Opinions on Montessori Schools?

Updated on July 27, 2012
J.H. asks from San Jose, CA
10 answers

Hi Mamas,

I'm looking to put my daughter in a new preschool. I've heard mixed things about Montessori programs and know they are not for every child. What do you like/dislike about the Montessori approach?


ETA: Any suggestions on questions to ask when interviewing Montessori schools?
My DD is self motivated, a little bit shy with peers (but not afraid to stand up for herself), eager to please and likes to follow the rules.

ETA#2: My step son went to a Montessori school and did not do well with minimal direction. He was not motivated to complete the work/tasks he didn't like. When he switched to a "regular" school, he required someone to sit down with him to learn how to focus on completing homework etc. He did not have any learning disabilities etc - he is a very good student but struggled with the format. I'm not sure what the "official" Montessori method is to handle such students...

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answers from Seattle on

I think a true Montessori school would be wonderful. But the vast majority of Montessori schools implement a couple of the theories, not all of them, and they do so poorly. From the sound of it, I would say that the schools Gamma G is familiar with might be "Montessori" schools, not Montessori schools.

A well-run Montessori school allows for individual choice, but that individual choice is directed (sometimes subtly, sometimes directly) by the teachers. A kid can pick what he wants to learn on, but a good Montessori teacher will know when another subject is being neglected and will nudge the child in that direction. If done right, Montessori teaching should build smart, inquisitive, analytical, self-directed kids/adults. When done wrong, you get what Gamma G talks about.

And it might be difficult for most to know when a Montessori school is well run or is Montessori in name only. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. My friends who are Montessori teachers (one of them trained in Bergamo, Italy), would be able to tell.

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answers from Chicago on

What Mira said. Exactly.

My daughter attended a Montessori School through 4th grade. I'm not sure there is enough time on the planet for me give you all the reasons why I thought it was the best education she could have received.

I disagree when you say you "know they are not for every child". Any and every child can and will flourish in a *true* Montessori School. They are child-centered and foster a self-driven motivation to learn, dig deeper, question and have a positive impact on the environment around them. It encourages independent accomplishment and relational peer-to-peer teamwork.

I would, however, say that providing a child with a Montessori education is not for every PARENT. Some parents don't want a kid that questions the environment around them and wants to engage in conversations about "why" things are the way they are. Some parents don't want a child who is motivated to learn constantly and wants to engage with others. Some parents don't want a child with critical thinking skills and who are interested in how they impact their environment. It became *harder* to parent after my daughter attended a Montessori school, (and by harder, I mean I was a MUCH more *involved* parent on a completely different level) because she was MUCH more inquisitive and interested in the impact she had on her surroundings.

Parents who don't want that SHOULD NOT send their kid to a Montessori school because those behaviors are encouraged.

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answers from San Francisco on

Both my children started a Montessori school last year. I have 2 boys, my youngest has speech delays which obviously effects his reading and has other issues which effect his writing and social skills. My older son, is the type that gets easily distracted and fidgets a lot at his desk. First I will say I absolutely love the school, I commute 120 miles a day so they can attend. That's how much I like it.

The instructors and the school have gone way above what the public school did and has created a great plan for my youngest. My older son struggles a bit with focus and self motivation, however, I work with him daily and have frequent correspondence with his guide. Both are doing very well socially. From what I have noticed the kids are very respectful towards not only adults but to each other. I am sure there are moments they are kids after all, but I have never seen so much acceptance of each other from kids. Both are very happy and it is evident when I drop them off and pick up them up from school.

I believe each school is probably run differently. At this school, they teach responsibility which includes personal responsibility. This is important to me. The kids are allowed to work on floor, by the window etc as long as they are not being disruptive. They can get water when thirsty and go to the bathroom when needed. I am surprised at how little these privileges are taken advantage of. No lunch is provided so the kids have to bring their own from home, and the school teaches about the environment. They keep compost and have their garden etc. Work is done on a hands on basis. Lots a fun projects and plays for learning. What is difficult for me is the time. I have to put in time which includes volunteering. I have to spend time with both children at home on each of their weak areas, but am able to do so effectively because unless school work isn't finished at school, there isn't homework. Montessori school should encourage lots of parent participation.

