Choosing a Montessori School – Are Private School and Montessori Benefits Being Maximized?

The question of how to educate your child is one of the most important a parent can ask. Before even considering a Montessori school, the choice that many parents struggle with is that of public vs. private school. Parents are often unsure if they want to take on additional expenses if they will not ultimately benefit their child. After all, many public schools do an excellent job of educating students. However, the benefits of a private education can still far outweigh the costs depending on the local options parents may face. Here are a few of the possible benefits that parents often seek in a private school education for their child:

  • Higher Academic Standards – Private schools can be more academically rigorous than public schools, and students who attend private school may have to meet more criteria to keep up their grade point averages. According to The Condition of Education 2001, from the National Center for Education Statistics, “Private high schools typically have more demanding graduation requirements than do public high schools. Compared with public schools, private schools required more coursework (in 4-year high school programs).” Private schools may also be more likely to instill within their students the expectation of attending college, and provide more access to information about college options.
  • Lower Student Teacher Ratios – Private schools tend to control their class sizes, offering a lower ratio of students per teacher. Placing students in small groups may lead to closer working relationships between teachers and students, thus enhancing learning. Lower ratios may also offer more personal attention and allow the teachers to have a better sense of who your child is, as well as what his or her unique strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Enhanced Discipline and Safety – With lower ratios, teachers are often better able to keep the children focused on learning. Most private schools also place special emphasis on discipline. Strict disciplinary policies and lower student teacher ratios often mean that any major problems will be handled and eradicated more quickly.
  • More Exposure to the Arts – Government regulations on public schools often prevent them from spending more than a certain percentage of funds on the arts. However, private schools are not subject to the same regulations. They have more freedom to develop and expand these programs as they wish, and often develop programs that emphasize the arts, maybe more so than local public schools.

A good Montessori school should provide the benefits of a private school education in addition to the benefits of a quality Montessori education. The goal of a Montessori education is to give children opportunities to develop their individual potential and inspire responsible, engaged, competent, confident and respectful citizens who develop an understanding of and love for learning that they will carry with them throughout their lives. Here are a few of the benefits children could receive from a Montessori education:

  • Every child is a unique, valued individual. Montessori education acknowledges that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all types of learning styles. Students can advance through the curriculum at their own pace, guided by the teacher and their individualized learning plan.
  • Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence from a young age. Classroom design, materials, and routines support everyone’s ability to educate one’s self and think about what they are learning from toddlers through adolescents.
  • Students become part of a caring, close community. The multi-age Montessori classroom, which typically spans 3 years, re-creates a family-like structure. Older students enjoy serving as mentors and role models; younger children feel supported and build confidence. Teachers are role models for respect, loving kindness, and a belief in peaceful resolutions.
  • Montessori students are given freedom within limits. Students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be, while working within parameters set by their teachers. The Montessori philosophy recognizes that internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest, resulting in joyous learning that is sustained over a lifetime.
  • Students become active seekers of knowledge. Montessori teachers provide an environment where students are given the freedom and tools to pursue answers to their own questions. The teacher serves as a resource as students go about their work, helping each child move through the curriculum as they master new concepts and skills. Don’t expect to see the Montessori teacher as the center of attention, but rather circulating throughout the classroom—and sometimes sitting on the floor—demonstrating a material, giving a small group lesson, and quietly taking notes on how each student is progressing.
  • Self-assessment and self-correction are central to the Montessori classroom approach. As they grow and mature, Montessori students learn to look critically at their work. They can recognize, correct, and learn from their errors on their own.

Given the freedom and support to ask questions, probe deeply, and make connections on their own, Montessori students can become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. The result of a Montessori education should be to develop an individual who is able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—skills that will surely contribute to success in the 21st century.

More in this series:

8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Montessori School