Montessori schools have grown in popularity. What began as schools focused on pre-school and kindergarten have evolved into elementary, middle, and even high schools. Is the increase in availability a good thing? Is a Montessori school right for every child?
Montessori schools are based on the teachings of Dr. Mary Montessori, a woman who extensively studied child and adolescent development. Their goal is to create a classroom that fosters individual learning and development. Through mixed age classrooms, interactive lessons, and an emphasis on discovering the solution on your own, Montessori schools encourage kids to learn at their own pace and develop a true love for learning.
Most young children benefit from the Montessori practices. In pre-school and kindergarten, the open-ended lesson plans allow children to choose what they want to learn on a given day and explore their personal interests. For example, the teacher may set up a coloring station where kids can learn about mixing colors, a knot station where kids can learn how to tie shoe laces, and a table station where kids can learn to set the table or pour water. Your child gets to choose which activity to do for the day. This promotes individual growth and independence and gets children excited about school and learning.
It is undeniable that Montessori is an excellent choice for pre-K and kindergarteners; however, the real question is whether or not it is a good choice for grade schoolers. In traditional school, children entering the first grade get their first taste of homework, tests, and grades, three things absent from most Montessori schools. Missing out on these is not necessarily bad. If your child is a go-getter, loves to learn, and is not easily distracted, he could do very well at Montessori. The freedom of Montessori could help him grow into a confident adolescent, excel academically, and transition smoothly to traditional school. If your student is not excited about school, frequently gets sidetracked while trying to complete a task, or needs a structured environment to succeed, Montessori may not be the best choice. He may be happy and successful while at Montessori, but when it comes time to transition to middle school, high school, or college, he may have a tough time adjusting to the homework load or completing things for grades rather than self-satisfaction. He also may be performing below grade level, putting him behind other students in his class. There is no mold for what makes a successful Montessori student but the aforementioned guidelines can help point you in the right direction. It is up to you and teachers to decide what is best for each individual student.
If you have decided that Montessori is a great fit for your child, be sure to do the following when choosing a school:
- Look for accreditation. Montessori is not trademarked, meaning anyone can call themselves a Montessori school. Make sure the school you are considering is affiliated with AMI or AMS. This will guarantee the school is using true Montessori methods.
- Visit the school, observe the classes, and interact with the learning materials. This will give you an excellent idea of what a typical day will be like for your child.
- Talk with the director and teachers. Ensure that they are friendly, open, and willing to communicate consistently with parents.
Montessori is a great style of learning, but is not right for everyone. Do your homework and weigh the pros and cons before enrolling your child.
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