This is the time of year when parents start looking at options for schooling in the fall. It can be hard to know what to look for in a Montessori school, since schools are all different and can vary widely in quality. Still, there should be some traits that you can spot at every Montessori school; here’s my list! They are loosely in order of importance, although I think everything here is pretty important.
Top Ten Things to Look for in a Montessori School
10. The children look happy & healthy and have a good rapport with teachers
9. The children are free to choose their own work, and then concentrate without interruption
8. The classrooms and materials are clean and well-maintained
7. Good word-of-mouth from parents and other members of the community
6. The school has a clear mission statement and clearly defined objectives for each level of learning (toddler, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12)
5. The school is not focused on grades or testing, but rather helping each child develop to the best of their abilities
4. The school has an “open-door” policy for visitation, as well as observation windows into each classroom
3. The majority of teachers and assistants are Montessori certified for the level(s) that they teach
2. The classrooms are well-equipped with a full complement of age-appropriate Montessori materials (see end of post for list of materials for each classroom). The children are actively using the materials and are not using workbooks or worksheets.
1. The teachers are friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to answer your questions
*For infant/toddler: Long, low shelves with puzzles and age-appropriate toys; equipment for large motor skills like carpeted stairs, low railings mounted on the wall, and bridges; a separate area for food preparation and eating
For Primary 3-6 – Practical Life: pouring, scooping; Sensorial: pink tower, red rods, brown stair; Math: golden beads, red & blue rods; Language: movable alphabet, metal insets, sandpaper letters; Cultural: classification cards, maps
For Elementary 6-9: Language: movable alphabet, Pink, Blue, and Green Series work, materials for reading and word study (grammar and parts of speech); Math: bead bars, work for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; Geometry: wooden materials for study of shapes; Botany, Zoology, Geography, & History: classification cards, research materials, maps, and science materials
For Elementary 9-12: Language: materials for word study, grammar, word function, and lots of types of writing; Math: materials for mastery of all the math processes, as well as work for math concepts like square roots, decimals, fractions, and word problems; Geometry: materials for study of lines, angles, shapes, and measurement; Cultural: materials for classification and nomenclature of Botany, Zoology, Chemistry, Earth Science, History, Geography, Biology, Art, and Music
Additionally, you can ask the school if they are a current member of the American Montessori Society or the Association Montessori Internationale. While membership does not guarantee a high-quality Montessori experience (it just means they paid their yearly fee), it does mean that the school is most likely interested in maintaining a high standard of Montessori.
If the school is accredited by either AMS or AMI, then you can be sure of a high-quality, authentic experience. Only a relatively few, excellent quality schools are able to complete the accreditation process, which involves a lengthy application, observation, and other standards that the school must meet in order to be accredited.
You may find this post from NAMC helpful as well: Choosing a Montessori School for Your Child: Tips for Finding the Right Fit.