The quality of Montessori schools varies widely. There is no Montessori trademark, which means any school can hold itself out as being 'Montessori'. When searching for a quality Montessori school, one should be prepared with questions so that you can find a school that is best suited for your child and/or family.
One of the best ways to find out what a preschool/Kindergarten program is like is to ask if you can observe. At Community Montessori, we encourage parents to schedule an observation so they can see the classroom in action. The children in our classroom are very accustomed to visitors. Some children will spontaneously introduce themselves, others will go about their work. We invite the visitors in, give them a schedule of our day, and allow the visitor to observe and move about the classroom. We give them a clipboard so they can jot down questions or observations they would like to inquire about. Seeing the children and teachers in the environment can be a very good indication of how the classroom functions on a daily basis.
The following list are things that you should look for in a Montessori classroom:
*The physical environment of the classroom should be beautiful, inviting, tidy, organized, and clean.
*Furniture should be child sized (chairs/tables), including a low sink, snack area, bathrooms, and drinking fountain.
*The environment should feel peaceful and calm. This doesn't mean that children won't be talking or interacting, but there should be a sense of contentment and joy.
*Children should be working on a variety of works (name given to activities done in a Montessori classroom).
*The children should demonstrate a sense of purpose in what they are doing.
*The children should be kind and courteous. If you observe an interaction that is otherwise, observe how it is handled by the teacher. The teacher should be supportive and act as a guide to assist the children to work out their conflict as well as be respectful to all parties involved.
*The children should be concentrating on their work.
*The teacher (s) should have an awareness of the whole room, intervening only when children seem aimless, non-purposeful, or bothering others. Observe how these types of situations are handled and ask questions if you are not sure.
*Teachers should be Montessori trained.
*The classroom should demonstrate a strong sense of community-children greeting one another, talking with one another, and caring for one another.
The following books will be helpful in learning more about Dr. Montessori and the Montessori Method:
*The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori
*The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori
*Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori
*Montessori-The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard
If you have any specific questions regarding Montessori, I would love to answer them!