The 12-Acre Classroom!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cedar River Montessori School?

Cedar River Montessori School is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit, Montessori school serving 125 children age 3 through grade 8. We offer full-time, 5 day a week programs for children who are at least three years old by August 31 of their year of entrance. Founded in 1981, we are a full member of the American Montessori Society (currently in the AMS accreditation process), an approved private school by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and licensed by the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

Cedar River Montessori School fosters the innate curiosity of the child, presenting learning experiences that cultivate independent, creative thinkers who continuously build their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

How do you know if Montessori is right for your child?

Good question! Not all Montessori schools are the same. In fact, any school can call itself Montessori, even if the teacher is untrained and there are no Montessori materials in the classroom. So the first thing you should determine is if the school is affiliated or accredited by AMS or AMI. Then you should go visit. If the classroom is calm, organized, and designed for the child, then you are on the right track. Parents who are looking for a school that uses a well-researched approach to developing a child who can organize their own work, guide their own learning, and independently manage themselves and their time often find a good fit in Montessori.

I heard Montessori is really rigid with its structure. Is that true?

The Montessori classroom and curriculum is highly structured. This provides a framework in which the child is free to choose which materials to explore, how long to explore them, and how often to return to them. Conceptual development is a path set by well-researched and carefully researched materials, but the student decides how to move through them. The teacher is there to guide the development, ensure that it is balanced, and to find ways to hook individual students in to the process.

I heard that students can do whatever they want. Is that true?

Students are able to make choices about which materials to work with and for how long. However, there is a structure to the classroom that enables the Montessori program to function. For instance, in an early childhood classroom students learn to choose, work on, complete, and put away an activity independently. In elementary, students plan most of their own work for the week, developing and maintaining a work plan that allows them to keep track of their own progress. The freedom in a Montessori environment is balanced by self-control and internal motivation.

What is the difference between Montessori and conventional education?

Montessori is a very different kind of education than conventional education. The underlying educational model has a different history, intent, and objectives. Montessori education was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori (an Italian physician and scientist in the early 20th century), who was interested in studying how people learn. She observed how children learn, and through this observation and trial and error, she created a classroom that is a “prepared environment” where children learn through doing. Montessori education is an active, experiential, and individualized education. Montessori is also competency-based (meaning that students master concepts before moving on to the next concept within that scope and sequence in the classroom), and values academic, social, and emotional development equally. Historically, the conventional education model was developed during the industrial revolution, when society was transitioning from agrarian to industrial, and many people were immigrating to this country seeking jobs and better lives for their families. Efficiency was a hallmark of the industrial revolution, and the underlying conventional education system reflects this as well – it is designed for efficiency as seen by adults, with an objective of teaching students how to reach certain standards so that they can go forth and be productive members of society. Although modern educators understand that children learn as Dr. Montessori observed, it is often difficult to implement changes to support this type of education due to the underlying structure of the conventional system, and its continued emphasis on standardized testing.

What is Cedar River Montessori’s position on standardized testing?

We see standardized testing as an important, practical life skill – something that students need to learn how to navigate, but not something that education should be framed by. Cedar River Montessori offers yearly standardized testing beginning in 3rd grade, and currently uses the Iowa Assessments, a national standardized test used by both private and public schools to evaluate student achievement.

I heard Montessori works for students with special needs. Does CRMS work with these students?

Montessori is a wonderful approach for many students with a variety of needs. However not every environment will work for every child. Our classrooms work best for students who have some independence and are able to focus on a task for a period of time. We work with a wide range of students, but we are not a special needs school and do not have the resources to work with students with significant social, emotional, or academic obstacles. However, there are situations where we are able to meet a child’s needs. If you have particular concerns it is best to talk to us before or during your school tour.

What about parent involvement?

We ask parents to be involved in three ways. First, we ask every family to contribute to the Annual Fund. How much you give is up to you, but we aim for 100% participation because it helps show other organizations the commitment of our community to what we do. We ask every family for 10 hours of volunteer service a year. There are many ways to participate, even if you work during the day. And it’s usually fun! Finally we ask every family to attend our annual auction. Part of your contract includes the purchase of two tickets. Participation beyond that is up to you. But it’s a fun, low pressure celebration of our community.

My child has food/environmental/animal allergies. How can you work with those?

We have cats that roam the school and pasture animals. We often have rabbits and other furred animals as classroom pets. Students spend time outside, and there have been bee stings. We occasionally have peanuts in our snacks, and do not require that students only bring food free of peanuts. We do a lot of work outside and the cottonwood looks like snow in the spring. If you child has severe allergies to any of the above, then our school is likely not the right fit for you.

Do you accept DSHS?

Not at this time.

Do you have financial aid?

We have a small financial aid fund (set by the Board of Directors at 2% overall tuition revenue). Online applications are due in February for the following fall enrollment. Please contact the Director of Admissions with any questions.

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