Choosing a Montessori School

No two Montessori schools look exactly the same. Each will be responding to the needs of individual children and to differences in the society and culture they are part of; teachers will also bring in their own special skills and interests. On a first visit to a Montessori school parents usually recognise some well-known pieces of equipment like the Pink Tower but what they are really looking for is more elusive: the essence of Montessori which lies in children's freedom to learn and develop.

There are a few outwardly attractive Montessori schools with the most expensive equipment where the real Montessori philosophy has been pushed to the back of the shelf. There are others with a set of knobbed cylinders and a Pink Tower with a few blocks missing which operate like playgroups but use the name Montessori as an attraction to middle class parents. There are others in remote areas, making their own materials and mending old ones in a church hall, but where the spirit of Maria Montessori's teaching shines like a beacon in everything they do.

Your first impression should be of a classroom where all is orderly, clean and inviting, with all the activities displayed so the children can reach them. Although some children will work in small groups, occasionally with a teacher, you should see most children working alone for most of the session. Montessori believed that three hours were necessary for the child's "work cycle" a period of self-directed activity when concentration was at its peak. Because sessions are shorter in present-day Montessori schools most aim for two and a half hours.

There should be a general atmosphere of children doing things for themselves carefully and competently, carrying furniture, setting tables, pouring drinks and washing their hands and following activities which absorb and interest them.

Note: The name Montessori was never registered as a Trade Name and is in the public domain. It may be used anywhere by anyone for any purpose. It is important therefore, that parents considering a Montessori education for their child, visit schools to determine whether they meet the standards of authentic Montessori education.