When I first called our school to enrol Caspar I was naive. I thought because we had made the decision on schools we would be welcomed with open arms. Recently talking to a couple of other mums in the school car park (as you do!) I discovered that even within the one school we all had different paths to enrolment. However now that we have enrolled Caspar and Otis at another Montessori School and the application process was similar I thought I would share our path.
Get on the waiting list early.
Firstly many Montessori schools and this applies to many private schools, have waiting lists. If you are thinking even briefly considering a Montessori school for your child I suggest calling when your child is a toddler, get on the waiting list as soon as you can.
Many Montessori schools due to the nature of the Montessori method, like for the child to start at their school at three years. Waiting until the Australian school starting age may result in the school not having a position for your child. It's common for children to commence half days at or around three and start full schools days somewhere between four and five. It is at this point that I stress that all schools have variations and are different.
We currently live in Canberra and are moving to Brisbane. I encourage anyone looking into schools to look widely - open days are fantastic in a non-committal way to check out other schools. Even though we are very firmly a Montessori family I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the alternative options in both locations. Canberra has wonderful schooling alternatives and Brisbane has schools with interesting approaches also.
Be prepared for paper work.
Schools want to make sure that you and your family are a good fit for their school and they are a good fit for your family. They want to know that you have an understanding of their philosophy. To make an application for enrolment there will be forms and some of them will touch on why you chose Montessori. While the paper work isn't onerous I didn't expect it. It's quite humorous now to be asked about 'how we apply Montessori at home' because this cannot be answered on a questionnaire, but I totally understand the purpose. Also expect (as with other schools) paper work on medical and developmental information and immunisation.
Read a little.
For parents who know very little about Montessori but are interested in Montessori schooling, I suggest reading How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin. This is a very easy to read and basic book that will give parents an overview about Montessori. This is the one and only Montessori book I have insisted my husband read. I'm sure he only flicked through the pages but this was enough for him to understand the basic philosophy. It's important to have some basic understanding about Montessori before enrolment otherwise the approach in it's practical application in the classroom may not make any sense.
Observe a Montessori classroom - in action.
Many schools will insist on this. We (both my husband and I) were required to observe in different classrooms before our application would be accepted. Again the school want to make sure you/we have a good understanding of the approach - to ask and answer any questions, to know what to expect. Observing in a classroom is a really interesting experience especially if you haven't been in a Montessori school before and I highly recommend it.
Many schools require an interview before they will accept your application. I also didn't expect this. We had immense difficulty arranging this (due to my husband's work commitments) when Caspar was a toddler and this almost prevented us from enrolling at the school. Perseverance and patience is required during the application process, don't be put off by paper work and process. Interviews are more like a meet and greet and are a great way to meet with the leader of the school and get a feel for their approach.
No school is perfect and if there are difficulties or miscommunication in the enrolment process I encourage honest and open dialogue.
Know the costs.
Very early on my husband and I weighed up the financial cost of private education. We estimated how much it was going to cost for two children (expecting that we would have two!) and work out if we could afford it. The schools we have applied to have upfront and visible fees on their websites. For a private school there are potential application fees, deposits and building fund contributions.
So we haven't officially transferred however we have made an application at a new school. It's so lovely to have teachers at our current school to know teachers in our new school. Caspar has students in his class that have come from his new school. The network and sense of community in between Montessori schools is really heart warming. As I would suggest with most schools the new school has required complete application forms and current school reports.
Be aware of schools with a Montessori stream or are Montessori influenced.
There is a big difference between schools that follow the Montessori approach and those that have Montessori influences. Both can be wonderful but know the difference. It's really important as a parent to have realistic expectations of both the school and the staff.
Be prepared to make a long term commitment to your child's education.
Due to the nature of the Montessori approach there are times when results are not visible. There many be times when parents compare their child to children in different methods of education or against educational standards. Be prepared to commit long term to the Montessori method, children have periods of growth and consolidation. Swapping schools or educational methods midway through a cycle may not be beneficial for the child.
I encourage all parents to consider a Montessori education for their child. It may not always be an option (or a good fit!) but when given the choice - we choose Montessori.