Hope this helps! You can PM me too if you want to talk in more detail. :) Good Luck!

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answers from Phoenix on

I just went through this same search!! I would be happy to talk with you more in depth if you want to PM me.
My number one suggestion- look for a school that is "AMI certified." That means that they are registered with and regulated by the international association for Motessori schools. That is your easiest guarantee of "legit" Montessori method.
What Gamma G describes is the exact opposite of what I have experienced with my son's school (AMI certified). The children are taught to respect their environment- not only trees-and-rocks environment, but their learning environment. They walk in a controlled manner, carry one item to a table, work with it for a while, and return it to its place. I am constantly amazed by the LACK of chaos in the classroom. If I had 20 kids from 3-5 in a classroom, I would be in the corner whimpering! These teachers never raise their voices...because they don't have to. My son is learning about reading, writing, math, but he is also learning about tolerance and courtesy. He came home once and explained to me about how pupils dialate and another time he explained the concept of alliteration. And used the word "alliterative" properly in a sentence.
The thing that is hard for me is that they expect a lot from the parents. They require that you volunteer 15 hours per school year, attend lectures, observe the classroom twice per year, attend conferences and myriad classroom events. I definitely complain about that stuff, but that is because I am BUSY, not because he isn't getting the education that we are paying for.
Questions- Are you AMI certified, and at what level? If not, what are your requirements for AMI training for your teachers? What is the comitment level in time (Montessori method requires 5 days per week and usually a commitment to complete kindergarten with them)? What will the expectations be of you as a parent? In addition to tuition, what school-related expenses should you expect? Do you offer a summer program? Are there local elementary programs that your child could transition into if you want?

From your brief description, I think your DD would be just fine at our school :)

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answers from Washington DC on

I agree with what another mom said about not agreeing that "it not being for every child". The principle of it is that its designed for all children so it works well. The only time I think it can possible not work is when the teachers don't understand or properly adhere to the standard and they have a child who has severe/multiple learning disabilities, the part of learning at their own pace would apply, but the part of being self motivated can prevent effective progress especially if the child has behavior problems, but it all depends on how well the staff is trained and the setting with the other children also.
You say your little one is self motivated so she would do well in preschool.
My son went to one in Germany (they spoke english).
one of the other parents said something about the food choices, When my son went they brought their lunch to school but they were offered a snack that was available to them at anytime during a certain amount of hours in the morning, they did serve themselves, but they were supervised and taught proper portion control and not turned loose perse.

I loved the montessori way and would recommend it, but do your research of the school and know and be comfortable with what they do, because each school does some things differently.

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answers from New York on

I LOVED my son's Montessori school. Honestly, if I could, I'd send him to Montessori-something until college. I've seen kids like my son (painfully shy) come out of their shells and make wonderful friends at Montessori. I've seen kids who were just the opposite (wild little loose canons who couldn't stay still) calm right down and start focusing. I've seen social little butterflies become even more social and more confident. AND, most of the kids I've known at Montessori start kindergarten at least a grade level ahead in their abilities.

Honestly, I think I'm more enthusiastic about Montessori education than anything else in the world, with the exception of cats and coffee.

All that said, the term "Montessori" isn't regulated at all. Many schools that use the name are Montessori through and through. Other "Montessori" schools don't engage in any Montessori practices -- they just use the name for marketing.

I recommend asking about the teachers' training and credentials. Are they Montessori trained? If they are, I can't recommend it enough.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

My two older children attended a Montessori preschool, but that was years ago. My grandnieces attend a Montessori school in Ohio, and it has been excellent for them. In a Montessori school, very generally speaking, there is more individual learning and less group teaching. I happen to like that idea.

Montessori schools, like other schools, are only as good as the teachers are! In addition, they will vary in how much Montessori content they use and how much other material is added. I think your best bet would be to go to your library and read through some of Maria Montessori's work. Then check out the particular school. Pick the brains of the staff. See what their curriculum is and ask why it is the way it is. Ask if you may be given names of parents of other children enrolled in a Montessori program in your area (your mention that this school is a new one). Do that with some other schools as well, and it will help you make a decision. At the very least, since it's preschool, you can always change schools easily if you don't like how things go there.

