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DH and I are making our final decisions on which montessori school our oldest daughter will start this fall.(she'll be 3yo3m). We narrowed down our list to two. Our DD is very vocal, energetic, persistent, determined and spunky. Some may call her spirited and she is, but I aso think her strong-will will definitely be to her advantage as she grows.

We've gone back and forth but we just cannot decide...Your opinion and input is appreciated. This is what we observed:

School A-
*AMI accredited (all teachers are AMI certified)
*toddlers to 6.5 years
*must attend 5 days a week (can decide between half or full day)
*smaller school (we love the small school atmosphere)
*only natural wood furniture and used natural lighting
*large spacious playground and garden
*classes broken down into the 3 year age gap
*3-hour Montessori work period observed
*saw most kids in deep concentration, some just sitting there (some working on mats on the floor, some working at their tables, the guide was walking around working with children)
*no enrichment classes offered for full day children (small drawback for us)
*children eat lunch inside, and have picnic style lunch outside on Friday
*6 week parent workshop at the beginning of the year (we like)

School B-
*AMS associate members (all lead teachers certified by AMI, AMS, or IMC)
*AdvancEd accredited (indifferent to us)
*infants to 6th grade (we love that!)
*larger school
*3,4,5 day options, also 1/2 or full day options
*more diversity among staff and students (very important for us)
*large spacious playground, nature trail and starting a garden
*classes have 2-year age gap (3-5yo, 1st-2nd grade, 3rd-6th grade)
*2 hour work period
*saw some children working in workbooks in the 3-5 yrclass (didn't like), saw one child working on works on the floor
*smaller class sizes (18 kids max with 1 lead, 2 assistants)
*observed the 1st-3rd class and some children were working on works on the floor, others were at a small group table with the guide working in a workbook and a few others were out in P.E. Enrichment class
* Spanish and P.E 2x a week, music and dance on Fridays, offered as part of full-day curriculum (we like)
*children eat lunch outside everyday (we love)
*3-6 year teacher and assistants really took to my daughter. She came in right away and started talking to them
 

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What a tough decision! My son is in an AMI school & we *love* it. I really believe in the AMI mission & the teacher training, which seems to be quite rigorous. But to have a school your child can grow into through the elementary years is important too. And chance you know if the teacher your DD would have in the AMS school is AMI certified?

Both schools have lots of positives. Your daughter seemed to have a good experience visiting the AMS school, so maybe that's a good sign! We're the materials similar in both classrooms? Does the AMS school delay introduction of computers & screen technology? It sounds like you have two great options. If I were in your shoes I'd go with the AMI school if I didn't think we'd be at the same school in 3 years. But if I was there for the long hauls, I'd seriously consider the AMS school.

Good luck making your decision & let us know where you end up!


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By the way, my son is also "spirited"--he's thriving in the Montessori setting & I think he'd struggle in a traditional classroom. I hope your daughter has a similarly positive experience--it doesn't seem like you can go wrong with either of the schools you're considering!


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DH and I are making our final decisions on which montessori school our oldest daughter will start this fall.(she'll be 3yo3m). We narrowed down our list to two. Our DD is very vocal, energetic, persistent, determined and spunky. Some may call her spirited and she is, but I aso think her strong-will will definitely be to her advantage as she grows.

We've gone back and forth but we just cannot decide...Your opinion and input is appreciated. This is what we observed:

School A-
*AMI accredited (all teachers are AMI certified)
*toddlers to 6.5 years
*must attend 5 days a week (can decide between half or full day)
*smaller school (we love the small school atmosphere)
*only natural wood furniture and used natural lighting
*large spacious playground and garden
*classes broken down into the 3 year age gap
*3-hour Montessori work period observed
*saw most kids in deep concentration, some just sitting there (some working on mats on the floor, some working at their tables, the guide was walking around working with children)
*no enrichment classes offered for full day children (small drawback for us)
*children eat lunch inside, and have picnic style lunch outside on Friday
*6 week parent workshop at the beginning of the year (we like)

