Montessori education is highly adaptable, and can be fit to most every child by a conscientious guide (teacher). Very occasionally, shadow tutors can be used if a child is very low-functioning. Special needs children are accepted judiciously in most Montessori programs so as to keep classrooms (which are microcosms of functional teams) working smoothly, and the percentage of interdependently working children high enough to build leadership. One caveat, children who are easily over stimulated, or those who tend to be overly aggressive, may be examples of children who might not adapt as easily to a Montessori program.
The mixed ages of a Montessori environment is one of its most unique and important features. Leadership, responsibility, empathy, social skills and patience are practiced every day. Peer tutoring has been proven in studies to be excellent practice for real-life team building. The very process of explaining a new concept or helping someone practice a new skill leads the teaching child to learn from the experience. Older children are under no pressure to help younger students but more often than not elect to teach or help out those in need.
Specially trained Montessori educators are highly conscientious in their guiding of the children. Children operate best when they are supported to challenge themselves and discover the wonder of accomplishment. The materials in a classroom are laid out according to difficulty, with each step monitored by the guide. Children "test out" of some materials as they move forward and gain new lessons and skills with other materials. Testing goes on each and every day in fun ways. Guides are responsible to support struggling and release mastery. The two biggest jobs of the Montessori guide are to observe the children and put them in touch with the materials at just the right time, and in the best way. Adjustments are made as each child reveals his or her unique way of learning. Hesitant children are encouraged through their fear, bold children are encouraged to use their skills to explore variations and versions of the lessons. Challenging work becomes comfortable, desirable and attainable, with help only an "ask" away if needed. The mixed ages promote the children seeking guidance from each other rather than the adult(s) in the room. Leadership is promoted in a hands-on way.
Most Montessori schools are private-independent entities and receive little or no money from the districts in which they are located. A Montessori school is expensive to run and requires a highly skilled and qualified staff with extensive teacher education. Montessori educational material also has very high cost of purchase. There are schools that are "Montessori Inspired" but may not follow the philosophy as intended, and the teachers may not have the appropriate training in the Montessori curriculum. A school's affiliations should always be checked.
The arts are essential in education and are brought into Montessori classrooms in various ways from flower arranging to paper folding. Many guides bring dance, music, 2-D / 3-D art and theater arts into their environments as well. All environments are geared to promote appreciation of the arts and literature, and is available all day as the child chooses.
Allow a child to do for him or herself that which he or she can do. To dress a child who knows how to do this is to promote "learned helplessness." Grace and Courtesy is the Montessori area used for character development and to promote desirable behavior. Successful relationships between adults and children are built on certain expectations, with children accepting basic rules and being willing to back down when told "no" or "please stop." Cooperation is built from there and home-life as well as school-life functions more smoothly. In an effort to create a functioning family team, children are to be considered integral members with clear responsibilities and privileges. Undesirable behavior (as in the classroom) can be addressed with a loss of freedom or privileges. "Punishment" is merely seen as a way for a child to self-assess his or her mistake with no lectures or physical ramifications. Thus parents act as guides (and not enforcers). Harmony is the goal at school or in the home. Also, be aware of too much "homework" Montessori children are challenged each and every day in myriad ways. Enjoy the social enrichment aspects of family life, and check in with your Montessori guide on how to support your struggling student at home if needed.