Montessori Then and Now

Getty Images

With Montessori schools scattered throughout the five boroughs, you’ve probably already heard about this unique approach to education. Kids get to move at their own pace in multi-age classrooms where they have the freedom and support to develop independence, accountability, confidence, and integrity. While you may know the basics about Montessori, schools across NYC this past year and now in 2021 have adapted what education looks like, both in and outside of the classroom. Montessori is at the forefront of this shift, leading in educational innovation and stellar communication. When choosing a school for your little scholar, that process now involves staying up-to-date with schools’ approaches to learning amidst a global pandemic. We’ve got the scoop on what a Montessori education looks like today so that you can be prepared when you apply for the 2021-2022 school year.

Before we dive into the present, let’s briefly throw it back to the past to understand how far Montessori has come. Most of us are familiar with the Montessori Method, but not necessarily with Montessori’s history. It all started in 1906 when Dr. Maria Montessori was invited to create a childcare center in San Lorenzo, a poor, inner-city district of Rome. Dr. Montessori observed how the students responded to hands-on learning experiences, and she designed unique learning materials for them. And get this: many of those materials can still be found in Montessori classrooms today!

As word got out that Dr. Montessori’s school was thriving, she opened more schools in Italy, but there was also interest worldwide. The first Montessori school in the U.S. opened in 1911, but what many people don’t know is that the Montessori Movement fizzled out around the 1920s. It wasn’t until the Montessori Method was rediscovered in the 1950s by an aspiring NYC teacher, Nancy McCormick Rambusch, that Montessori education kicked off again. Today there are over 5,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. alone.

So now that we’re all caught up on how Montessori began, let’s check in on how it’s going. While all Montessori schools embrace the Montessori Method, many have developed programs in response to student’s needs. For example, there are now bilingual, immersive-language, and faith-based programs, as well as programs designed specifically for kids with special needs. Many NYC Montessori schools take advantage of their local environment, engaging with surrounding communities, and others also strive to connect students globally, encouraging cross-cultural relationships that extend beyond the city.

With such a strong history and ever-developing programs, it’s no surprise that Montessori persevered as a leader in education when the global pandemic hit. Prior to 2020, there has always been a lot of emphasis on the “Montessori Classroom” as this special space full of carefully-designed learning materials and collaborative opportunities. But when kids could no longer be in the classroom, Montessori quickly found a way to adapt their methods into “Montessori at Home”. Providing detailed guidance for how to prep your home and encourage the Montessori Method, the Montessori education was no longer limited to a classroom. Even though many Montessori schools have transitioned back to in-person or blended learning, this adaptability that they gained will long outlast the spread of COVID-19. Now parents can easily integrate and extend the Montessori method in their little ones’ everyday lives.

We also love Montessori’s focus on social-emotional well-being during these times. Students have pre-planned mask breaks, meditation/relaxation time, room walks, and social interaction without physical touch. Classroom activities were designed to reduce stress for teachers and students, and regular check-ins are scheduled with teachers to see how their students are feeling and what they are thinking about the “new normal”. During these difficult times, it is refreshing to know that Montessori cares not only about our kids’ physical health, but about their mental health and well-being too.

COVID-19 has brought us a lot of uncertainty, and Montessori recognizes how challenging that can be for parents. That’s why, Montessori quickly adapted into expert communicators with video announcements, teacher-parent communication worksheets, “how to” technology tutorials, self-care playlists, and much more. Montessori even keeps parents informed with relevant info outside of the Montessori network, such as the free New York Times digital edition for high school students and teachers through Sept. 1, 2021 so that they can stay up-to-date with the ever-changing climate. Montessori consistently updates their resources page so that parents have a go-to source for COVID-19-related information that affects kids and families.

Above all, it’s obvious that Montessori has embraced creativity and innovation so that they can create the same warm, welcoming, and empowering environments that they have for decades. COVID-19 has led to a collective feeling of disconnection. And in a classroom where kids have to keep a distance from their friends, or at home where kids are in front of a computer screen for hours at a time, this feeling of disconnection impacts our little ones just as much as it does us. But what differentiates Montessori from other schools is their long history of perseverance– of overcoming challenges, reshaping their goals, and growing as a tight-knit, supportive community. So while much has changed since last year, the Montessori Method, along with the warmth, collaboration, and self-confidence that it instills, has remained the same.

If you are interested in learning more about Montessori, you can find a school near you at Many schools have virtual open houses and tours coming up soon, so sign-up to see if Montessori is the right fit for your family.

Montessori Resources

Elemental Arts Montessori (EAM)

364 Argyle Road, Brooklyn, NY

A Full Member School with the American Montessori Society, for children from the age of 2.6 through 5.6 years old. In order to maximize time with the children, EAM offers a small class size of only 12 children per program session. There are two Montessori trained teachers. This is to provide a warm, nurturing, caring and stimulating environment and a unique experience for your child. Their mission is to have fun through exploration and discovery, allowing each child to fully experience their natural joy for learning. Fully licensed by the New York City Department of Health.

Elite Minds Montessori

Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill
117 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY

A private preschool in Carroll Gardens for children ages 2 to 6 years old. Offering  a nurturing multilingual (English and French) environment where children can develop their unique skills and potential by engaging in art, music and play in a traditional Montessori setting. A typical day includes the following: Focus on five areas of Montessori learning: practical life skills, sensorial activities, mathematics, literacy and cultural studies. Two to three hours of daily uninterrupted work cycle. Strong focus on arts enrichment including music, weekly artist study and project, yoga, movement and gardening with a farm to table experience. Daily mindfulness activities. Daily outdoor play at Mother Cabrini Park. Frequent visits to South Brooklyn Children’s Garden. Now registering.

