Most people have heard of Montessori schools. They are schools that step away from the typical teaching methods of the US educational system and emphasize well-rounded development that includes independence and creativity to help kids learn and grow. Since Montessori is typically focused on younger children, many people wonder what grade level Montessori schools go through.
While most Montessori schools only go through elementary grades, there are about 150 Montessori schools in the U.S. that go through high school grade 12. Montessori high schools have the same goal as the younger grades – to foster social, emotional, and cognitive growth. They are also focused on experiential learning to prepare the students for the future.
Montessori high schools are quite rare, and the curriculum differs from other more traditional high schools in the US. Keep reading to find out more about Montessori high schools and if they could be right for your kids.
Are There Montessori High Schools?
There are only about 150 Montessori high schools in the United States compared to over 5,000 Montessori elementary and middle schools. Montessori high schools generally call themselves secondary programs because they don’t use the typical format of a four-year high school. They have students ranging from ages 12-18, covering both middle school and high school. (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Montessori secondary programs have unique approaches to their education, such as:
- Student-centered learning
- Allowing students to manage their time, make choices, and self-regulate
- Developing independence
- Fostering self-management and responsibility
- Group work and social solidarity
(Source: American Montessori Society)
These secondary programs focus on fostering self-sufficiency in adolescents, and they place kids in multi-aged groups rather than the standard grade ranges by age to encourage collaboration and learning from their peers. This style of teaching is becoming increasingly popular, and more accredited Montessori secondary schools are being established across the country.
How to Transition to Public School
With so few Montessori high schools across the country, it may be challenging to find one near you so that your child can transition from elementary school to high school smoothly. If Montessori high school is not an option, there are ways to make the switch to a traditional public education a lot easier.
There are a few key differences between traditional public schools and Montessori schools to look out for. Being prepared for these changes will help the adjustment to a public high school.
Relationship with Teachers
Montessori schools are well known for their student-centered approach that allows students to get one-on-one help from their teachers. In public high schools, however, this is not always the case.
In public high schools, there are larger class sizes that don’t allow for as much individual instruction. This means it will take more of an effort from the student to reach out to their instructors and get the help that they need. It is helpful to build a relationship with the teachers so students can get help when they need it.
Students can build better relationships with teachers by:
- Raising their hand in class
- Asking questions
- Speaking with the teacher when they don’t understand something
Montessori schools are structured as a supportive community environment where the teachers support their students, and, in turn, the students support each other. It is a much more collaborative work environment when compared to public high school education. (Source: Yonkers)
Public high schools take a more individualistic approach to learning with:
- Standardized tests
- Lecture-style instruction
- Grades separated by age
With grades and regular assessments, public schools are very different from Montessori schools in measuring students’ learning progress. This can cause a feeling of competition between the students because they don’t feel as though they are learning together, and Montessori-educated kids will often try to get the best grades in the class.
When switching to a public school from Montessori, it is crucial not to get caught up in the competitiveness of grades and standardized test scores. Reaching out to your teachers for help and studying in groups can help ease any competitive tension and keep the focus on learning and growing rather than a letter or percentage.
See also: Grading in Montessori Schools
The general approach to learning differs quite a bit between Montessori schools and traditional public schools. Montessori education is more student-focused and can be adapted to fit the pace of the individual student. Public high schools include lots of standardized testing, and the instruction is tailored toward learning the concepts so that students can score higher on those tests.
Montessori education focuses on:
- Student self-assessment
- Independence and freedom within limits
- Becoming an active seeker of knowledge and learning
When moving to a public school, the new structure can be quite jarring. Test scores and letter grades assess students’ progress, and they are given specific parameters for what they should be learning. It is essential to remind the student that self-exploration is still encouraged, and they should always seek to do the best that they can to support their learning journey.
Does Montessori Prepare Students for College?
There are some theories about the academic preparedness that a Montessori education can provide. Because Montessori schools allow children to direct their learning, transitioning to college can be a very jarring change of pace. However, studies have shown that students who had a Montessori education score similarly to or even outperform their public school counterparts in standardized testing. (Source: Outcomes)
More significantly, it is the Montessori philosophy of a well-rounded education that supports all aspects of growth and development that prepares students for college.
Montessori schools help students develop the following critical life skills:
- Time management
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Self-motivated learning
While the academic numbers can speak for themselves, the life skills that students gain from a Montessori school are not always talked about. These skills are beneficial in college, and they allow students to adapt very quickly to their new surroundings. (Source: Montessori Rocks)
The freedom to explore their interests also significantly helps with everyday college tasks like:
- Choosing a major
- Getting involved in clubs
- Making new friends
In college, students are encouraged to collaborate with their peers, and they are thrown into an environment in which the people in their classes are not necessarily the same age as they are.
Other students may find that aspect of college to be confusing, but Montessori learners are well adapted to learning from those older than them and supporting students who are younger than them. This allows for a more collaborative environment where students are comfortable supporting each other. (Source: Evergreen)
Coming from a classroom culture that encourages discovery, exploration, and collaboration helps students thrive in college. At university, students are required to take their learning into their own hands, and they are encouraged to explore multiple academic interests.
This is something that students typically struggle with after years of traditional public schools, but Montessori students often have a better idea of what they like and are keen to continue learning.
Is Montessori High School Right for You?
Parents often say how much they love Montessori schools because it teaches their children to love learning. While people are more familiar with Montessori education for preschool and early education, continuing a Montessori education through high school can be very beneficial for a more well-rounded education that is challenging, fulfilling, and enjoyable.
Deciding on a Montessori high school is a personal decision. Just like the Montessori philosophy, education should be tailored to the individual. It is imperative to do your research to determine whether your child would thrive at a Montessori school or a traditional public high school.