What is "Authentic Montessori"?
The name "Montessori" is not trademarked or copyrighted, and any school can bear the name Montessori without adhering to the Montessori method of education. Many schools that call themselves Montessori use some Montessori concepts but largely follow a different or "supplemented" curriculum. Research to evaluate the outcomes of "supplemented" Montessori shows less favorable outcomes than authentic Montessori.
Before deciding on a school for your child, we strongly recommend observing at the school and in the classroom to get a good sense for whether it is the right fit for your family.
In trying to evaluate whether a school is authentic Montessori, the surest way is to understand its relationship to the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). AMI was founded by Maria Montessori and her son, Mario, in 1929 to maintain the integrity of her work and to articulate Montessori philosophy and practice clearly through teacher training.
- Authentic Montessori schools follow the educational principals and practices as outlined by AMI.
- Lead teachers should hold AMI certification or have taught in an AMI school.
- The school should be affiliated with AMI in some way (for example, MIR Head of School Jenny Davidson is on the AMI governing board.)
Characteristics of an authentic AMI Montessori program include:
- Rigorously trained teachers who are thoroughly versed in child development and teach accordingly.
- Prepared environment designed specifically for the developmental stage of the child.
- Mixed-age groups in which younger students learn from older students, and older students learn leadership and responsibility as mentors to the younger.
- Freedom to choose work with appropriate guidance from the teachers. In a Montessori classroom, students actively participate in deciding what their focus of learning will be each day.
- Uninterrupted work periods of 2-3 hours to allow students to focus on their learning.
- Customized learning at the individual and group level, based on the developmental stage of the child.
While there are some "chains" of Montessori schools, the majority are independent schools like MIR. This means you'll want to tour each school you are interested in individually to evaluate them for your family.
"In the Montessori approach, [learning] is all about the activity of the child. The teacher takes on a different role; that is, to provide the right kind of circumstances so that children can be guided to find what they need from what is on offer." -- AMI