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Montessori education is named after its founder, Maria Montessori, an Italian scientist, medical doctor, and educator. First developed with low-income and special needs children in 1907, Montessori is practiced in public and private schools all over the world, serving children from birth to age eighteen. There are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. alone, of which more than 500 are public programs.
Montessori education is based on scientific observations of human development. Dr. Maria Montessori, a scientist and a medical doctor, based her approach on thousands of hours of observation of children and a lifetime of experimentation and refinement, developing a scientific model of human development and an education approach that supports fully realized human potential.
Montessori observed distinct stages of development in children. The model recognizes birth to six as an intense period of formative development with lasting cognitive, social, and emotional consequences, the elementary years as a peak learning period, and adolescence as a time of social development and intellectual maturation. Montessori practice for each age group responds to children’s characteristics at that age.
Montessori recognized the importance of student choice in education as a foundation for deep engagement and the development of independence.
Children choose their own activities from a range of carefully prepared lessons and materials designed to support children’s natural development and drive to learn.
Teachers trained in Montessori principles and practice present a comprehensive curriculum individualized for each child.
Classrooms serve children in three-year age groupings according to developmental stages. Children can progress naturally as they are ready for more challenging material, build authentic community and learn from both teachers and peers.
Classrooms offer long uninterrupted periods for independent work, where children build attention, focus, and concentration, while learning at their own pace.
Hands-on, concrete, self-correcting materials support engagement, curiosity, independence, and self-guided learning.
There about 20,000 Montessori schools around the world, including 5,000 in the U.S., of which more than 500 are public schools — district, magnet, and charters.
Each school operates independently, but there are several national organizations schools can join and seek accreditation with if they choose. The two largest organizations are the Association Montessori Internationale-USA (AMI-USA) and the American Montessori Society (AMS).
Montessori schools can be independent, funded by tuition, or public, funded by public money. Some tuition-based schools use philanthropic support and public subsidies to serve low-income populations.
Montessori schools typically group children in developmentally driven age groupings:
Montessori class sizes are often larger than typical classes — 20 to 25 for preschool and kindergarten, and 25 to 30 for 1st through 6th grade.
Classes are typically staffed by a Montessori trained teacher and an assistant.
Montessori teacher preparation typically requires several months to a year of training, sometimes spread out over several summer sessions. Public Montessori teachers typically hold state teaching licenses as well.
The National Center for Montessori in the Public creating a series of short videos that illustrate key elements of Montessori. This video takes you inside a Montessori classroom.