Hudson Country Montessori School

340 Quaker Ridge Road, New Rochelle

Hudson Country Montessori School inspires and promotes innate curiosity and a love of learning through their progressive Montessori pedagogy. HCMS also strives to help children grow into respectful, socially-adept and compassionate leaders. The curriculum is designed to empower students to become independent, creative thinkers and confident achievers. Private, co-educational school, toddlers (18 months) through 8th grade. Schedule a private tour today!

Liberty Montessori’s Summer Science Program 

155 Beechmont Dr., New Rochelle, 636-3461
631 W. Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, 777-1382

Liberty’s academic curriculum is presented to the students through an interdisciplinary curriculum, which integrates subjects for children ages 17 months to 7 years. Liberty’s new Academic Advantage Summer Science Program is being launched for students needing individual summer tutoring and Science fun while developing creative thinking skills to enhance hands on experiences. They invite parents to inquire about Liberty Montessori’s Indoor and Outdoor Summer Science Camp where young scientists inquire and explore.

Little Thinkers Montessori

148 Clinton Avenue
Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Offering a Summer Program with full or ½ day sessions running for 7 weeks.  Activities include, Gardening, Science, Art, Yoga, Music, Dance and outside play with extended care available. During the school year, LTM  preschool curriculum is individualized, multi-aged, and thoughtfully guided to match each student’s needs.  Children learn through the academic and experiential process, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, and influenced by the culturally diverse atmosphere of Brooklyn.  The primary goal of LTM’s Montessori program is to use the “whole-child” approach to help each child reach their full potential in all areas of life. LTM also offers an after school program for students in preK through 5th grade.  Please contact the school to learn more about the programs offered.

Montessori Children’s Center (MCC)

220 Westchester Ave., West Harrison

A year-round, full-time Montessori childcare facility, The Montessori Children’s Center (MCC) offers authentic Montessori programs for children 3 months to 5 years old. Montessori certified head teachers and well-trained and supervised staff provide excellent care and the highest quality Montessori education.  The Center for Montessori NY has been a leader in Montessori education since our founding. 30 years later, we have credentialed over 3,000 Montessori teachers and have opened our new location in West Harrison, NY.Call us and come see the Montessori difference! We are enrolling toddlers now for the September 2021-August 2022 program year.

Montessori Day School of Brooklyn

237 Park Place
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

MDS is a community of families, children and educators using Montessori philosophy to guide and inspire a joy of learning both inside and outside the classroom. MDS is a welcoming community that values diversity. They are committed to excellence in early childhood education and continuous learning. The school serves children ages 2-5 years, and is divided into toddler and primary classes. Primary classes have mixed-age groups (i.e., 3-5 years of age) following the Montessori model in which young children learn from older ones and older children reinforce their learning by helping the younger ones. The regular school day ends at 3:00 pm, but some children stay in the extended day program until 4:00, 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

The Montessori School of New York International
Sutton Place

In a lovingly and thoughtfully prepared environment, children are encouraged to explore all academic dimensions at their own pace and interest level, helping them grow in self-esteem and independence.  Classes are equipped with a full complement of didactic imported Montessori materials that encourage the absorption of concepts through play, leading them to become well-rounded, confident citizens of the world. Science, Music, Foreign Language, Musical Theatre, Swimming, Dance, Yoga, Sign Language and Chess are part of the program as well. Children usually do extremely well academically, and are prepared for admission to gifted and competitive programs. A unique Summer Camp, staffed by the school’s year round teachers, offers a balance of continued learning with outdoor activities, ranging from educational theme-based field trips to group sports activities. This summer especially, children will continue with academics, helping to ensure that they are on track despite the pandemic. Tutoring available to prepare for admission to gifted programs, or for a head start on the upcoming year.

Montessori School of Pelham Manor      

1415 Pelhamdale Avenue, Bronx, New York

Upholding a “tradition of excellence” for over 35 years, this school firmly holds to the principles of child development devised by Dr. Maria Montessori. Children ages 3 to 5 work with apparatus in a prepared environment progressing at their own rate, developing the confidence and love of learning that is the hallmark of Montessori. Our small class sizes make it easy for our instructors to find out how to best cater to your child’s unique learning needs. Prepare your child for a lifetime of learning.

The Nurtury Montessori Schools

431 N. Ridge St., Rye Brook

11 North Brook Rd., Larchmont

2097 Palmer Ave., Larchmont

1144 North Ave., New Rochelle

1146 North Ave., New Rochelle

130 Flandreau Ave., New Rochelle

914- 632-6200

The Nurtury is committed to promoting quality, full-time Montessori childcare for children ages six weeks to 6 years. The first six years of life are when intelligence and personality are formed. We significantly understand this concept, and as a result, The Nurtury has set the standard for full-time Montessori childcare. Contact directly for more information.

Rivendell School

Park Slope/Gowanus
277 3rd Avenue
718-499-5667, ext. 14

A Montessori pre-primary inclusion school that was founded in 1977 as The Children’s House of Park Slope and incorporated into Rivendell School in 1998. The school provides a respectful, inclusive community helping children feel powerful and confident as learners and as social and emotional beings. Toddler, half day and extended day programs are available (2 through 6 years). Rivendell School offers beautiful Montessori classrooms, an excellent, student/teacher ratio, and a warm, cooperative atmosphere where children learn to work and play.