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answers from New York on

Every Montessori school is different, although they have some things in common. Also it depends on your child's learning style, is she self motivated?

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answers from New York on

I send my daughter to a Montessori daycare that is associated with (run by essentially) an AMI training program. The issues I have with it are based on things exactly OPPOSITE from what Gamma G. stated. Yes, breakfast and snack are available in the room and they can help themselves (and then clean up, and a teacher supervises), and yes, one child at a time can take a special necklace and go down the hall to their cubby. And yes, they pick their own work. But I feel like they are OVER controlled in the 3-6 room. Circle time is very quiet unless they are singing or doing something. And if I kid starts getting too loud and rambunctious during singing, they are reminded to use their "singing voices." I have actually considered moving her to another daycare because I noticed that some kids (mostly boys) were always being reprimanded by the end of the day. She's still there because it is a good environment for my daughter's personality, and because it is physically the nicest space, but if I had a rambunctious boy, I would not put him there.

The toddler room (18 mo- 3 years) was different and more chaotic, with less structure, much more movement, and more ability for the kids to participate/not in activities, which was more suitable for toddlers. However, they still ate lunch as a group, had certain specific structures built into their day, and were expected to follow certain rules (like doing one work at a time and then cleaning up). Not at all what Gamma G. describes, even at its most crazy.

Based on your description of your daughter, she would probably thrive at a good Montessori environment. A true Montessori school should have a beautiful home-like environment, with lots of living things and natural materials (really, that is part of the system), the kids work independently or in small groups, with teacher direction if required, and they learn to care for themselves and their environment in an independent manner. The teachers are trained to be respectful of the children, and you rarely hear a raised voice or a sharp tone.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I absolutely hate the whole Montessori thing. I do believe that children learn through playing, I do believe that kids can do on their own.


I do NOT believe that allowing a child to decide what they want for lunch then going and fixing it themselves is a good idea in any universe. I do NOT believe that children should be allowed to run amok and play at whatever they want whenever.

I have a lot of years in child care and I can honestly say that the Montessori schools that I have worked in have more behavior problem kids than anywhere else. When I would be trying to do circle time, where a lot of the learning about the environment comes in, there would be a few kids that didn't want to participate. SO they would go get toys out and play toys. They did not participate in the songs, the weather activities, the stories, exercise time, nothing. They just went to play and did nothing else. They were not ready for kindergarten when the time came either.

At play time they are like wild animals and do not have any sense of group activities or quiet time or art time etc...they just run from place to place playing with a toy then dropping it on the floor and running off to another area doing it again.

By the end of the day the classrooms are a mess and the kids are having aggressive behaviors because they have nothing to do. All the toys are everywhere and they can't find even the pieces to the puzzles or the crayons or paint to do some art.

I would never put the kids in this environment. I think that kids need some structure. They need structure so they will learn about boundaries and how to function within normal expectations.

When the kids at one child care center took the school kids to school on the van it would sometimes take these kids until 10am to calm down enough to do school work. I drove the van and often heard the teachers and other parents talking about these kids while I was dropping them off. I also called one day just to find out why someone had said something to my face. I wanted to know why.

The school person told me the information about time to calm down. They said it was across the board for all the child care centers of this particular business. It is a nation wide chain. They said that the kids would come in wound tight and almost vibrating. Over stimulated to the max.

Almost every one of the school kids would come back to the center that after noon with notes about how their behavior was that day, one the parents would have to sign.

When I had the school kids before school I would have them do an activity all together, like writing in their journal or playing a group game like Win, Lose, or Draw. Something they could all do and everyone was equal.

The days we did this they were well behaved and ready for school when they got there. I worked at this facility for a long time and would ask the principle if she would help me sort of keep track.

I know there are different kinds of places that use this style of curriculum but regardless. I want the kids to have more structure and be able to focus on one thing and learn.

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