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Montessori Resources including: Where to find Info? What is Montessori? What to look for - Page 3

post #41 of 83
2 web sites:

Montessori books:

And my blog:

post #42 of 83
Hi Matt!
Have you read The Tao of Montessori by McTameney? It sounds really good.
That's on my list of books-to-read.

Nice links- I'll check out your blog wigam.

also - www.primrosematerials.com
post #43 of 83
I have not read it. If you get to it before I do, let me know how it is.
post #44 of 83
Here is a link for wonderful geography materials and also language cards:

post #45 of 83
Another resource for buying materials:

I made a purchase with them and was happy with the price and quality.
post #46 of 83
I think this is so interesting and inspiring:
post #47 of 83

What to look for in a Montessori classroom

Not all Montessori classrooms are created equally. In my opinion, here are some of the elements that are of importance in a Montessori classroom. I'm starting this thread with the idea that it can be of service to parents who might not know what to look for when they go to observe a classroom.

- Children choosing activities themselves and having sustained focus on the activities.

- Children helping one another in a natural way, (without looking for approval or praise from adults).

- Older children giving lessons to the younger ones.

- Children solving their own disputes without adult intervention.

- An orderly, pleasant environment, with materials that are complete and well-cared for.

- Materials should be in regular rotation on the shelves, especially in Practical Life, but also in other areas.

- Children moving about and talking to one another freely, but still respecting each other's space.

- Teachers who speak quietly and respectfully to the children.

- Teachers giving individual or small group lessons. Teachers should also be able to have time to simply observe the classroom in action, without taking an active role her/himself.

- Teachers who don't yell, threaten or have to spend much time disciplining children.

- The overall impression should be one of a happy, busy, harmonious community.

- Hmm... what else?

Note: What I'm describing is a "normalized classroom". Classrooms will be more normalized when the same teacher has been with a class for several years. It will be more normalized at the end of the school year than at the beginning (if you're observing at the beginning, expect to see a little more chaos!). If a classroom has had an influx of new, non-Montessori children, it will not be as normalized.
post #48 of 83
Great list. Just want to add some clarification on some.

Originally Posted by Anandamama View Post

- Older children giving lessons to the younger ones.
Good one to put in. Just remember this doesn't always happen all the time. If you're observing and you do not see it happening, but you still see a lot of activity and learning going on, it's just because nobody has chosen to teach or learn that way at that time.

- Children solving their own disputes without adult intervention.
And if the adult does step in, how does the adult handle the situation? The teacher should be helping the child learn how to develop the resolution skills, not just offering a quick solution and move on.

- Teachers giving individual or small group lessons. Teachers should also be able to have time to simply observe the classroom in action, without taking an active role her/himself.
This may vary on the day you're watching as well. I have had days where students were doing things that required me to do three period lessons. (Geometric solids, letter sounds, puzzle maps) I hardly have times some days to observe. There should usually be a lot of time for observation.

This was different in Taiwan where I teach a foreign language to them. I've had to modify this some and put more direct teaching in as the students worked with the materials.


- Hmm... what else?
I like parents grilling me with questions. If you're able to observe and talk to an administrator/teacher at the same time, ask a lot of questions about what the child is doing and what they are learning from that activity. First of all, if you do not really know too many specific things about the materials, you will be fascinated. Also, you will see how much depth and understanding the teacher has of the materials.

Ask Philosophical questions. "Why is choice important in the classroom?" "Why don't you do worksheets and workbooks?" Even let the teacher struggle with the questions, as they may know the answer, but sometimes have trouble thinking of where to start. Let them know it's ok to take their time and think about it before they answer.

post #49 of 83
Bumping for my own reference and to ask if anyone else had additional comments.
post #50 of 83
I don't know if it is stating the obvious, but for people who are not familiar with Montessori method, I think the following are important:

1. Typical Montessori materials are present in the classroom, and are styled in the traditional Montessori way. I think you can teach your children in a Montessori way in the home with materials that are not always exactly as Maria designed them, but in the classroom, faithfulness to the traditional materials indicates a faithfulness to the traditional program. So expect to see a pink tower, a brown stair, a bead cabinet, access to water and children using it, plants in the classroom . . .

2. A lack of toys in the classroom. Every classroom I have been in has incorporated a few mainstream "toys" that are not exactly Montessori but provide work opportunities relevant to Montessori principles. However, the presence of these kinds of work should be minimal.

3. Furniture sized appropriately to the student population. This seems incredibly obvious, but I have seen preschool classrooms with inappropriately sized furniture, and toddler classrooms with no furniture.

