What is Montessori?

What is Montessori?

Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, educator and innovator, Montessori is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adolescence.

The hallmark of a Montessori education is based on nurturing and cultivating the child’s natural desire to learn by:

  • Creating student-centered learning environments that are prepared, adaptive and responsive to student needs
  • Providing hands-on concrete experiences with specifically-designed Montessori materials
  • Encouraging exploration, problem solving and creative reasoning as part of the learning process
  • Supporting the development of the whole child, socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically
  • Fostering intrinsic motivation by focusing on process rather than product
  • Offering multi-aged groupings and social settings as a community within each classroom
  • Focusing on cooperation, collaboration and mutual respect
  • Promoting “freedom within limits” by providing opportunities for self-directed choices within an ordered and structured framework
  • Nurturing independence, leadership, responsibility and self-reliance

Comparisons of Montessori Education with Traditional Education

Aspects that are unique to a Montessori Education

Multi-Age Classrooms

 Classrooms are set up to include students who range in age, which provides opportunities for broad social development and meaningful friendships, which are often lifelong.


The range of ages and abilities helps to build a tolerance and appreciation of individual differences and fosters collaboration and cooperation as the students form their own cohesive community.

The Prepared Environment

The Montessori classroom is warm, inviting and aesthetically pleasing.

The classroom is organized to support the natural developmental needs of the age group it serves, and it contains multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials to facilitate self-directed learning and exploration by the child.

All areas of the academic program are woven together and organized as a spiral of integrated studies rather than a traditional linear model that compartmentalizes curriculum into separate subjects.

Freedom Within Limits

The Montessori classroom balances freedom with responsibility.

The prepared environment allows the children the freedom to choose their own work, guided by the teacher. The fact that the students have the opportunity to choose and make autonomous decisions fosters independence, self-discipline and self-confidence.


Accreditation Matters

“Montessori” is a term that is used broadly in the public domain. It is often applied as an adjective to describe qualities that a school has incorporated such as learning centers, freedom of choice and hands-on activities. The Montessori form of education is not trademarked, copyrighted or franchised. The only way a parent can ensure that their child is receiving an authentic Montessori education is through enrollment in an accredited school.

Richmond Montessori School is fully accredited by two external organizations – the American Montessori Society and Virginia Association of Independent Schools.

These agencies establish and oversee standards of excellence for Montessori and independent schools. Accreditation is a voluntary and rigorous process that demonstrates an unparalleled level of excellence in the implementation of Montessori education and continuous improvement.

Many schools indicate their level of involvement (full, associate, satellite, initiate, et. al.) with AMS and VAIS. But unless the school is fully accredited, there is no guarantee that the school practices the authentic educational philosophy and practices of Maria Montessori, nor that it demonstrates compliance with the rigorous standards that have been established by AMS or VAIS.

Richmond Montessori School has been accredited by AMS since 1991. It achieved VAIS accreditation in 2002. Richmond Montessori School is one of only four AMS accredited schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia; it is one of two schools with dual AMS/VAIS accreditation. Richmond Montessori School is the only Montessori school in the Richmond area and surrounding counties that is accredited.