How Do I Find Authentic and Accredited Montessori Schools?

Editor’s note: I never understood the challenge of finding an authentic and accredited Montessori school near me. That was until we moved away from our former school (on six rural acres with chickens, sheep, and a school garden). We assumed the Montessori school in our new state would be a similar experience. 

It only took a few days to realize how wrong we were. Worksheets, homework, testing, and certainly not a logical consequence-based approach to discipline. It wasn’t a fit. And unfortunately, there were no other options in our area, so we opted to homeschool

Had I followed the suggestions you’ll read below, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time, energy, and disappointment.  

How to Find an Authentic Montessori School


When prospective parents visit Montessori schools, one of the common questions they ask is how to identify truly authentic Montessori programs. The Montessori name is in the public domain. Dr. Maria Montessori never trademarked the name, and she didn’t patent her teaching methods. That’s why you’ll find Montessori schools that don’t follow her guidelines.

So what is “real” Montessori, and who decides?

There are several affiliation organizations dedicated to teaching and promoting the work of Dr. Maria Montessori. While not all of them agree on every detail of the methodology, there are universally agreed-upon tenets for a true Montessori school.

Look for Montessori Accreditation 

You may find Montessori schools that claim to be accredited. But further review shows they’re certified as a private or charter school within your state.

To find authentic and accredited Montessori schools near you, try the AMI-USA school locator for a list of AMI accredited schools in the U.S.

The AMS find a school link searches the directory of member schools in the U.S. Pay attention to the pin icons.

  • Green = Accredited member school (the highest level of school recognition bestowed by AMS community)
  • Purple = School is on the AMS Pathway (lists where the school stands on the pathway between levels 1 and 10)
  • Blue = School may be on steps 1 through 3 of certification which may mean they’re not fully following Montessori principles.

People often suggest other Montessori schools near me locators. To test the results, I always enter my zip code, and if the school I mentioned in the editor’s note above shows up without any denotation that it isn’t fully accredited, we don’t share the resource.

Ask About Montessori Trained Teachers

To find an authentic Montessori school, look for dedicated, experienced teaching staff. Montessori experts agree that teachers trained in Montessori methodology for the age group they serve is the single most important component in the success of a school. Ideally, teachers are trained in an accredited Montessori teacher training program. However, many teachers blossom over time under the tutelage of a qualified mentor teacher.

The trained Montessori teacher is the catalyst for everything that flows in the daily life of her students. Through careful observation of her class, she is a facilitator of learning. Their creation of an optimal physical environment and individualized presentations of age-appropriate learning activities to a diverse group of students is a big part of the magic.

The teacher ignites the child’s natural interest in learning as a resource person and guide.  As a role model of the values that Montessori taught, she emulates lifelong learning, a respect for all life and a sense of stewardship for our shared future. Parents should expect to see teachers interact with warmth and patience, treating themselves and each member of the school community with great care.

Montessori Learning Environment and Materials

Dr. Montessori wrote extensively about the “prepared environment,” which includes child-sized furniture, and hands-on, multi-sensory, sequential, often self-correcting materials. When parents step into a Montessori classroom, they should feel as though they are entering the child’s world.

The physical layout should be invitingly beautiful and geared to varied learning styles, offering a wide range of activities both indoors and out.

Montessori environments welcome movement and spontaneous activity that support developing independence. While observing a classroom, parents will see children actively engaged with their world: carrying lessons from the shelf to their workspace at a table or small floor rug, watering plants, feeding pets, or preparing and serving themselves snack. You can support this independence at home by setting up child led areas like a Montessori kitchen.

Some children may be quietly engrossed in their own lessons, while and others may be working collaboratively.

Because movement is essential to learning, children are allowed to freely wander, rest, observe one another and make their own choices, as long as they do not hinder the safety, well-being, and work of others. Creating a Montessori floor bed area at home is another great way to encourage the independence they enjoy at school.

Each day includes long, unstructured periods of time (usually three hours) during which children freely choose their lessons and activities with teacher guidance. Group activities include gross motor movement, music and games.

Nurturing a child’s independence is key to a successful Montessori program, so parents can expect to see young children dressing themselves for outdoor play, sweeping up spills, or helping straighten the classroom bookshelf.

As children experience “freedom within limits,” they are encouraged to question, experiment, and adopt differing perspectives and approaches to problem solving. Over time, their sense of confidence unfolds, along with a sense of ownership of the learning process.

The Montessori Classroom Community

Montessori schools generally include three different age levels grouped together into a classroom family. A three-year program encourages a deeper sense of belonging as children return with each other and their teachers each school year before transitioning to the next classroom at the end of the three year cycle.

Multi-aged communities also allow children to work at their own pace and freely advance in the curriculum while providing leadership to the younger members of the classroom family.

Instead of competing with each other, kids strive towards their personal best as they develop mastery. Because cooperation and collaboration are encouraged through the concept of grace and courtesy, Montessori students benefit from the emotional safety of a pro-social climate in which hurtful behavior is not welcome. Instead, opportunities to develop self-regulation and a shared sense of responsibility for a safe and positive classroom atmosphere encourage a culture of courage and compassion.

As parents choose a school home for their child, they must weigh their goals with what the school can realistically offer. Children thrive when parents engage in a strong partnership with the school, so a warm and supportive school culture is key.

Experts encourage families to carefully consider their options before determining the best fit for their child. Parents’ sense of enthusiasm and confidence in their decision will allow their child to enjoy the best possible start to their own adventures in learning and growth.

If you have other questions about finding an authentic Montessori school near you or the Montessori Method, see these FAQs, or feel free to ask in the comments.

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  1. Darwin Montessori says:

    A Montessori classroom is a thoughtfully designed environment to offer children opportunities to develop their own capabilities. Each classroom is filled with developmentally appropriate activities that encourage children to interact with specific learning materials, as well as to work cooperatively with others.

  2. Hello and thank you for all the information. I used the school finder with the accredited schools checked and there were zero results! =( Can this be true? I live in Arizona and from the look of it there isn’t a single accredited school here. What should my next step be? Thank you in advance
    <3 Nicole

    1. AMS accredited schools are rare. You can look up AMI recognized schools. AMI and AMS have different approaches. Schools with full accreditation or recognition cost more.

      1. I don’t agree with you and I recommend anyone who is reading these comments do an indepent reserach on AMI VS AMS.

        “Maria Montessori and son Mario set up AMI in 1929. The AMI Montessori is headquartered in Amsterdam.

        AMS Montessori, with headquarters in New York, was established in 1960. The AMI Montessori was founded in late 1960s. ..She thought that Montessori methodology had to be changed to adapt it to the American Culture.”

        From what I have researched online, AMI accredited schools are significantly fewer than AMS accredited, also I was reading some threads on Reddit, which are talking about that AMS schools will welcome AMI accredited teachers but AMI schools only accept AMI accredited teachers.

        Personally, I prefer AMI than AMS. But regardless, there is a lot to dig in regarding the differences and similarities between these two appraoches.

        Also, I am not sure if a school can both be AMI and AMS accredited, and I don’t believe there is such a “full accreditation” given two accredidations use different approaches.

        [I am a mom of a two year old just like anyone who is reading the article. I am not an expert in any regard.]

  3. Millie Hue says:

    It really helped when you said that there is a locator that we can check out if the school is really an accredited Montessori institution. I will share this with my sister because she wanted to enroll her child in such a school. From what I know, this is because she believes that there should be a balance between play and learning. This will help her find a real Montessori school.