Taking a Closer Look at Online Montessori Training

Please note: We here at Montessori for Everyone do not offer online training. We sell printable materials for Montessori schools and homeschools. This post is an interview with two of the most well known online Montessori training centers, United Montessori Association and North American Montessori Center. Please visit their websites and contact them with any questions you may have about their programs.


johnshepard trudycoumoushepardRecently I was able to interview John and Trudy Shepard (left) of the United Montessori Association (UMA) and Dale Gausman (below) of the North American Montessori Center (NAMC). They answered my questions about online training with detail and care. I think this information is very helpful, especially if you are considering online training – and based on the emails I get, many of you are.

Montessori Online Training Q & A

Lori: What, if anything, makes online training appropriate for people seeking a Montessori career?

Dale Gausman of NAMC: Not only was Maria Montessori part of a movement to reform traditional ways of educating children, she understood the importance of educating teachers in new ways to support this transformation. “Teachers must be trained and schools transformed at the same time” – Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

Online/distance training is a wonderful option for anyone who wishes to begin or enrich their Montessori career and cannot afford either the time or financial commitment that on site training requires. Since our inception in 1996, distance training has become an increasingly popular choice because it offers the benefits of flexibility and customization to meet the unique scheduling and educational needs of students.

John and Trudy Shepard of UMA: People who have commitments to family and work, or who live on a very limited income and/or live in a remote region of the world are being given the opportunity for a Montessori education. They are not simply exposed to it, but receive excellent training in the philosophy and materials presentations!

Besides the lives of children they influence, we see how they themselves change, having gone through an inner transformation of mind and spirit due to this marvelous (and often considered radical) way of looking at life and how one learns.

Lori: How does online training work?

namc_logoNAMC: As many of your readers know, Montessori is taught in three-year age groups, which is why we offer our diploma programs for ages 0-3, 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12. New students are welcome to enroll online, via fax, or mail. We process enrollments on a daily basis, so students may enroll anytime and begin their studies right away. As soon as an enrollment is received, it is processed and study materials are shipped directly via UPS courier expedited.

A typical NAMC student is a working parent – a very busy person! We realized from the beginning that distance education must be uniquely designed for student achievement and success. To that end, our diploma programs deliver manageable work schedules, quality training materials, effective and interactive communication between students and mentors, and straightforward, quantitative evaluation mechanisms.

UMA_logoUMA: Each student’s lesson plans center on unlimited one-to-one counsel from a senior staff evaluator – a seasoned, Master Montessorian. This personalized guidance helps students feel deeply connected with his/her course of study, and fully prepared for his/her career in Montessori education.

The student is assigned one primary and one co-evaluator. This provides consistency, a balanced perspective, and allows the student to establish a personal rapport. UMA evaluators are committed to each student’s success by offering individual encouragement and guidance. Students may also chose to have a UMA graduate as a mentor. They use Skype for face-to-face dialogue with their evaluators and mentors.

Lori: What kind of curriculum does your training center use?

NAMC: One unique feature to our programs compared to other Montessori training programs is the inclusion of full-color, professionally developed and designed curriculum albums. These manuals are excellent study guides for our students to learn the concepts and activities, and they become valuable lifelong classroom resources. NAMC now publishes more comprehensive, full-color Montessori albums than any other Montessori organization in the world. Each of our programs also includes a CD-ROM of printable items for classroom use and teacher record-keeping purposes.

UMA: Each student is provided a well-balanced core curriculum, based upon the original tenets of Dr. Montessori’s philosophy. The didactic material presentations are in-depth and involve hands-on participation.

All students receive UMA Teaching Manuals and unlimited viewing of the UMA Video Library as tutorials. Combined, the manuals and videos provide hundreds of Montessori material demonstrations, covering all the areas of the curriculum. The UMA Teacher’s Manuals also provide a liberal amount of master sheets for classroom use, booklets for classified nomenclature, and theme outlines for curriculum planning.

Lori: What process do the students go through to complete their work?

NAMC: NAMC diploma program schedules are designed for a student time commitment of between one-half hour and one hour per day, five days per week. Each program is divided into three components, and each component has a series of written homework assignments generated from the course material we provide.

For the NAMC Infant/Toddler (0-3) and Preschool/Kindergarten (3-6) diploma programs, each component is 10 weeks long for a total of seven months. For the Lower Elementary (6-9) and Upper Elementary (9-12) diploma programs, each component is 3 months long, for a total of nine months. In keeping with Montessori philosophy, NAMC students who have more time to devote to study are allowed to work at an accelerated pace. Those who need to set up customized schedules for a longer duration are also accommodated and supported by the NAMC team.

UMA: Lessons are emailed in the form of Microsoft Word attachments and may be downloaded and printed up as hard copies for use in each student’s personal albums. Lessons include detailed essay notes, charts, and assignment templates for easy submission.

Each assignment is comprehensively evaluated for effort in research and thorough understanding of the Montessori philosophy, method, and application. Unsatisfactory work will be addressed and resubmitted. The “final” is an open-book review. (No exams.)

