There's a really nice little pamphlet called "A Parent's Guide to the Montessori Classroom
." You might want to see if your school has it so you can borrow it. I think that it might answer a lot of your questions.
My daughter just completed her first full week. They started 4 of the new kids last Thursday, then the other 4 on Friday. This week, the older kids started. Transition seems to have gone rather smoothly.
Every day, DD says she didn't do any work. She gives me a play by play of what the guinea pig did, though. But I talked to her teacher who said that she's been observing a lot of lessons but for the most part is just an observer with the activity type lessons. She's apparently really into the practical life stuff, and has been preparing the snacks almost every day this week, wiping down the tables, and cleaning the outside of the guinea pig aquarium. Today she informed me that someone else cleaned it, and the guinea pig didn't like it.
I think that Montessori can seem to move slowly, but there is a method to the madness. If I sent her to a more conventional preschool, I'd probably be pretty annoyed that they had her doing the janitorial work! Cooking and cleaning is familiar to her, so I think she has attached to it in the classroom. I know her personality, and it always takes her a while to warm up to things. She is an observer, and jumps in only when she is ready. And then she's the life of the party. She's that cliche child who walked late, but never fell, talked late and was speaking in sentences within a few weeks, and she's the same way with smaller milestones. She took a dance class last year and spent 3 weeks just standing there watching as everyone else ran around and danced... but at the recital she was the only one in her class who danced and didn't just stand there like a deer in the headlights.
I really like that Montessori lets children move as slowly as they want to. Montessori is "child led" in that the child moves at her own pace through the curriculum: sometimes very slowly, sometimes mastering things very quickly. But it's still a set curriculum that the child is supposed to follow. There are 3+ levels of activity for most of the skills, and the child is supposed to master each step before she moves on. A good Montessori teacher will recognize when the child has mastered the skill AND is ready to move on (and these don't always happen at the same moment: sometimes the child is still happy playing at the mastered skill and isn't quite ready for the next step) and then swoop in with the next lesson.
The book that I recommended (which is really just a pamphlet) outlines all that. It's a quick read, but I thought that it explained a lot about how and why things work. Both of the Montessori schools that we applied to sent it to us.
Also, I think that while naptime is a state mandated thing, I think that it is a Montessori thing for only the oldest kids to stay for the full day. Both of the schools I'm familiar with are like that. I think they do more kindergarten level work in the afternoon, and the smaller class size allows more individualized instruction for the more complicated tasks. A friend who went to a Montessori school told me that it was a huge honor when you got asked to stay the full day because it meant you were one of the big kids and got to do more advanced work.