4. There is no need for a computer in the classroom, and the children shouldn't be using one. (Yes, I've seen this, too.)
post #51 of 83
SOME of the Materials in Practical Life are "rotated" in that a different version may appear - different colored cloth and pitcher, smaller pitchers for pouring, different food (rice, beans) for spooning.
The Materials in Sensorial, Language, and Math are NEVER rotated. In fact, all year they are in the exact same place.
There is A Teacher in a Montessori classroom, not teachers plural. A teacher and one, possibly two if the state requires it during the more populated morning work cycle, assistant.
10 first years, 10 second years, 10 third years - evenly split between boys and girls is also an element of a Normalized classroom.
No transitions out of the classroom during the uninterrupted 3 hour morning work cycle is also an essential part of Montessori. (ie going to a music room, or a second language teacher coming in) But during nice weather, there should be an easy access and flow to an outdoor environment.
post #52 of 83
This is very helpful. I'm just starting to consider pre-k for my 2 year-old (looking early to decide where to apply next year), and Montessori was first on my list. There are two M schools in our area- one has a much nicer website, but I have no idea if that will translate to the real-world, so I hope to go observe them. It's so nice to have this list. I have read the M philosophy & spoken with a few teachers over the years (pre-baby), but I don't know much about the specifics. I'd love to hear more about the materials- how will I recognize right from wrong? Thanks!!
post #53 of 83
Originally Posted by Yaliina View Post
I'd love to hear more about the materials- how will I recognize right from wrong? Thanks!!

I'd start by scanning some websites that sell Montessori materials. I think Niehhuis is the manufacturer that AMI schools use, so they will be the most true to the stuff used by Montessori herself. This is the gold standard. Lots of other websites sell stuff, too, of varying quality and authenticity. Anyway, here's the website (I think):


Also, pick up a few books. I think Maria Montessori's Handbook talks about the materials? Not for sure, though . . .
post #54 of 83

Agree with all of the above....

and would add the following suggestions if you are looking at (or considering in the future) Montessori elementary....

Classrooms with at least 3 year age span, evenly divided (ie, not 15 six year olds, 4 seven year olds, and 1 eight year old) with a fairly larger number of children per classroom (around 35) compared to "regular" schools...

Classrooms should be large enough to accomodate lots of different work, and small enough to inspire the elementary student to leave the classroom for more information (called "Going Outs" instead of field trips, and kid-designed rather than school-scheduled). There should usually be a pretty lively "buzz" of discussion, and many discussions between and among kids regarding fairness, rules, community expectations, with only occassional adult participation (for guidance when children sometimes are not able to reach a reasonable compromise amongst themselves).....

Children working in pairs and small groups, using Montessori materials and doing self-directed research......

No workbooks, grades, or standardized testing (or if a public Montessori, no teaching to the test)....

Directors/directresses/guides should be able to tell you about the "great lessons" and how these tie the cosmic education in elementary....and they should give all of the great lessons every year....

Continuation of primary practical life but extended (so instead of pouring rice, an elementary student may knit, throw pottery, garden, cook, etc.). The elementary practical life should help the children operate as a community...

Lastly, to me it was very important when looking at elementary programs that the schools insist that every child, with very few exceptions, had the full 3 or 4 year cycle in primary prior to elementary. I also felt it was important that schools asked for a written (or in many cases, a $500 or more deposit) guarantee that if accepted, the family was committed to the full elementary cycle. Elementary communities work best with stable enrollments!
post #55 of 83
Well this is interesting. I have observed two schools so far, and it was just very interesting. First, let me post the form I created for myself to use to keep notes on the schools.

There were some things I didn't include but have nonetheless been asking each school about (for example, ratio of 3 year olds, 4 year olds, 5 year olds, and 6 year olds in the classroom; age/grade the school runs through and if they go through the elementary years, questions related to that, etc.).

But in any case, here is the text from the form I created:
  • Name of School:
  • Location of School:
  • Tuition:
  • Notes on Financial Programs:
  • Notes on Teacher Training:
  • Experience With Children Who Have Special Needs:

Observations of Classroom (each of these had a yes or no checkmark box under them...a couple had a place to jot notes):
  • Children choosing activities themselves, having sustained focus on the activities, and caring for the classroom and materials.
  • Work period close to 3 hours.
  • Children working and helping one another in a natural way (without looking for approval or praise from adults).
  • Older children giving lessons to the younger ones.
  • Children solving their own disputes without adult intervention. If adult intervention is involved, please make exact notes.
  • Minimal behavioral management does not involve yelling, threatening, etc.
  • An orderly, pleasant environment, with materials that are attractive, complete, and well-cared for.
  • The presence of traditional Montessori materials. Minimal “toys,” and all toys have a specific lesson-based purpose.
  • Child sized furniture and equipment, and materials at the children’s level, set up in orderly and accessible ways.
  • Children moving about and talking to one another freely, but still respecting each other's space.
  • Teachers who speak quietly and respectfully to the children.
  • Teachers giving individual or small group lessons.
  • Teachers journaling and/or actively observing the classroom in action, without taking an active role. (journaling? )

