What’s Montessori? So many people have no idea. LOL. So here’s my list of things I wish more parents knew about it.
1) It’s an alternative approach for how to educate and raise kids. Even if it is over 100 years old, it’s somehow still avant garde. Which means, if you choose to send your child to Montessori school, or any other kind of preschool that is “alternative”, for that matter (reggio, waldorf and Montessori are all examples of alternative preschools) you can be certain that there to be some radical differences between how the school interfaces with your child, and how you would interface with your child.
We love your kid, but we struggle with parents who aren’t on board with what we’re professionally trained to deliver to you. It’s literally counterproductive.
Always remember that no kid every haaaaas to come to Montessori school. People choose it. And it is often chosen because it looks beautiful and we have should our sh*t together in comparison to every other daycare you visited. Sometimes it is the closest child care option to your house. But either way, we still have specific goals as Montessori professionals.
2) Every legitimate Montessori program should have a professionally trained Montessori guide running the classroom. If there is no trained guide with a diploma that you can see for yourself if you asked to see it, it’s not really a Montessori classroom.
If there is no legitimately trained guide running the class, you are essentially choosing a really expensive regular preschool class that is what we might call “Montessori-inspired”. That’s my nice term for any situation where people are trying to successfully pull off a fake Montessori school purely for the money and reputation that the word “Montessori” brings with it. Trained Montessori professionals call these faux Montessori schools a “Montessorta/ Montess-something”.
“Montessori” is a preschool industry buzzword like the word “super food”. It makes people want it, and it makes people spend more money even if you’re being lied to and the school isn’t actually Montessori at all. The word “Montessori” is to preschools what “organic” is to nutrition. The word is only as legit as it is actually true.
3) Not everything you see on the internet is legitimately Montessori either, especially for babies and toddlers. So it’s not as simple as going online and trying to imitate what you see because it looks cute and magical, and you heard it’s superior for your kid. Just because it appears in a pinterest post or on Insta, looks ultra-perfect, wooden, and rainbow-colored does not mean it’s Montessori whatsoever. My goodness it is amazing what a thorough job social media does of deceiving people.
Case and point: the internet has even tricked me, as a fully trained guide of a few years now, into thinking a toy from the internet was a formal Montessori material, when it wasn’t. This toy is very frequently labeled “Montessori”, and very frequently appears in Montessori nidos and on Etsy. I went to look in my training album so that I could make the toy myself —and the flippin’ toy, that I was convinced was a formal Montessori toy, wasn’t even in my training album.
4) In a legit Montessori school, every parent is allowed to observe your child working at school, any time you desire. You don’t even need to forewarn anyone too far in advance in a really good school. They will have coffee, and an observation room with chairs and a sign-in sheet, and parents can come observe whenever they very well please. If the kids are baking cookies, you might get one from the staff.
Go observe your child at school, Montessori parents of America. I beg you! I suggest one observation for every year of their life. Some of you blatantly vocalize that you don’t trust Montessori school. And yet, not once have I ever seen you come in to observe your own child and what s/he can do.
5) I think it’s safe to say that most parents are utterly clueless about how to toilet train a toddler. And it just so happens that the 0-3 Montessori guide is a professional expert who is SO good at toilet training! Like, re-heheheaaally good at getting your kid outta diapers young, LOL.
So by all means, if your kid goes to Montessori preschool, expect to say adios to diapers.
6) The Montessori method is very much a growth-mindset child-rearing approach, starting from birth. If the thought of your baby not being a baby anymore doesn’t exactly appeal to you, and if it makes you start to sweat nervously, Montessori may not be the best fit for you as parents from ages 0-3.
This is not to say that you can’t attachment-parent super hard, and that your kid won’t reap all the benefits of going to Montessori school. But I will say that the “attachment parenting” parent is going to have some clashes with the level of independence Montessori subscribes to. Basically if you’re an attachment-parent, your kid will be likely be experiencing two separate lives at home and at Montessori school.
7) Montessori programs for infants and toddlers are in very limited supply. Exceptionally good Montessori programs are in even more of a limited supply because they aren’t all created equally. Some are way better than others. Montessori programs for infants are in even greater limited supply, because the program literally loses money by having them. So if you think you want to get your child into a Montessori infant/toddler program, you need to get on the waitlists and start the tours before they hit the age where you want to get them in. You need to tour for infant programs during pregnancy.
If the baby is already out of you, they may not be getting into the nido. LOL. If you get them on the infant waitlist while they are an infant, you might not be admitted to the school until they are a toddler because the waitlist is so long. So start your tours early, and get yourself on the waitlists for both the infant and the toddler programs if you think you’ll be in your town for a while.
8) There are various training center formats that produce the world’s supply of Montessori teachers (also known as “Montessori guides”).
There is the AMI (Association Montessori Internationale), which is internationally-relevant, and very consistent in how guides are trained and in what materials may show up in a toddler Montessori classroom. An AMI infant/toddler classroom in Europe will look fairly identical to an AMI infant/toddler classroom in New Zealand, and Japan. Because we all got the same streamlined, high-quality training.
Then there is AMS (American Montessori Society) which, in my personal experience tends to vary quite drastically from one AMS infant/toddler program to another AMS infant/toddler program; and which definitely varies in contrast to an AMI toddler program.
Then there are accrediting agencies that are neither AMS nor AMI that still pump out guides.
If I was a parent, I would do a lot of research on the school you are considering; and never go to just one Montessori school. Find out where the classroom teacher got their training. Pay attention when you are visiting each school. Pay attention to what it looks like, what it feels like, and what kind of toys/ materials are on the shelves. Ask the right questions. Use yelp (loosely. Sometimes schools get high ratings just because they are the only infant/toddler Montessori school in the area, not because they’re actually a good school). Always browse the school websites, and try glassdoor to learn as much about the school as you can.
If they have multiple campuses, ask to visit all of them. This might seem anti-Montessori, but I would even encourage parents to compare the best non-Montessori preschool in your area to the Montessori programs you visit. Because not all Montessori infant-toddler programs are created equally. And some are more expensive than others. You deserve a solid contrast of options to know what you are choosing.
9) Montessori does not have a religious affiliation. But it is not uncommon for a lot of churches to choose to have Montessori preschools in them because the theories of Montessori education pair very well with the values of churches. Peace, loving teachers, logical consequences to one’s behavior, grace, courtesy, growth, raising children in the ways in which they should go; churches value these things.
10) Montessori education is “whole child” education. That means academic smarts alone are not all your kid is walking away with, nor is your kid only playing with toys all day.
Academic knowledge falls to the back burner if a kid can’t even do basic life skills like go pee, or put their own shoes on. Or if they can’t control themselves appropriately in a social environment, they can’t learn information. Or if they’re that kid who is a jerk to others, no one cares how high they can count by rote memory. And if they can’t pay attention, they will definitely struggle to learn anything, be it academic or otherwise. So we provide “education” for the whole child.