Photo from Michael Olaf
These days there are so many school choices for our kids—yes, even at the toddler stage—that it can be confusing. It's not just about pre-school or pre-K, it's about different methods of education. As parents, we all want to choose the learning environment that's best for our child ... once we figure out what that is.
I know some parents who send their children to Montessori schools, but like a lot of CafeMom members, I was wondering what those are exactly.
Where did Montessori education start?
Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Maria Montessori, the first female doctor in Italy. She based her educational methods on her observations of the way kids learn, which, she discovered, is that they teach themselves. Dr. Montessori came up with an environment in which kids would be encouraged to learn and established the first casadei bambini (children's house) in Rome. Today schools in countries all over the world practice Montessori education.
What is Montessori education?
True Montessori is "not a system for training children in academic studies; nor is it a label to be put on educational materials. Montessori is a revolutionary method of observing and supporting the natural development of children. It helps children develop creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and time-management skills, to contribute to society and the environment, and to become fulfilled persons in their particular time and place on Earth."
What's the difference between Montessori and traditional education?
For kids under six, Montessori emphasizes learning through the five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children learn at their own pace and according to their own choice of activities. They're not lectured to by a teacher as a class, rather each child is engaged in an activity—alone or in a group—using materials that a teacher has gone over with them one-on-one.
Children are grouped in mixed ages and abilities in three to six year spans (children from babies to age three are placed together, and children from three to six are placed together).
How can I find out if a school is Montessori certified?
Unfortunately, there is no special Montessori certification—the schools follow state requirements for schools in general. However, there are some Montessori organizations to which true Montessori schools can belong: the Association Montessori Internationale and the American Montessori Society.
If you're considering a Montessori school, you should ask about its affiliations.
These two organizations are also responsible for training true Montessori teachers.
Are Montessori schools expensive?
They can be. For example, a 6-hour day class for three to six year olds can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $7,000. The good news is that some public schools offer Montessori education. You can also homeschool your child using Montessori methods.
How can I find a Montessori School near me?
The best way to find a good Montessori school is to use the information at Montessori Schools. Although you can certainly find "Montessori" schools in other ways (the phone book, the Internet), you have to be careful because the word "Montessori" is not legally protected, which means any school can use it even if it's not a true Montessori school.
Are you interested in Montessori schools? Have you sent your child to one? What was your experience like?