taken from original article "Will The Real Montessori Please Stand Up?"
Montessori is not a trademarked name, which means it is a label often given to thousands of day-cares and preschools across the country — whether or not they follow the Montessori method. This can mislead parents who are not aware that all Montessori schools are not created equal.
A Google search of preschools in any major city will return dozens of “Montessori” schools, but that doesn’t mean the schools follow the teachings of the method’s founder, Maria Montessori, or feature some of the key classroom tenets of Montessori — like an uninterrupted three-hour “work time” — or have teachers trained by an accredited Montessori teacher-training program.
Even fewer schools are affiliated with an accrediting organization, like the American Montessori Society or the Association Montessori International, which some experts say is the only way to guarantee the highest level of authenticity. Out of more than 4,000 so-called Montessori schools across the country, only 1,250 are affiliated with the American Montessori Society (and only 204 are AMS-accredited) and about 220 are recognized by AMI.
Supporters say the Montessori approach gives children the materials and time to learn independently and at their own pace. It strives to teach peace education, help children develop concentration and to learn without the promise of extrinsic rewards or grades. This approach helps children “develop a love of learning,” said Rachel Rodriguez, a certified Montessori teacher at Hill Country Montessori just north of San Antonio, Texas. “It honors each child’s interests and sparks that sense of wonder so learning sounds really good to them.”
5 things to look for in your child’s Montessori school:
1. Trained teachers: Teachers should be trained in the age group they teach by a teacher-preparation program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.
2. Multi-age classrooms: Montessori classrooms traditionally feature age groupings of three years, meaning one classroom will serve ages 3 to 6, another will serve first through third grade, etc.
3. Montessori materials: Montessori materials are extensive and grouped into different areas of learning, including sensorial and practical life. Usually made out of a range of materials including fabric and wood, the materials include real objects like pitchers and are meant to be used in multiple ways and at several stages of child development and learning.
4. Three-hour uninterrupted work time: During this time, students direct their learning as they work at their own pace either alone or with peers, while teachers provide individual and small-group instruction.
5. For the most “high-fidelity” schools, look for membership in or recognition by an association like the American Montessori Society or the Association Montessori International.
Accreditation is also very important. If parents find a Montessori school they like, but they aren’t sure if it’s authentic, accreditation — or at minimum an affiliation with an accrediting organization — offers some sort of quality control. Accreditation is a long, time-consuming and expensive process, which means while schools may affiliate with an accrediting society as a “member school,” not all pursue full accreditation.