Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Again it has been proven to me that there are a lot of "Montesomething" schools out there!  I was on Craigslist the other night, and in my ongoing search for a babysitter I came across a few day care programs calling themselves Montessori.  One look at the pictures or sometimes just reading their description and it is obvious that there is little to do with Montessori there besides the name.  The thing that you need to understand is that Montessori is not a registered trade mark and there is no copyright on the name.  When I used to give tours to prospective parents I would tell them that anyone can call their school Montessori, whether it be an in home daycare, a traditional preschool or an authentic Montessori school.  There are TONS of schools out there claiming to be Montessori schools or Montessori based schools.  The quality and authenticity varies greatly amongst these schools. 

I get asked all the time by family and friends to help them determine if the school they are considering is a "good" school.  So often it is not, but unless you know why you are looking for a Montessori school you probably won't know if you have found a good one.  Research, learn, and observe.  That is the only way to know if a school is going to meet your needs.

There are some governing boards out there that attempt to regulate Montessori schools.  Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) was founded in 1929 by Dr. Maria Montessori herself to protect her work.  The AMI Montessori Teacher Training programs provide instruction developed by Dr. Montessori and adhere strictly to her philosophy.  AMI is not the only foundation that aims to govern over Montessori Education; the American Montessori Society (AMS) is another.  AMS was founded in the 1960's by Nancy Rambusch, who was trained in an AMI training program and appointed by AMI to be the  American representative of AMI.  She held that position for many years before she began to modify the philosophy, veered away from AMI and founded the AMS.  There are others, but AMI and AMS are the two main players.  Others offer online training, correspondence courses and some even sell the work and materials that is usually done by the students in the teacher training programs.  AMI and AMS both certify schools as authentic by verifying that they meet their specific guidelines of what a Montessori school should be. 

So that explains how there can be such great diversity amongst schools calling themselves Montessori.  It also explains the term "Montesomething".  Schools that call themselves Montessori, or use Montessori materials, do not necessarily provide a Montessori education to their students.  Schools that aren't  certified by a governing board are not necessarily bad schools, and on the same note, certified schools are not all good.  Misinterpretation of the philosophy can lead to some pretty horrendous mistakes.  For example: Many people think that the Montessori concept of free choice means that children do whatever they want to do.  However, in the Montessori philosophy we find freedom and responsibility together.  Freedom comes from knowing your individual limits and the limits of your environment.  Children who are allowed free choice without a clear understanding of their limits do not learn to make good choices or respect boundaries.

The conclusion to this post is that there are a lot of schools out there that call themselves Montessori, but they are not all equal.  Parents looking for a good Montessori program should research, find out what it is that they like about the philosophy and then look closely at schools to determine if they provide a true Montessori experience.  Prospective teachers school do the same with training programs.  BEWARE of "Montesomething" programs.  I have heard time and again that Montessori done poorly is worse than no Montessori at all!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Home, School or Homeschool?

I have been agonizing over the decision of what to do with my five year old daughter this school year.  She started Montessori school 18 months, and has loved it since the beginning!  She is doing great both academically and socially.  This year would be her third year, the most important year in the Primary classroom.  So why then would I consider pulling her out?

A few reasons.... The school she has been going to is now about an hour away from us, so that is a long time for her to be in the car each day, but even longer for the new baby in our life :)  He would have to ride with me to take her then ride home then back and fourth again when school was over.  It just seems like too much for a baby!  Not to mention that the drive time would seriously conflict with his nap times and I am a big believer in naps and sleep in bed not on the go.  Another drawback is the cost.  The tuition is a bit of a burden for us.  Not that we wouldn't make the sacrifice if that was her only option, but it's not!  I am a trained teacher after all.

I know that she needs to spend the next year learning.  She is progressing so well academically that I would never want to halt that.  I would not even consider letting her stay home to just spend the day playing.

That leaves homeschooling as our third option.  I have never really considered homeschooling before.  And to be honest, I always kind of thought that homeschooling was a bit crazy.  For kids who couldn't get along well in a traditional school.  After exploring it a bit and looking at all the resources out there, I see it as a more viable option.  It would still be a great investment financially, buying all the Montessori materials for this age group.  The thought is that I will invest approximately what would be one month's tuition at her current school into new materials.  We would use the materials for the next year and then hopefully use the materials at a school that I hope to start in the future.

It seems like a win-win choice.  I would get the chance to brush up on all the Montessori presentations.  My daughter would get the opportunity to learn the concepts through one on one lessons and use of the materials.  My son would not be toted all over town during nap time.  We would save money on tuition.  And I would get to enjoy both kids for a year!

The only real drawback, or concern, that I have is the social aspect that she will miss out on.  I will enroll her in some dance classes and some sports classes at the YMCA, so I am hoping that that will provide enough peer interaction.  In addition, I am looking into some homeschooling meet-ups/field trips that we could participate in.

It seems obvious what I should do when I write it out like this, but for some reason, I am still not 100% sure.  I have about a week to decide...