Choosing a Montessori School for your Child
Are you embarking on the process of choosing a school for your young child?
Maybe you have heard from friends or relatives that their children are thriving in a Montessori school, perhaps you have read about the approach, or maybe you attended a Montessori school yourself and have good memories of the experience?
Referrals are a good place to start, but it is worth adding some variables into the mix:
What is your child like?
What are your priorities as family in terms of approach to education and lifestyle?
What Montessori school options do you have in your area?
What are the legal registration requirements for Montessori schools?
How will a Montessori school prepare your child for their next steps in education?
Let’s start with looking at your child
As a teacher and Principal, I have found that a well-run and authentic Montessori school will be suitable for children of all temperaments and learning styles. The extrovert or the introvert, the creative and curious, the imaginative and dreamy, the budding artist or scientist will all find their needs met and personalities embraced. The environments for Toddlers, Pre-primary, and Junior Primary that we have at Ocean view are equipped with all the developmentally appropriate Montessori leaning materials for each age group. Learning through movement, use of the senses and nature are key.
Timid children will feel encouraged and more boisterous children will learn appropriate and respectful limits, yet maintain their confidence. A Montessori teacher will see each child as an individual and reflect daily on the best approach to take to each of her pupils. It is appreciated that each child follows a slightly different path and travels along it in their own way. Planning and awareness of curriculum outcomes for each stage of learning ensure that progress requirements are met. The environment will offer a variety of learning spaces, activities, and topics all of which can be refreshed and tweaked according to the needs of a particular group and pupil.
Individual choice, based on interest, is promoted and this leads to the development of focus and concentration. The classroom Ground Rules of ‘walk carefully, talk softly, be kind to others and take care of the equipment’, provide a consistently reinforced framework for discipline. Within this framework children have ‘freedom to’ choose activities to complete on their own or with friends, they also have ‘freedom from’ interruption from both peers and teachers. Children learn to respect each other’s work and teachers respect each child’s concentration, only intervening when materials are being used inappropriately or unsafely.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand that there are critical points when a teaching team need to recognise that a child may be requiring additional help on their journey. Perhaps the child has become stuck; the toddler tantrums continue way beyond toddlerhood, sensory seeking behaviour disrupts learning, phonic sounds cannot be remembered, or spelling patterns learnt. Whatever the developmental stage, the teaching team’s experience will help to identify where support is needed, and provide possible options for a referral to a specialist. Doing this compassionately and timeously, working hand in hand with parents will ensure a successful and happy outcome.
With a young family, social life for parents can really grow from a school community; children’s play dates, parties and school functions can become highlights in the calendar for busy parents, juggling the work/life balance. Many long-lasting friendships are made, both between children, and parents at pre-school. At Ocean View we have school community is made up of likeminded families from many different walks of life, they have made a ‘conscious’ choice of the school for their child. We strive to work in partnership with our families at every stage of their child’s development.
An important part of your school search is to look at the School’s Vision and Mission and the values that these statements embrace. Do these resonate with your family? Reading up on this on a school website is a good place to start, but speaking to past and current parents, reading reviews and following the school’s activities on social media will help you to establish exactly how the Vision and Mission are made real by the school in terms of the education and service that they offer.
The greatest part of choosing a school is how it ‘feels’ for you on the day of your school tour. Intuition is often our clearest indicator. The welcome of the staff the atmosphere amongst the children and the attractiveness of the setting will all help you to make your choice. This is why, it is so important to be offered a tour during a school morning.
Ask about the daily programme and what is included in the fees and what extra murals are available. At Ocean View, it is our policy to ensure that our school programme caters for all the developmental needs of the child. Extra Murals are just that, offered after school
hours, so as not to take away from teaching time, and paid for separately by the parent. Only tried and tested providers are used.
Practicalities such as the location of the school in relation to your workplace, ease of drop off and collection, school hours, aftercare and holiday care options are also important considerations.
Each Montessori is independently run, there is no Montessori franchise. It is a good idea to check the South African Montessori Association Website to search for schools and ensure that the school you are interested in is fully registered with the Society. This is the first benchmark of quality https://samontessori.org.za/
Over and above checking Montessori credentials, it is vital to check that the school is registered with the Department of Basic Education. Only schools that are registered and fully compliant with the Department are able to provide Grade R education and above. Ocean View is registered with the DBE (EMIS number 500 498 723).
You may wish to view the school’s safety, health, child protection and behaviour policies and ask about POPIA compliance. For schools the main impact of POPIA has been in terms of the sharing of images of children on social media and all schools are required to have permission from parents before doing this.
Finally, it is worthwhile asking which schools the pupils progress on to and if these are schools that you would like to consider as your child grows.
I hope to have raised some useful pointers to guide you on your search for a school. All Principals will be open to answering your queries. Once fully informed you can then trust in your intuition in choosing the right school for your little person.
Ocean View Montessori School