Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori created an educational method based upon her observations that children will successfully direct their own development if they have a nurturing and prepared environment and the appropriate materials with which to work.
While some preschools that claim to be Montessori may have some of the characteristics and materials, there is no trademark on the name and anyone can purport to be following the Montessori philosophy. Ask the right questions and go on a school visit to find the best Montessori school program for your child.
Questions to ask the Montessori preschool before visiting:
Which Montessori organization is the school accredited by or affiliated with?
A Montessori school should be affiliated with either AMS (American Montessori Society) , AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) and in Illinois, AIMS (Association of Illinois Montessori Schools) to ensure that all teaching staff is credentialed and is following the Montessori standards set forth by these organizations.
Do all classroom teachers have Montessori credentials?
Many preschools supplement their classroom staff using non-Montessori trained teaching aides in order to keep adult-to-child ratios low. Be sure to ask how many certified teachers are in each class and what training is required of teacher aides in order to evaluate whether a true Montessori experience is being offered.
How many years has the school been in operation?
Montessori education is based upon a three year cycle, during which time a child remains with the same teacher in the same classroom in order to fully explore and experience all curriculum areas in a multi-aged environment. A stable Montessori school with a long-term teaching staff provides a child with a safe basis to develop and grow.
What to look for during the visit to the Montessori preschool:
Are the children free to choose activities independently?
A quality Montessori classroom is set up for independent freedom within an organized structure. This means that activities in all curriculum areas for all skill levels are out and available at all times with each child free to choose an available activity. The teacher is there to show a child how to use a material, but then allows the child to work and explore independently.
Does the classroom appear peaceful, yet busy?
A purposeful, yet quiet buzz of activity is how most Montessori classrooms are described. Children are engaged in their activities; some working alone, some working together, some eating snack, some washing tables, and some simply watching another child work.
Do the teachers treat the children with respect?
Teachers who treat children in a respectful way by speaking gently, modeling manners and creating a culture of peaceful responsibility create a Montessori environment in which children naturally behave the same way.
Choosing a preschool for a child is a big decision, but by asking the right questions and knowing what to look for during a school visit, a parent is empowered to make the right choice and know that the child will have a true Montessori educational experience. To find a Montessori program in your area, click here.
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