What to look for

How does one go about choosing a school for their little one? There are so many schools around to choose from. This is the list recommended by SAMA – the South African Montessori Association which is a brilliant guide on choosing a school aligned with the best Montessori practices.


Use this checklist  to guide your choice:

  • The environment is peaceful, attractive, homely and inviting.
  • The adults encourage hands-on learning following the child’s interests rather than following the state curriculum or rote learning.
  • The children are self-motivated and rewards and/or punishments are not used to manipulate behaviour.
  • The adults and children practise mutual respect towards  one another.
  • Children can be found working at a table or on the floor; indoors or out,  with a variety of multi-sensory, manipulative materials.
  • Collaborative learning is encouraged. Children can be seen assisting, teaching and motivating each other.
  • It is evident that the environment caters for children of mixed ages, particularly over a three year age span.
  • A sense of unity, excitement and joy should permeate the air.


The prepared environment

A Montessori classroom should be neat, clean, ordered, and well equipped with Montessori equipment and materials. These are accessible to the children at their height and are always complete and in good condition. There is a reflection of the home and it is aesthetically pleasing.

A well prepared environment is based on reality and nature. The learning areas for practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, cultural, creative arts and music activities, as well as a free flow to garden/outdoor activities, support the child’s development for physical independence.

The primary classroom provides for the intellectual independence of the child through richly resourced materials and books in different learning areas.

The children should be guided by the teacher with identifying, classifying and researching interesting ideas in the different fields of study and are encouraged to question, explore and wonder; which feeds their imaginations.

The work cycle

There should be an uninterrupted work cycle of no less than 3 hours. It is imperative that the child be given the opportunity to develop his/her concentration through meaningful work, free from adult interruption or intervention. This time should exclude all group activities and extra murals.

In a Montessori classroom, each child is working at his/her own pace within a mixed aged grouping. This allows for natural inclusion of children with special needs as the pace of learning is based on the child’s potential.

Mixed age groups

Vertical grouping (mixed ages), with at least a three year span between ages. Traditionally Montessori classes are grouped 0-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-9 years, 9-12 years, 12-15 years and 15-18 years. Some schools, due to logistics, may extend the 3-6 age grouping from 2 ½  years or up to 7 year olds.

This implies that there is no separate Grade R or Grade 0 in a Montessori school. The 3-6 class may include children preparing for primary school but they are not separated from the rest of the class.

Developmentally, the children in the older age groups prefer working and interacting with their peers. Here the focus is on smaller groups, co-operative and collaborative learning experiences. Children working at their own pace.

Intrinsic motivation

A sense of happiness and peace prevails throughout the school. The children are comfortable in their environment and demonstrate a love of learning.

A Montessori environment provides for intrinsic motivation, as rewards and punishments deny children the opportunity to make their own choices and be responsible for their own behaviour.

A child is supported to analyse situations and make wise decisions, rather than make decisions based on what an adult might do to (punishment) or for (reward) them.

The prepared adult

Staff should be trained and qualified as Montessori directresses/directors and assistants.

The adult in charge of these environments requires unique preparation. It is internationally accepted Best Practice that educators in Montessori schools should hold a Montessori teaching qualification and undertake Continued Professional Development.

Choosing a Montessori school

Montessori schools operate throughout South Africa.

Each school reflects the interpretation and personality of the individual owner.  We encourage you to visit as many schools as you can to ensure you find the environment that will best complement your home life.