Montessori Schools – The Difference

Have you wondered what exactly Montessori is?  Or if this is the best method of learning for your child? This “Frequently Asked Questions” article written by Michael Olaf addresses all your questions.

Montessori Schools

Q. I recently observed a Montessori classroom. I was very very impressed, but I have three questions:

(1) There does not seem to be an opportunity for pretend play

(2) The materials don’t seem to allow children to be creative

(3) Children don’t seem to be interacting with one another very much

Any help you give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much, BD

A. Dear BD, I can give you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:

(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children’s House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things – i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.

(2) the materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered “creative” to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it “creative” to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.

(3) there is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all “work” is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.

Q. How do I find Montessori schools in my area?
A. There are thousands of Montessori schools in the world, Google search online, get the literature of local schools, observe, and compare what you learn with you read on this site.

Q. Who accredits or oversees Montessori schools?
A. Unfortunately, there is no way to limit the use of the name “Montessori.” Parents must carefully research, and observe a classroom in operation, in order to choose a real Montessori school for their child.

There are several Montessori organizations to which schools can belong. The two major ones operating in the United States are the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI, with a U.S. branch office called AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). Parents considering placing a child in a Montessori school should ask about the school’s affiliation(s).

Q. How much does Montessori cost?
A. (from NAMTA figures, 2005) Because all Montessori schools are operated independently of one another, tuitions vary widely. Also the cost of living in a particular area accounts for the very wide range in tuitions. Median annual tuition by age level follow. “Median” means that they can be lower and much higher in some places, depending on the cost of living. Montessori schools almost never make a profit, and when compared to the cost-per-child in public schools are lower.

(NOTE: these figures are several years old and may not apply today.)

Infant/toddler: $4,200+
Ages 3-6, 3-hour day: $3,850+
Ages 3-6, 4-hour day: $4,500+
Ages 3-6, 6-hour day: $5,875+
Ages 6-9: $6,690+
Ages 9-12: $6,700+
Ages 12-15 and 15-18: $8,170+
Also keep in mind that there are many Montessori programs in public schools, which charge no tuition at all to students within their district.

Q. What is the best way to choose a Montessori school for my child?
A. Ask if the school is affiliated with any Montessori organization. Ask what kind of training the teachers have. Visit the school, observe the classroom in action, and later ask the teacher or principal to explain the theory behind the activities you saw. Most of all, talk to your child’s prospective teacher about his or her philosophy of child development and education to see if it is compatible with your own.

Q. How many Montessori schools are there?
A. We estimate that there are at least 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States and about 7,000 worldwide.

Q. Are Montessori schools religious?
A. Some are, but most are not. Some Montessori schools, just like other schools, operate under the auspices of a church, synagogue, or diocese, but most are independent of any religious affiliation.

Q. Are all Montessori schools private?
A. No. Approximately 200 public schools in the U.S. and Canada offer Montessori programs, and this number is growing every year.

Q. What does it take to start a Montessori school?
A. The essential element of any Montessori school is the fully-trained Montessori teacher. A good starting point is a group of parents who want Montessori for their children. The next step is to look into state and local requirements for schools, such as teacher training, facilities, class size, etc. Selecting a site and making sure it meets applicable building codes is also an early part of the process. Montessori materials and furniture must be purchased, and, unless one of the founders has taken Montessori training, a teacher must be hired.


This information has been reprinted with permission from the Michael Olaf Montessori Company.
They publish two catalogues that are also excellent overviews of Montessori philosophy and practice. (The Joyful Child for birth to three years, and Child of the World, for three to twelve years)
The text from these publications is available free on the Internet:

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