Fast Facts: What Is Montessori?

Montessori education is an approach to learning that was developed by an Italian physician and educator, Dr. Maria Montessori, more than a century ago—and is now changing the face of education worldwide.

Key underpinnings:

  • Honors the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.
  • Encompasses a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge.
  • Is based on ideals of equity, inclusion, and social justice.
  • Also focuses on care of self, others, and the environment.

Additional distinctive features:

  • Classes are multi-age (typically 3-year age span).
  • Individual students follow their own interests while also learning from others.
  • Time is given to enable students to explore and internalize concepts and ideas at their own pace while working toward individualized learning goals.
  • Teachers serve as guides and mentors, systematically observing and assessing students’ progress and providing them with support/tools so that they may take ownership of their own learning and growth.
  • Learning takes place across a variety of modalities: visual, auditory, tactile, etc.

Given the freedom and support to question, probe deeply, and make connections, Montessori students grow up to be critical thinkers, and confident, enthusiastic, and self-directed learners and citizens, accountable to themselves, their community, and the world.

Core Components of Quality Montessori

AMS recognizes 5 components as essential to high-quality programs. While not all Montessori schools incorporate them--any school can call itself Montessori, regardless of its fidelity to the philosophy and practice—they are a vital part of any school accredited by the American Montessori Society. Currently, about 15% of our member schools fall into this elite group.

  • Properly trained Montessori teachers - Teachers hold credentials for the level at which they teach. They have rigorous command of Montessori philosophy, Montessori curriculum, classroom management, and child development.
  • Multi-age classrooms - Students benefit from differentiated learning based on abilities, not age. Self-esteem is built on personal accomplishments rather than comparison with same-age peers.
  • Use of specially designed Montessori learning materials - Hands-on, interactive, and engaging, they enable students to learn through discovery.
  • Student-directed work - Students are intrinsically motivated, and learn about their personal strengths and ability to improve.
  • Uninterrupted work periods - Working freely and at their own pace on self-selected activities, students develop concentration, time-management skills, and a love for learning.

Montessori Program Levels

  • Infant & Toddler (birth – 18 months, 18 months – 3 years)
  • Early Childhood (2.5 – 6)
  • Elementary (6 – 9 and 9 – 12, sometimes combined)
  • Secondary (12 – 18, divided into 2- or 3-year age groupings)