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By Leslie Crawford
A school may use the Montessori name without being a true Montessori program. For a Montessori-certified program, make sure that the school is affiliated either with the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI or AMI/USA) or the American Montessori Society (AMS). Also, certified Montessori instructors graduate from a special training program. Be sure to check the mission statement and curriculum of your Montessori school. It’s also important to ask about the program and visit the school; within the Montessori category, there’s a fair amount of diversity, so programs don’t all look alike from school to school.
Montessori programs are especially good for children who are self-directed, can work independently for extended lengths of time, and work well alone or in small groups. Also, these programs tend to be ideal for children easily overwhelmed by noise, chaos, and disorder. The focus on individual learning allows students to work at their own pace and can also provide a healthy environment for special needs children.
However, a Montessori program could be challenging and frustrating for children who want to do things their own way, who don't easily follow instructions, who like to switch activities frequently, or who prefer more free-form or imagination-based play.
Visit any school you are considering. Although Montessori schools adhere to a basic philosophy, each will be different. Ask to visit during school hours so you can observe how students spend their time. Do children look happy and engaged or bored? Do teachers respond to children's needs? The most important questions to answer, of course, are: Would your child enjoy this environment, could your child thrive in this setting, and is this the right learning environment for your child?
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