Observations From Conversation with Teacher or Administrator:
  • Notes on Depth of Teacher/Administrative Understanding of the Work:
  • Notes on Depth of Teacher/Administrative Understanding of the Philosophy:

Questions (I left a short space under each of these for notes...for some I was looking for adherence to typical Montessori method "standards," for others I was looking for information of subjective value to myself):
  • What is the typical daily schedule? What are drop off and pick up procedures? How does parent-school/teacher communication take place?
  • What are the clothing and personal item restrictions?
  • Is the school AMS or AMI or [insert other] oriented? What is the training most common among staff? Is circle time a regular or unusual part of the class schedule?
  • How are lessons presented? How is a child’s progress through materials monitored?
  • Where does the school expect children to be at the end of the 3-6 year old period? Does the school offer Montessori for children older than six, and if so, what percentage of children continue at the school?
  • How does the school describe it’s approach to discipline? (Also, any concerns such as lack of boundaries placed on restraint, etc.)
  • Are teachers ever one-on-one with a child or class of children? In what type of scenarios? For what length of time?
  • What type of scenario would signal to the teacher/administrator that Montessori or that the school is not a good fit? Are there any types of students who the teacher/administrator feels would have a harder time in the school? What type of testing is required for admission/what’s the admission criterion?
  • Are there any “specials” offered, and if so, how frequently and at what cost (gym, music, foreign languages, etc…)
  • What is the teacher turnover rate? Do staff members appear happy and satisfied by their work? What is the level of support and compensation of staff?
  • How does the school describe its approach to diversity? What is the classroom approach to family structure diversity (adoption, same-sex parents, etc.)? What is the current level of diversity (gender, ethnicity, race, first language, family structure, etc.) among the children, their families, and the staff:
  • Notes on the facility (playground, library, garden, etc.):
  • Notes on general sense of the school:

Then I had myself rate my overall sense of the school on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being LOVED IT SO MUCH I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF.
post #56 of 83
Originally Posted by Sierra View Post
Well this is interesting. I have observed two schools so far, and it was just very interesting. First, let me post the form I created for myself to use to keep notes on the schools.
Congratulations on possibly the best post I have read on this subject.
post #57 of 83

Okay, so that was the form I used. So far I have visited two schools. I have three more schools I will be visiting. The schools range from $3600/year-$12,500/year for a halfday only, 5 days per week (the top one offering scholarships and running through the elementary years, which is the only reason I am considering it). The average cost is between $6000-7000.

The schools are all within a 40 minute drive from us. The closest one (which blows my mind since I live in New England's second largest city...how could there not be any true Montessori schools here?) is a 20-25 minute drive. That is also the youngest school. It is 3 years old.

Now that I've visited two of the schools, I am truly truly running circles in my mind.

Regarding the first school:
  • Was the one that is closest to us (the youngest school). It is also very close to where my SIL, BIL and their family live, which is nice on a variety of levels.
  • It is in the average cost range at $6,250/year.
  • It is AMI accredited. All teachers are AMI certified.
  • It does not yet serve children over age six, but there is a clear intention and plan to do so.
  • It is expanding currently, adding two new 3-6 year classrooms this fall, so there are many slots open. My kido will probably be placed in one of the newer classes because it won't be normalized yet. This was my suggestion, as his particular special needs would be better served by starting out his first year in school with kids closer in age to him (3). The newer classrooms will have a higher ration of three year olds.

What I liked:
  • The director was very gentle in her demeanor, and I felt pretty comfortable with her.
  • The school stays very true to the Montessori way.
  • The school is very diverse, both in teaching staff (though I saw no men, at least in the class I was in) and in the children and their families. There were children in the classroom for which English was not their first language, etc.
  • The teachers in the class were very quiet.
  • Though the school has thus far had only very, very limited experience with children who have special needs, the director seemed very open. She just wants to meet ds first to see if the school will be a useful environment for him.
  • The director seemed to be an acute observer. She also was very interested in the unique person my son is. And she was very kind.
  • Before I came in, I was given the proper instructions on how to sit and observe. This meant I could see fewer of the materials, given where the chair was located and how large the room was, but it also meant that I wasn't disrupting the classroom, disrupting the Montessori way.
  • The cycle of enrollment works well for our plan, to enroll ds in the fall. They work within the standard academic year, and then have a different summer program.