School B-
*AMS associate members (all lead teachers certified by AMI, AMS, or IMC)
*AdvancEd accredited (indifferent to us)
*infants to 6th grade (we love that!)
*larger school
*3,4,5 day options, also 1/2 or full day options
*more diversity among staff and students (very important for us)
*large spacious playground, nature trail and starting a garden
*classes have 2-year age gap (3-5yo, 1st-2nd grade, 3rd-6th grade)
*2 hour work period
*saw some children working in workbooks in the 3-5 yrclass (didn't like), saw one child working on works on the floor
*smaller class sizes (18 kids max with 1 lead, 2 assistants)
*observed the 1st-3rd class and some children were working on works on the floor, others were at a small group table with the guide working in a workbook and a few others were out in P.E. Enrichment class
* Spanish and P.E 2x a week, music and dance on Fridays, offered as part of full-day curriculum (we like)
*children eat lunch outside everyday (we love)
*3-6 year teacher and assistants really took to my daughter. She came in right away and started talking to them
Given that I am a purist in my belief that the "method" that Montessori discovered based on her observations of children gave and still gives us principles for preparing an environment for children that we should cling to unflinchingly, I would go with the first one. I'll break it down by the general themes I saw in both of your evaluations:

Accreditation: Even though I am bias towards AMI, AMS is a wonderful agency to be accredited by. Not something I would look at too heavily but I wouldn't ignore it either.

Education range (grades): Certainly it is great for the child's continuity to be in the same school over the long haul. So the second school certainly has a leg up, though an option may be to go to the AMI school for Primary and the AMS school for elementary.

Schedule: While accommodations are nice for us adults and the occasional child depending on their age and specific personality traits, for the sake of the child community at large, a stable schedule for everyone is crucial. It becomes very distracting to the children and limits their willingness to become a cohesive community when you have a few children here coming 3 days a week, a few coming four, and a few coming five. Also on the individual level, the more time they are spending in the same environment that is specifically tailored for them the better. Flexibility is not always the best thing for the child. So the AMI school is better in my book.

Class size: You seem to indicate that both are on the small side, so this would seem to be a wash. The ideal is 30+ with one guide and one assistant.

Outdoors: Both seem to have a great outdoor space. Montessori observed time and again the healing effect the outdoors have on children. One aspect I didn't see mentioned that you may want to think about is the "indoor-outdoor flow," or how free the children are to go between the indoor and outdoor environment during the work cycle.

Age gap: Montessori found that a 3-year age gap is best in all settings. This gives the ideal balance between variety of development while still being in the same general developmental stage. AMI is my vote here.

Work cycle: Another principle that is unshakable if one strives for the authentic results that Montessori discovered is AT LEAST a 3 hour work cycle. 3 hours is a minimum. If the children's focus and time allows, by all means stretch it out. A common misconception that leads some schools to go less than 2 hours (when it is not done so for scheduling reasons) is the children will "get burned out." They will only get burned out if they are forced to work for the whole 3+ hours. All other behavior that may be perceived as being "burned out" is simply behavior in the process of developing. This is a huge vote for the AMI school.

Enrichment classes: How some children do get burnt out, however, is when too much of their time is scheduled for them. The most common way this happens is with after school classes (chess, swimming, music, etc.) Also, if these classes are interrupting the work cycle, which some schools do, that is detrimental. Child psychology and the experience of Montessorians I have talked to would suggest that afterschool enrichment is best left until the elementary years. Children at the primary level need some unstructured time at home. I would favor the AMI school in this case.

Lunch: I could see this going either way, though I do think it's cool that the AMS school eats lunch outside every day. The biggest aspect I would personally look to is how much are the children involved in setting up lunch and is there a clear routine. All other things being equal, I like the AMS school here.

Hopefully this is helpful to you, assuming you haven't made a choice yet. Of course, as your last point shows, the biggest thing you want to look for is do the adults seem to genuinely care for your child and does your child seem to receive this care favorably.
 
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