Characteristics of an Authentic Montessori School

Looking for an authentic Montessori School can be a great challenge. Especially because many don't know what to look for. In addition, the word Montessori is not trademarked and can be used by anyone. The largest indicator of an authentic Montessori School is an accreditation by the American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which discloses that the school follows AMS guidelines and all the teachers are certified and accredited by AMS. It takes a school three years to gain this status. So newer schools may only be full members of the AMS before they become eligible to apply for accreditation. Schools should display their AMS credentials for the school and each individual teacher, they will also advertise the AMS logo on their website.

AMS has a search engine on their website that allows you to locate real Montessori schools in your area. Click here to access the page.

In addition to this, an authentic Montessori School will possess the qualities below as outlined by AMS. We recommend that you use this list as a checklist when visiting Montessori Schools to determine how reliable they are. 

The Atmosphere

  • The learning is self-directed

    Montessori teachers guide their students through individual lessons in which they present materials to the child. However, they do not teach in the sense that they are the single point of information in the class. Rather, they guide their students to discovery and the children explore each concept at their own pace. The teacher prepares the classroom environment for their students and allow them the freedom to choose their work. Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children are capable of self-learning. It is that thrill of discovery which leads to creativity and satisfaction.

    Observe a classroom and look for children working independently and collaboratively. In a Montessori environment, children should not be sitting at desks simply watching the teacher as he or she pours information into their heads. 

  • The school is a member of the American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)

    It is estimated that less than a quarter of the Montessori schools in the US are AMS members. While AMS membership does not completely guarantee that the education a school offers is genuine, it does hold the school accountable to the Society. There are also several different levels of membership with AMS, each proving an increased level of authenticity, click here to learn more about the levels. Additionally, it is imperative that teachers are trained through programs credentialed by the AMS or AMI.

  • Children are active in their learning with authentic Montessori materials

    Montessori children don't watch videos or listen to lectures about math. Rather, they actively touch, hold, and feel the numbers through the use of authentic Montessori multi-sensorial. The concepts they discover take on life and meaning in the mind of the child. This approach is applied to all parts of the curriculum, language, science, math, culture, practical life, and sensorial.

  • There is a mix of ages in the classroom

    One of key beliefs in Montessori is that younger children learn by following the example of older ones. In contrast, older children serve as role models and have the opportunity to further cement their own learning by helping to guide their younger friends. Multi-age classes encourage respect for others and collaboration. The multi-age classroom creates an atmosphere of respect and positive behavior while fostering mentorship and developing leadership skills.

  • There is a strong cultural emphasis

    Montessori education takes place against the backdrop of the global community. Dr. Montessori believed that children must make the world a better place, her method allowed them to grow into thoughtful and engaged citizens of their country and the globe. Cultural components should be evident such as maps, flags, foreign language exposure, etc. be Children discover the world around them and their place within it. 

  • There is peace education

    Dr. Montessori was a great proponent of peace education, she believe that establishing world peace was the work of education. As a result, within the Montessori environment a peaceful atmosphere and peaceful relations between the children are greatly emphasized. Children learn conflict resolution skills and are guided through methods to how to speak with each other.

The Directress

  • Is trained by an AMS/AMI recognized school

  • Sets a good example in neatness and grooming

  • Exemplifies intelligence, patience, gentleness, and kindness for her students

  • Uses good grammar

  • Has a pleasing tone of voice

  • Does not whisper

  • Does not raise voice or yell

  • Does not talk excessively when giving lessons

  • Observes without appearing to do so

  • Is aware of total classroom situation

  • Prevents disturbances

Note that having a Bachelors in Education is not necessary, in fact, it impedes upon one's ability to fully emerge into the Montessori Philosophy. Unless it is an Elementary Montessori Program, in which case, the teacher is required by the state to hold a teaching degree.

The Environment

  • American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) diploma's and certifications are clearly displayed

  • The classroom is beautiful, neat, and orderly

  • Is arranged for free movement without disturbing floor or table work

  • There is no personal office desk for the teacher

  • The furnishings are scaled to the size of the children

  • There are a variety of table sizes for group and individual work

  • Provides a neutral background for materials and eliminates visual distraction

  • There are plants and/or animals

  • Has adequate shelving for materials

  • Has an uncluttered appearance

  • Provides free access to materials without involving a teacher

  • Provides sufficient Montessori materials for:

    • sensorial exercises

    • practical life

    • math

    • reading

    • geography

    • history

    • science

  • Has materials which are clean, complete, and in good condition

  • Has signs or pictures at child's eye level

  • Has free access to outdoor area

  • Provides an atmosphere conducive to learning