This is a burning question in most parent’s mind when they are looking for a Montessori school for their child / children. What does it take for a school to be classified as a real, authentic Montessori school? Are there a governing body that accredits a Montessori school? Are there specific international standards to the curriculum?
There are many Montessori-based schools around the world. How do we than know what is the hallmark of an authentic Montessori school? The first thing we can look out for would be the environment. In Montessori terms, the environment is known commonly as the “Prepared Environment”. It simply means that it is a place that is prepared by a trained and knowledgeable Montessori Directress. This environment is described as a positive and enriching place which facilitate and meet up to the child’s developmental needs and the process of self-construction. It is also a place where all possible learning obstacles are removed.
An authentic Montessori school must have the following principles; Freedom, Reality and Nature, Development of Community Life, Structure and Order, Simplicity and the Montessori Curriculum which includes; Montessori Practical Life – Teaches the child important life skills. Montessori Sensorial Exercise – Refines the child’s 5 senses. Also acts as pre-Mathematics for the Montessori methodology. Montessori Language – Develops the child’s 4 areas of language development (speaking/listening/writing/reading) Montessori Mathematics – Prepares the child to work in total abstraction in all the 4 operations. Montessori Cultural Education – Introducing Zoology, Botany, History and Cultural subjects to the child.
In addition to the above mentioned, the teachers in the school must be trained in the Montessori Methodology. It can be either a professional certification or in-house training conducted by an experienced qualified Montessorian.
As Montessori Methodology is getting more popular with parents these days, a lot of pre-school which uses other early-childhood teaching methodology is incorporating some form of Montessori elements into their curriculum. These Montessori lessons are normally carried out in a half an hour – forty-five minutes format in a “Montessori Lab”. This format may not be as effective as the child is not provided with the platform in-line with the Montessori concepts to aid them in the developmental process.
The hallmark of a quality preschool is its role as a bridge for children’s transition to formal education, providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge for the next level of their education journey.
In general, when parents are choosing a preschool for their children, they should consider the following factors:
- Physical environment of the school
- Cleanliness and hygiene of the school
- Qualification of the teaching staff
- Disposition of the teaching staff
- Curriculum of the school
- Routine care aspect of the school
- Supplementary enrichment programmes
As for identifying a good Montessori school, parents should first conduct their own research on what the Montessori methodology is. With this understanding, they will be able to judge if the school is implementing the Montessori approach. The easiest way to identify a good Montessori school would be to take a look at the classroom. The classroom must be equipped with Montessori materials from the 5 main areas of learning.
Parents are also encouraged to observe a class in progress at the chosen preschool. They are to observe if freedom is given to the children in the classroom in terms of their movements, choice of using the Montessori materials and etc. Parents can also request the school to explain to them how Montessori lessons are generally being carried out and how they monitor a child’s progress and development.
In line with the Montessori philosophy, presentations on the usage of the materials are to be carried out on a 1-to-1 basis. Parents may also wish to opt for a trail with the school and then make an observation on how the lessons are being carried out.