As there is no regulating body monitoring the use of the name "Montessori" you will find that not all Montessori schools are the same. A good indication is participation in the Montessori Australia Foundation's (MAF) Montessori Quality Assurance Program (MQAP).
In selecting the right Montessori school for your child, you must consider how it meets your expectations, as well as how it suits your child. The only way to make this choice effectively is to carefully research and then observe the school in action.
Here are some essential Montessori school characteristics ...
The Montessori classroom is designed specifically to meet the needs, interests, abilities and development of each child in the class. The focus is on children learning and not teachers teaching.
Children generally remain in the same classroom, with the same teacher, for a period of three years. The resulting multi-age grouping of children provides an atmosphere of community and allows children to learn from one another.
Generally students work individually or in small, self selected groups. There are very few whole class lessons. Children learn and progress at their own pace, moving on to the next step when they are ready.
It is natural for children to move, touch and explore the world around them. The Montessori environment encourages children to move around freely and select work that captures their interest and attention. Through careful observation the teacher would strive to introduce work to further develop this area of interest or to draw their attention to new challenges and interests.
Montessori students in their pre-primary and early primary years, rarely learn from text or work books. Direct personal, hands-on use of real things or concrete models bring abstract concepts to life and allow children to learn with much deeper understanding. A large range of purpose designed Montessori materials should be available in all subject areas.
Although Montessori children enjoy considerable freedom of movement and choice, their freedom always exists within carefully defined limits. They are free to do anything appropriate within the ground rules of the school community, but are redirected promptly and firmly, if their actions interfere with the freedom of others.
Montessori children do not work for grades or external rewards.
One of Montessori's key concepts is that children learn because they share an innate desire to become competent and independent human beings. For this reason, external rewards to create motivation are not only unnecessary but can be detrimental to this process. Potentially it can lead to children and adults, who are dependent on others for approval for everything from self-image to making life choices.
Through the process of exploring concepts largely on their own and making independent choices, Montessori children construct a strong sense of their own individual personality.
Montessori students are free from one-up-man-ship and needless competition for attention and prestige, because each child learns at their own pace and the teachers refrain from comparing students against one another through testing, examinations and the like.
Montessori students are encouraged to treat one another with kindness and respect. Insulting and bullying behaviour tends to be rare. Instead we find children have a great understanding and fondness of each other.
Dr. Montessori saw children as far more than simply scholars. Along with the rest of humanity, even the youngest child shares hopes, dreams, fears and the need to belong. From her perspective, this goes far beyond knowledge and mental health to the very core of ones spiritual existence.
Montessori consciously designed social communities and educational experiences that cultivate the child's sense of independence, self respect, love of peace, passion for self chosen work and the ability to celebrate the individual spirit of people of all races and ages. The value of all life.
All Montessori schools are largely international schools. They not only tend to attract a diverse student body representing many ethnic backgrounds and religions, but they celebrate their diversity. The curriculum is international in its heritage and focus, and consciously seeks to promote a global perspective.
The ultimate aim of all Montessori education is to promote world peace through fully developed people imbued with respect for all life.
World-wide a number of accredited Montessori training institutions operate recognised training courses for Montessori teachers. Generally teachers will undertake a one year full-time (or equivalent part-time) diploma course, which qualifies them to work with children in one of the following age groups: 0 - 3 years, 3 - 6 years, 6 - 12 years.