Q:

I need to decide if I want to send my daughter next year to a Montessori preschool.Could you please give some information to help me know more about Montessori so I can decide if it is the right fit for my daughter? Lacking Information

A:

Many of people are enthusiastic about Montessori schools. One reason is because children are able to work at their own activities at their own pace in these schools. In traditional schools, the emphasis is usually on conforming to the group. This frequently means that work is too easy or too difficult for some students.

Another major reason is because Montessori schools are designed specifically to meet children's developmental needs. Learning occurs in a "prepared environment" that is designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the children. In a preschool classroom, for example, one child might be observing which objects float while another is writing words. And in an elementary classroom, one child could be tossing coins to learn about probability while a group could be using a timeline to learn about prehistoric animals. The children engage in these activities with the guidance of trained adults who present the activities in a clear step-by-step order. This allows them to build up the ability to concentrate and attend to a task to its completion.

In Montessori schools, classes are made up of multi-age groups, and the children are encouraged to collaborate and help each other rather than to compete with grades and test scores. Typically, children enter these schools around the age of 3 and remain in a class for three years. The elementary groups are divided into those of 6 to 9 years and 9 to 12 years. Some schools also have programs for infant/toddler groups.

At the upper elementary level, the schools do begin to give tests and actually teach students how to take notes and how to take tests. It's part of the "practical life" skills that are taught at that level, rather than a matter of competing with your classmates. Also, in some Montessori schools, students are given the opportunity to correct mistakes made on tests so that they can learn from their mistakes.

Parents can find Montessori programs in both private and public schools. There are two major Montessori school organizations, the Association Montessori Internationale and the American Montessori Society. While there are many similarities between the two approaches, there are also some differences between them, particularly in the area of teacher training. Since any school can call itself a Montessori school, it is a good idea to look for a recognized Montessori school online at www.montessori-ami.org or at www.amshq.org. These Web sites also offer research citing the advantages of the Montessori program.