When searching for a Montessori preschool for your child, a key factor in deciding if the program is authentic and high-quality is the observation of the classroom taking a close look at the interaction between the teachers, children and environment. I have provided a simple checklist you can use to help evaluate the programs you are observing.
-The environment is clutter-free, clean, orderly and aesthetically attractive
-Notice that the materials are made mostly of natural products and have muted-tones
-Nature is a central theme and should be seen through fresh flowers and plants as well as animals or pets within the classroom and an outdoor space/classroom extension
-The space should be suited to the size of the children it serves
-The materials are in regular use and are multi-sensory
-Each curriculum area is well-defined and includes Practical Life (everyday living skills,) Sensorial (sensory development,) Math, Language, Science, Art and Cultural/Geography as well as a spaced suited for group activity
-Does the school offer music, foreign language, physical education?
-The children are a 3-year range of ages
-The children in the environment act independently and confidently
-There is little friction with the interaction of the children
-The children are calm, concentrated, happy, and are self-satisfied
-The teachers and children show respect for each other and the equipment
-There is an overwhelming sense of peace in the room
-Children are encouraged to assist and teach each other
-The emphasis is on learning by immersion and by doing rather than by rote, drills, or memorization
-The children are concentrated and focused
-There is a busy hum throughout the classroom
-Watch for acts of courtesy, kindness and camaraderie
-How are disagreements handled? Is there a peace table with a peace rose or peace stick for conflict resolution?
-There is a succession of activities within each area and with the environment as a whole
-The teachers are composed
-The Head Teacher acts as facilitator, guide and observer and is not seen as the center of attention
-The Head Teacher knows each student’s interests, learning style and academic level and chooses work which will entice each child to learn and discover on their own
-The Head Teacher should be circulating the classroom, sometimes sitting on the floor demonstrating a lesson for an individual child or a small group and is noting progression
-The Head Teacher serves as a resource within the environment as students work independently, helping them to move through the curriculum as they master new concepts
-The teachers model positive behavior and values
-Do the teachers interact with the children repectfully by speaking softly and at eye level, redirecting inappropriate behavior in a kind and loving way?
-Be sure to check that the Head Teacher of each classroom holds a Montessori credential from a program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Counsel for Teacher Education (MACTE certified)
It is important to note that Montessori is not trademarked meaning there are no specific guidelines to which a school that calls themselves “Montessori” adheres to to define the Montessori approach. Therefore, it is most crucial to understand what to look for when searching for the right school for your family. In the US, most states require programs that serve children under kindergarten aged to be licensed by the state agency. It is important to become familiar with a schools standing with the state. Check the status of their license and the history of that license.
Take in all this information through your observation and tour of the facility making a list of questions for the school administrator or teacher that you can ask once you leave the observation/environment. This is the most effective way you can see what a school has to offer as your child learns the Montessori way.