Choosing the right school for your child is not to be taken lightly. Do your homework and use these ten tips to facilitate your decision.
1. Do a search for Montessori schools in the area by visiting the national Montessori websites. While you can also search the phone book, remember that not all Montessori schools use the term in their titles. Likewise, just because a school has “Montessori” in its name, it isn’t necessarily a true Montessori school.
2. Set up appointments at several schools. While Montessori schools share the same basic principles of educating, each school has something unique to offer. Tuition is usually competitive, so you must look at the whole package.
3. Likewise, try to observe in multiple classrooms. Within each school is an array of talented teachers, each bringing her own unique talents.
4. Observe the teacher’s interactions with the children. Look for her to speak calmly and gently at the children’s level. Watch for her to be actively engaged in observation of the children. Remember, a Montessori teacher is known as a “directress”. Her job is to direct the children to appropriate activities as a result of her observations, instead of traditionally teaching by feeding information.
5. Observe the children’s interactions with each other. Watch for examples of grace and courtesy. Look for their comfort level as they interact with each other and with their teacher. Watch how they handle disagreements. Look for a mix of children working independently and in small groups.
6. Observe the children’s interaction with their environment. Gauge the activity level of the classroom as well as the type of activities in which they are involved. Those tasks include an actual work from a shelf, as well as observing another child.
7. Observe the environment in general. Look for comfort, yet order. The environment should be child-centered. This means everything should be easily accessible to the children, without requiring constant adult intervention.
8. Make a list of questions you may have for the director or teacher. Find an appropriate time to ask them. As an observer, you are sitting quietly off to the side, blending into the background. It is appropriate to ask your questions after you quietly exit the room. You will probably think of more later, when you get home. Don’t be afraid to ask them. Keep asking until you fully understand.
9. Inquire about a trial period. Some schools allow a child to come into a classroom for a short period to try it out. Older children may get to experience a full day or two. Other schools have a probationary period at the beginning of a school year. It is most important that your child is comfortable and that it fits his needs, which may be different than your own.
10. Follow your gut instincts. Nine times out of ten, your gut reaction to a school environment ends up being the right one.