What I didn't like:
  • The school building was newer and had a very institutional feel to it.
  • There was a musical work the kids used in the class that would not be comfortable for my ds' sensitive auditory system, as it is sharp and when coming up unexpectedly, could completely overwhelm ds' system.
  • The classrooms were quite large, which wonderfully accomodated more materials but also presented some unique challenges (see below).
  • While in the classroom (for about an hour), sitting an observing, I really wanted to love this school. I did. It is the best location, a reasonable price, and I loved the director and loved how true the school stays to Montessori standards.

    But the thing is, I witnessed multiple incidences of bullying and teasing among the children. Some even getting borderline physical. Because the classroom was so large, this usually went unnoticed. And despite the grace and courtesy lessons the director told me all the children get a lot of early on in the year and again periodically throughout the year, the children were rather rude to one another.

    When the teachers did notice what was going on, they used the "minimal intervention" and focus on redirection standard of Montessori, which I suppose should make me feel good. But instead, I became very uncomfortable. No one seemed to take advantage of any opportunity at all to do any kind of learning with the children, helping the children work through their conflicts with one another and learn resolution techniques. It basically felt like a "fend for yourself" system.

    Yes, there were about thirty children in the room, and most were engaged in their work and not getting into it with one another. But there were multiple kids also engaged in this negative behavior, and it wasn't all the same kids...it changed constantly.
  • I also witnessed the person I believe is the lead teacher putting her hands on a child multiple times during one behavioral management incident. It wasn't extremely rough or anything, but it wasn't a gentle hand on her shoulder either. It was more stuff like...um, for example, the child trying to walk away before the adult was done conversing with her, and the adult pulling the child back firmly by the wrist. Actually grabbing on her arm and gently yanking her all the way back. I have no idea what was being said in those moments. The teacher was extremely quiet during all of this. But even though I loved a lot of the other stuff I saw with this teacher, as someone who directs a ministry for kids and knows there are better ways, this made me very uncomfortable.
  • One of the assistant teachers seemed generally uninterested in her work. She also did some annoying non-Montessori-type things like standing over a child, rather than getting on his level and commanding him in a sort of meaningless corrective manner, "remember to draw on the lines" or something like that.

Regarding the second school:
  • This school is pretty far away. It is nearly a 40 minute drive, depending on traffic, and the fastest way to get there involves driving on a toll highway. It is not near anyone I know, which also means, that for example, if there was an emergency...well, you know (what's the point in putting someone on the pickup list if they are impossibly far away?).
  • It is in the lower of the cost range, between $4000-5000/year.
  • It is AMS affiliated (accredited?). However, only one teacher and the director (there are two classes...one in which the director currently serves as lead teacher) is trained in AMS (she still has to complete her albums). The only bottom line requirement the director set for hiring teachers is that they have a bachelor's degree.
  • It does not yet serve children over age six, and while there is some interest in some day expanding, when I asked about it, I didn't get a sense that this is being planned at this point (the director simply pointed out the limited size of the building, etc.).
  • The usual periods of enrollment are in January and June or something like that, which doesn't match our plans as well. And while they accept students year round, I think it would serve ds well to start when the class is sort of "new" and everyone is getting oriented again and again.
  • This school was less visibly diverse from the first, but wasn't homogenous either.

What I liked:
  • There was virtually no teasing, no bullying, or similar behavioral issues. The children seemed well practiced in grace and courtesy, and I even heard a teacher instructing a child to talk directly to another child.
  • Despite the fact that the Montessori method was followed much more loosely (see below), the children were engaged in the material (and most of the children very independently), and the children didn't seem to be seeking tons of adult praise/approval despite the over-involvement of the adults (by Montessori standards). In fact, I saw less engagement in the first school in some ways, and there I definitely observed children seeking praise/approval from adults, so???
  • The director was open and prepared for the fact that ds might not have learned to use the toilet yet, and were not concerned about this. They were happy to be a part of that learning process.
  • They seem to have a lot of experiences with children who have special needs. In fact, one of the teachers was a special ed teacher many years prior. And they were ready to work with the school district, which will be providing my ds with some therapeutic educational services. Plus, they didn't seem overly concerned about ds having special needs. They just treated him normally, and didn't mention any potential issues at all. It was like they just assumed they'd be able to integrate nearly any child.
  • I felt comfortable with all the staff. I could see liking them all. One did get sort of short-tempered with the kids at one point, and was a little loud with one of them. However, I felt like she still handled things better overall than the teacher in the first school who was "hands on" in her discipline.
  • The classrooms were very moderately sized. This made less room for materials, and presented some challenges for the kids in finding space to work, but it also helped the teachers keep a handle on what was happening in the room. Additionally, the two classrooms were separated only by a partial partition and some visual boundaries with shelves and benches. However, the noise between the classes was minimal and I actually liked that this meant the director could basically have a presence throughout the entire school.
  • The teachers understood a lot of what ds (who has major articulation challenges) was saying, even on a couple occassions when I didn't know.
  • The children seemed much more joyful in this school.
  • ds really seemed to like it there, even though he insisted afterward he didn't like it (I think he wanted me to take him to a different school right then just to have a day of adventuring). And I didn't want to leave myself. It was just such a nice atmosphere for reasons I am not even aware.