The most significant difference of the UMA Teacher Training curriculum is our focus on the inner preparation of the adult, along with a thorough understanding of the Montessori philosophy. Our training is comprehensive, requiring a serious commitment on the part of the student…and staff!

Lori: Do you require a practicum as part of the training requirements?

NAMC: We always encourage those students who do not already have an affiliation with a Montessori center to seek a volunteer internship. However, there are two reasons why we do not require a practicum at NAMC:

1. Many of our students earn income to support themselves and their families, and simply cannot stop working to student-teach on a volunteer basis.
2. We are very aware that few if any schools hire newly-graduated teachers to act as lead teachers in a Montessori classroom.

Indeed, Montessori described experience toward the perfection of the educator in a scientific way – with continual experimentation, observation and analysis being necessary parts of the process. The initial training of the Montessori educator provides an important foundation, but the perfection of any educator is not in the initial training, it is in the years following.

Almost every Montessori teacher starts her/his career working with an experienced Montessori guide. It is our opinion that this first year of employment under an experienced Montessori teacher will be the most profound learning experience a Montessori teacher enjoys. Such an arrangement is also of great benefit to the employer, as new Montessori teachers can be mentored in accordance with the unique values and mission of the Montessori school.

When you consider how many wonderful Montessori educators may potentially be excluded from the profession based on completing an unpaid practicum, we simply consider the price too high. Fortunately, many Montessori schools hold a similar view. This allows people to pursue their dream of becoming qualified Montessori educators by taking the training online and then working under a lead teacher for a year or years to come.

UMA: The reality is, there are not enough Montessori schools in the world for every student’s training, and therefore internship for everyone is not a possibility.

We offer distance learning to a significant segment of the world population that:

1. Have no access to a classroom site
2. Have family commitments that require time at home
3. Live on a limited income and need to work to provide for their families
4. Live in a remote region of the world

If a practicum was required:

1. It would be impossible to validate the quality of all schools offering a practicum site
2. Training center visits by UMA would be cost prohibitive.
3. A fee for licensing would be required in every state where a physical training site was established. Passing on that expense would make tuition no longer be affordable for our students.

Lori: What kind of certification does someone receive after they complete their training? Is it recognized by any official Montessori organizations or other educational boards or institutions?

NAMC: NAMC graduates receive a Montessori teaching diploma, which is recognized around the world by qualified Montessori educators. NAMC is a member in good standing with the National Association of Career Colleges, the Canadian Association of Young Children, and the International Association of Montessori Educators.

UMA: UMA is licensed by the State of Washington to provide Montessori Teacher Training and Certification, in the USA and worldwide, since 1988. Our graduates have had excellent success in securing employment, due to the global demand for well-trained Montessori educators.

UMA is also an approved educational institution by the US Department of Defense for the Military Spouse Career Advancement, and an approved provider for Independent and Public School Districts in the US, to train teachers for teacher certification in the Montessori method at the primary level.

Lori: As I mentioned at the beginning, some of the comments on Facebook were negative. Do you have any response to someone who might hold a negative view of online training, especially concerning the need for a practicum?

John Shepard from UMA: Let me respond to the concern of the need for a practicum or internship for students. There is no question that one cannot fully grasp the use of the hands-on, didactic materials outside of a properly prepared environment. We go to great length in emphasizing this to our students. That is why we encourage our students to find a nearby Montessori school or set up a Montessori environment in their home where they can apply what they are learning.

Regretfully, because of constraints like distance, time, and money, an internship is not a possibility for some. It is for these individuals that we provide a thorough on-line certification in Montessori education.

Think of the positive results to this. People who have commitments to family and work, who perhaps live on a very limited income and/or live in a remote region of the world are being given the opportunity for an excellent Montessori education.

Therefore, let us in the Montessori community not criticize or dismiss a program simply by our own self-centered biases or uninformed judgments. Rather, we should be discussing how we can help each other with the same goal in mind: to train adults who provide the child with opportunities for proper educational growth and awareness of the world.

Are we not making a clear statement to the rest of the world when we confine a Montessori education to adults who happen to live within a certain locale near a Montessori school or training center? And when schools or centers are located in predominately middle to upper middle class/wealthy neighborhoods, are we not saying something loud and clear to the rest of the world’s population?

The answers to these questions are clear and, in effect, we speak volumes when we don’t offer more affordable and useful alternatives to centrally located centers for learning. I don’t think that is the kind of narrow, inaccessible Montessori community we envision both here in the United States as well as abroad.

Lori: Strong words, John, and I can sense the strong feeling behind them. I haven’t ever considered how outsiders might view Montessori based on the limitations of physical training centers and schools. But more importantly, if some of us decide, after thorough investigation, that online training is not an option we would personally promote, how important it is to allow others the freedom to make their own decisions based on their circumstances rather than insisting on a “one size fits all” Montessori education.

Thank you, Dale, John, and Trudy for your insightful, helpful information! If you have any questions for them I’m sure they’d be glad to answer. You can also visit their websites for more information:

North American Montessori Center
United Montessori Association