Charter schools are tuition-free publicly funded schools that are independently run. They are exempted from many of the state laws and regulations that govern all traditional public schools. It breaks financial barriers to give low-income families access to high-quality education. Most people think that charter schools are Montessori. Let’s discuss this today.
Is Montessori a charter school? Montessori is not a charter school. Montessori education can be found in charter schools as well as in private schools, traditional public schools, magnet schools, etc. The Montessori method of teaching can be adapted in all schools. Today, there are over 5,000 Montessori schools in the country. Only about 500 are publicly funded including Montessori charter schools.
Montessori follows a core philosophy and practices that make it uniquely Montessori. Here are the common characteristics that make a school Montessori:
All Montessori schools follow the Montessori method of teaching. These are characterized by the following:
- Child-Centered Approach – Montessori follows the child’s interests, respects their learning style and pace, addresses all their developmental needs, and allows them to direct their own learning.
- Independent Hands-On Learning and Collaborative Work – Montessori offers experiential learning where children can learn on their own or work with peers. Hands-on experiential learning allows children to gain a deeper understanding of their lessons, develop self-discipline, and responsibility, and form strong bonds with their classmates.
- Uninterrupted Work Periods – Montessori allows students to have at least 3 hours of uninterrupted work period so they can focus and concentrate on their tasks. Montessori teachers do not interrupt or interfere while students are working alone or in groups. Uninterrupted work periods give students time and space to learn deeply and independently. They learn to rely on their intellect and abilities and the help of their peers instead of their teachers.
Montessori does not have grade levels, it has mixed-age classrooms made up of students in the developmental range. This is a group of children with ages spanning 3 years.
Montessori classes stay together for three years for the whole developmental stage of Montessori, which are:
- Infant or Toddler – 0 to 3 years old
- Preschool – 3 to 6 years old
- Lower Elementary – 6 to 9 years old
- Upper Elementary – 9 to 12 years old
- Middle School – 12 to 15 years old
- High School – 15 to 18 years old
The mixed-aged group exposes children to diversity. It teaches them to accept differences and respect others. Children in mixed-aged Montessori classrooms learn from each other and teach one another. Meanwhile, the three-year cycle of Montessori gives children a sense of community where they are safe, accepted, and supported.
Montessori teachers are generalists who can teach all subjects. They get accreditation for every age group they teach through an accredited Montessori teachers training program. It usually takes 1 to 2 years to complete the training and get the accreditation.
Montessori teachers are highly-trained observers who can quickly recognize sensitive periods. They design and plan the Montessori classroom, choose the age-appropriate Montessori materials, plan the lessons, and work with parents and other Montessori adults.
Montessori teachers do not teach the whole class at once. They move from student to student, group to group to guide, observe, and give feedback.
The Montessori classroom is an intentional, prepared environment. It is divided into various activity stations for each subject.
The Montessori classroom is equipped with Montessori learning tools and materials that are developmentally appropriate. The activity stations and the learning materials are often rotated and upgraded depending on the child’s progress.
All activities, lessons, and materials are open-ended and hands-on to stimulate critical thinking, cause and effect, and decision-making. They are chosen to encourage independent learning, experimentation, exploration, and discovery.
The Montessori classroom is a well-planned and well-structured environment wisely disguised through fun games, play, and exciting activities.
Children have the freedom of movement while learning and the freedom of choosing the lessons they want to learn. They are given enough time and space to finish their task and work independently or with peers.
Montessori students enjoy freedom within the limits of the prepared environment. It does not mean they are left alone unsupervised. There are rules and boundaries they need to follow while they are learning.
Are all charter schools Montessori? No, not all charter schools are Montessori. In fact, there are very few Montessori charter schools. There are about 7,500 charter schools in the country today. Only about 150 of them are Montessori. That is 150 out of the 500 public Montessori schools. There is obviously a need for more.
Why choose Montessori charter schools? Montessori charter schools offer the same quality of education that private Montessori does for free. Montessori charter schools break the financial barrier that keeps low-income families from sending their children to Montessori. It gives equal opportunities to all children.
Are Montessori charter schools just as good as private Montessori? Definitely, yes! Studies show that Montessori students from charter schools do well in standardized testing in higher education. They also do well in academic subjects. They transition well from Montessori to traditional schools when their Montessori education ends. This usually happens in high school because it is rare to find a Montessori high school.