fill vase, purposeful movement to take vases to the tables etc. Real flowers in a Montessori classroom make it very exciting and inviting to the child.
*Neutral wood tables and chairs. Child size shelves. Simple art on the walls representing nature/world we live in.
*Pets in entry way/library/ classroom is optional but would be nice to have.
Care of pets is a great practical life activity for children- it also helps teach Grace and Courtesy & respect for other living beings.
*Montessori trained teachers who are passionate and have a deeper understanding of the philosophy: Most importantly those that love , respect and believe in the child are a big asset to a school.
*Uninterrupted Montessori work cycle which helps child build their focus and concentration, leading up to self-actualization and Normalization is a critical component of a great Montessori school.
*Personal touch offered by school administration and teachers to welcome all families at the school. This is a key concept of inclusion and helps child understand the concept of living in harmony and peace with all.
*Schools that incorporate Peace, study of all cultures, include music and art in their core curriculum is a really nice feature of a good Montessori school.
If a child is respected and loved in an encouraging environment that is prepared to meet their developmental needs,where mistakes are treated as learning opportunities and they are motivated to learn respectfully, that is the ideal place for the child to be in their formative years.
What are some things you look for in a Montessori school? Let us know your thoughts on the list and points discussed in this post.