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Choosing and getting into Montessori schools in Canada

Tips for choosing and being admitted to the right Montessori school

Assuming Montessori is right your child, you’ll want to find a school that’s a good fit. In your search for the right school, it’s important to consult with teachers, educators, and (often) your child.

Start looking at schools early, as much as a year before applying. You can research them here on this site, on individual school websites, at open houses, during on-site visits, at our annual school expos, and other venues.

You’ll need to reflect on several questions during this process.

Consider exactly what you’re looking for in a Montessori school, and why. Your focus should not just be on the school, but on the fit between the school and your child. It’s important, then, to be clear about your child’s personality, learning style, and academic abilities.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How is my child best intellectually challenged and stimulated?
  • What kinds of academic interests or goals does my child have?
  • Does my child tend to learn better in groups or independently?
  • What are my child’s primary social needs and how are they best met?
  • What type of school environment is most likely to promote my child’s growth as a person?
  • Then you need to put some thought into the following:
  • Your essential must-haves, such as small class sizes or technological facilities.
  • School size: Are you looking for a small or large school or program?
  • Location: Are you looking for a school in Toronto, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, or elsewhere in Canada?
  • Program duration: Are you looking for a school with a preschool and a secondary school program, where your child can stay for many years?
  • Whether your child has any special needs that require support in the classroom such as giftedness, a learning disability, autism spectrum disorder, behavioural problem, or physical disability. (To learn about the suitability of Montessori schools for these kinds of students, read our guide to Montessori and special needs.)
  • The importance you place on extracurricular activities, such as after school programs, sports, and clubs.

You want to have some idea of the kind of environment your child will thrive in academically, socially, physically, and emotionally. With this in mind, you can make the best decision for your child.

Questions to ask Montessori Schools

There are some standard questions to ask schools when investigating them.

Beyond those, there are also specific questions to ask Montessori schools. These include:

Preschool (toddler and primary)

Elementary and secondary schools

  • Do you have indoor and outdoor free-play time, and if so, how much?
  • Do you offer play-based learning?
  • What is your approach to developing social skills?
  • How strong is your focus on academics?
  • Do you have arts and crafts projects?
  • Do you have uninterrupted work periods, and if so, how long are they?
  • How do you assess the progress of students?
  • What kind of training do your teachers have?
  • Is your school accredited, and if so, by what agency?

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  • What is your teacher-to-student ratio?
  • How do you group students by age?
  • Do your teachers provide whole-class lectures, and if so, how often?
  • How long are your uninterrupted work periods, and do you have more than one per day?
  • Do you have specialist classes and teachers, and if so, what kinds?
  • Do you have tests or assignments?
  • Do you grade any work, and if so, what kind and how often?
  • If not, how do you assess student progress?
  • Do you assign or encourage homework?
  • Do you use any modern-day technology, and if so, what kinds and in what ways?
  • What kind of training do your teachers have?
  • Is your school accredited, and if so, by what agency?

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To learn more about the Montessori preschool approach, read our guide to Montessori preschools and comparison of Montessori to other preschools and daycares. To learn about preschools in general, read our guide to preschool, kindergarten, and daycareIf you’re interested in Montessori primary and secondary schools, check out our guides to Montessori elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools

Choosing a Montessori school

When it comes to choosing a Montessori school, you’ll want to look at its classroom policies. You’ll also want to consider its culture, philosophy, teaching approach, and curriculum, among other things.

There’s no such thing, though, as the best Montessori school. What’s important is the fit between the school and your child (and family). Yet, there are some things you should look for, in any Montessori school, to find the right fit. They include the following:

  • An open line of communication with the directors and administration
  • Teachers with proper training
  • A classroom with authentic Montessori learning materials
  • Developmentally appropriate curricular approaches
  • A calm and ordered classroom
  • A clear and consistent policy for tracking the progress of students
  • A caring and supportive learning environment
  • A strong community feel

If you want more advice on choosing the right Montessori school, see our checklist for Montessori education.

Getting into Montessori schools

There is a formal application process for most Montessori schools. The application materials required will be similar to those required for any private school. These may include:

  • Photo identification
  • Application fee or deposit
  • Report card or assessments from the child’s previous school(s)
  • Interviews with parents and child

In some cases, though, they may also include:

  • Interviews with previous teachers
  • In-class teacher diagnoses
  • Out-of-class observations
  • Statements detailing child’s history, including personality, academic history, and family background
  • Psychoeducational assessments

The application process varies widely for different Montessori schools. Most schools, though, focus a lot on in- and out-of-class observations of your child (especially if they’re coming from a non-Montessori school). They aim to get a full picture of your child’s academic and social/emotional profile. This helps them decide whether they’re a good fit for your child.

The right outlook to have is that the school is working with you, not against you. For more general advice on applying to private schools, see our “getting in” guide. For more information on private schools in general, see our private school basics guide.

The role of teachers

The quality of any Montessori program is closely linked to the quality of the teachers running it. Teachers with proper training and strong abilities can often provide the right learning environment for your child. On the other hand, teachers without this expertise often can’t.

It’s important, then, to inquire about the training and credentials of teachers. You should ask school officials whether teachers have specialized Montessori training, as well as what other training and education they might have. You should also ask whether teachers are offered any form of ongoing professional development, such as classes, workshops, or seminars in Montessori education.

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