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What Is a Montessori School?

A Montessori school offers a unique approach to childhood education through hands-on learning. While this idea is widely accepted today, when first introduced in 1907, it was considered revolutionary. If you are curious about Montessori schools, keep reading our guide to learn about the history and definition of what a Montessori school is. We also include a list of the pros and cons of attending a Montessori school. 

History of the creation of Montessori schools

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician who became intrigued by childhood development and education through her role as a physician. Montessori then continued her own education by studying philosophy and psychology. During this time, she began to question the prevailing methods of teaching children. In 1907, Maria opened the first Montessori school, naming it the Casa dei Bambini (Italian for “Children’s House”). The preschool allowed children to take reign of their own learning. 

The child-centered teaching methods caught on like wildfire. Maria studied, wrote, and established countless teaching training programs throughout Europe. This new-found “Montessori Method” quickly reached the United States, where Montessori schools have and continue to bloom in the present day. There are now more than 3,000 Montessori schools operating in the United States. 

What is a Montessori school? 

A Montessori school is an educational institution that teaches a Montessori-based curriculum. The Montessori Method is a child-centered method of education that involves child-led activities. Teachers are guides who encourage children to be independent self-starters. 

Maria Montessori believed that children learn significantly better when they are able to choose what they want to learn. In that regard, Montessori schools look different from  typical classrooms. 

Some unique features of a Montessori school include the following:

  • Various stations filled with different activities for students to choose from at any time
  • Teachers moving around the classroom from group to group rather than standing at the front of the classroom 
  • A non-traditional grading system

Each activity at a Montessori school advances the development of the students. Typically, these activities will not have instructions, leaving it to students to figure out what to do for themselves. Montessori schools view children as “navigators of life” who share different interests– Montessori schools recognize that not all children learn the same way.

Also see: All about charter schools vs. public schools

What are some pros of a Montessori school? 

Hands-on learning

Montessori schools create an environment that allows students to work, learn, and develop all at their own pace. Children are exposed to lessons and activities that build upon their skills. Typically, a Montessori school looks like a giant playground. Many Montessori schools utilize sensory-based materials that allow students to choose what they want to do and enjoy the learning process at their own pace. 

Independence for students

The Montessori Method emphasizes and encourages students to act independently. It encourages students to develop a creative freedom and entrepreneurial mindset. Because most of the learning is self-directed, children gain a sense of independence and confidence in their own abilities. 

Inclusive of special needs students

From the beginning, Maria Montessori envisioned a curriculum that included children with special needs. With the Montessori Method, children are typically grouped with other children of different ages and have the same teacher for countless years in a row. Therefore, there is no pressure or expectation for any student to keep up with their peers. Rather, Montessori schools emphasize creating a safe environment for students to learn at their own pace. This environment creates an extremely safe one for students with special needs. Students receive individualized education that supports them throughout their own personal educational journey.

Creates a love for learning

Montessori schools allow children to put their own education into their own hands. This means that students can select activities that appeal to their personal interests. Allowing students to choose their own paths and do what they love facilitates a love for learning. 

Also see: What are parochial schools?

What are some cons of a Montessori school? 


Unfortunately, it is hard for Montessori schools to keep their tuition low because of the costs associated with buying the necessary activity materials and teacher training. Therefore, it can be difficult for some students to access Montessori schools. There are some public Montessori schools in some areas, however, the vast majority of them are private and charge tuition fees. 


The Montessori curriculum is a less-structured curriculum than those taught at a typical public school. Some students may not thrive in that type of environment. For example, children with behavior issues that need structure and rules may not excel in a Montessori classroom. 

Also see: Top middle school scholarships

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Montessori offer a less structured, more flexible curriculum than traditional educational institutions in the United States
  • They are generally private and charge substantial tuition, but there may be scholarships available
  • Montessori institutions focus on fostering a love for learning among their pupils rather than strictly hitting educational benchmarks
Key Takeaways

Also see: What is a Waldorf school?

Frequently asked questions about Montessori schools

Who can attend a Montessori school?

Currently, most Montessori schools offer programs for children’s ages 2.5 to 6 years old. However, there some Montessori schools also offer programs for the following age groups: 

  • Infants and toddlers (birth to age 3) 
  • Elementary-aged children (ages 6 to 12) 
  • Secondary students (ages 12 to 18) 

If you or your child fits into any of these age groups, a Montessori school may be the right fit.  However, it is also important to note that most Montessori schools are private institutions that charge tuition. 

Do Montessori schools follow a curriculum?

Montessori schools teach the same skills as a traditional school such as math, science, history, and languages. However, they approach these subjects through a child-centered teaching method. Therefore, there is no set curriculum that is followed. Instead, there are guidelines shared among all Montessori schools. 

If children can work at their own pace, don’t they fall behind?

Although students can work at their own pace, they are also closely supported and supervised by their teachers. Therefore, they receive gentle guidance to ensure they stay on track while still controlling the pace of their education. 

Do Montessori schools give grades?

Typically, Montessori schools do not give out letter or number grades for work. Montessori schools believe that letter grades have little lasting effect on a child’s efforts. Rather, the Montessori approach tries to enforce the idea that a self-motivated student does not need outside reinforcement. Most Montessori schools hold parent-teacher conferences to update the parents on the child’s progress as well as show progress through their children’s work. 

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