What I didn't like:
  • The Montessori standard was present in the classroom, but as far as I could observe, was not followed meticulously. Take for example the fact that they let my ds come in and be part of the class without any orientation. They encouraged me to bring him with me for the visit (I just assumed he'd be welcome to participate in some manner since they were inviting him and didn't give us any instructions to the contrary, which worked out fine as we've been doing Montessori at home and my ds knows the routine). And they didn't orient us as visitors at all. We were not given instructions just to observe (and how to do that), so we wouldn't disrupt the classroom and the Montessori way.

    Both classrooms had a computer (though it was not on during our time there). One classroom was a bit disorderly in an area where the children were discouraged from going because they were not regularly used work items. And immediately upon entering I saw a teacher cleaning up after a child, while the child sat there watching without helping at all. This went on for ten minutes (there was a BIG sand mess).

    The teachers seemed, to my outsider eyes anyway, to spend little time observing and instead spent much time engaged with the children in one way or another (sometimes giving lessons, but even that appeared almost rare...many times the teachers seemed engaged in other ways, which I felt didn't communicate as much confidence and trust in the children).

    And the director told me that with kids who have special needs, if the school district recommends that the Montessori method not be followed to the letter-T with the child, they can adapt. (Where was the wholehearted commitment to Montessori's ability to meet every child where s/he is at?)
  • I liked the staff, but I couldn't tell at all what they thought of me. On one hand, after observing me with my son in the classroom and hearing about the stuff we've been doing at home, the director asked me at one point if I had any interest in teaching Montessori (almost as if she was half looking to hire, but I have no idea if I just read too much into it), which I took as a compliment. And one of the teachers seemed to genuinely really like ds, and complimented his ability to handle the Montessori classroom without any orientation (well, he did have an orientation to our homeschool classroom), and said enthusiastically, "he'd be ready to start tomorrow if you wanted him to!"

    On the other hand, I felt like the teachers in one of the classrooms were judging me and concerned about ds' participation, but no one told me what they wanted him to be doing. I felt so lost, and so judged, and honestly, I couldn't have observed for long enough if I had to keep ds by my side every moment. The teachers also weren't the warmest toward me (aside from one). In short, there was some element there that was uncomfortable.

So I am spinning in circles. These descriptors make it sound like I haven't found the right school, and maybe I haven't. The first one I really, really wanted to like, and had some good reasons to like, but I also had some big and important and valid concerns. The second school I feel like I ought not to like, as it was not 100% Montessori, but I felt like the kids actually responded to it in a much more Montessori manner-- joyfully and focused and respectfully. How could that be?
post #58 of 83
Originally Posted by MattBronsil View Post
Congratulations on possibly the best post I have read on this subject.
Thanks! But honestly, a lot of this was stuff I borrowed from this thread and other recent threads on this subject.
post #59 of 83
Originally Posted by Anandamama View Post
- Teachers giving individual or small group lessons. Teachers should also be able to have time to simply observe the classroom in action, without taking an active role her/himself.
Just want to add: I don't mean to give the impression that a Montessori teacher should be a passive presence in the classroom. Generally, Montessori teachers are very active and involved, responding to the children's needs. But, in a mature, normalized classroom there will be times when the teacher CAN, if she wishes, simply observe, and the children will still continue peacefully going about their business.
post #60 of 83
Welcome to the world of choosing.

If we really think about Montessori, we can see it broken down into how the child acts between:
--The environment
--The teachers
--The other students

There is also the consideration of location. That may be partially overcome by working with a parent at the school who can help during emergencies. Just make sure you arrange that with the school as well so they can release your son legally to that parent should an emergency arise. The director may be able to help you arrange that.

Your next step may be to take your notes and put them in the columns of "environment" "teachers" "other students" and just a generic "other" column. Weigh out the options and go from there, but that may make things even more clear.

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