Bluffview Q & A

Questions and Answers

Here, you'll find answers to general questions about Bluffview Montessori School. You may also want to check out our separate list of questions about Montessori education.
 
Can you provide a brief overview of your school? Do students receive homework? What are the requirements for admission to the Children’s House preschool and Kindergarten?
What are the advantages of Montessori education? What is your approach to discipline? How do I enroll my child?
Does Bluffview offer special education services?
Do students receive grades? Will my child be able to make the transition to a more traditional academic environment?
Are students tested? Do you offer after-school care?

Can you provide a brief overview of your school?
Bluffview Montessori School is a public charter school that follows the teaching methods and philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori.
Children attend classes in mixed age learning environments. First through third grade students learn together in our Lower Elementary (E1) program. Our Upper Elementary (E2) program includes fourth through sixth grade students, and seventh and eighth grade students learn together in our Erdkinder program (junior high).
 
We also offer a fee-based preschool program known as Children’s House for children ages 33 months through 6 years. Kindergarten children enrolled in the charter school are included in the mixed age Children’s House environment.
 
Each classroom has a lead teacher and teaching assistant. Within the Montessori environment, teachers present lessons, but most of the student’s education is introduced on an individual level using manipulative Montessori materials. The curriculum is divided into five main areas: language arts, mathematics, geometry, cultural studies (science and history) and geography. These subjects are often integrated with one another. Art, music (instrumental and vocal), and physical education are taught by teachers certified in those specialty areas. Bluffview Montessori School also operates a library and media center, and provides special education and student health services.
 
The Children’s House preschool program includes practical life activities, sensorial (learning through the senses), language, math, cultural, and social activities. Children’s House students may enroll in a half-day (7:45- 10:45) or full day program (7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.). In addition, the school offers an optional After School Program from 2:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
 
What are the advantages of Montessori education?
The many advantages of a Montessori education are more fully described in The Montessori Advantage and related pages. Here are some of those advantages:
  • Individualized instruction. Each child receives instruction and guidance based on the teacher’s careful observation of his or her educational needs. Montessori students are always free to work to their maximum ability; children who need more help get it, while children who are ready to move ahead are free to do so.
  • Student freedom. Students are free to move about the room and choose their own work, within the scope of the curriculum and their individual work plan. They may work independently or in small groups with other students. This freedom heightens students’ interest and engagement in their learning, teaches them to make responsible choices, and builds confidence and self-sufficiency.
  • Long work periods. Students are given a long time to work on their chosen tasks—usually about three hours. During this time, the Montessori teacher will refrain from interrupting or distracting a child who is productively engaged in a task. This long work period nurtures concentration and provides space for children to pursue complex, time-consuming learning tasks (such as the creation of timelines or solving a complicated math problem).
  • A rich, challenging curriculum. Because Montessori students are always working at their maximum ability, they are constantly being challenged to master new skills and concepts. Our curriculum provides plenty of room for children to grow, emphasizing math, language, cultural studies, geometry, and science. (In addition, the Children’s House curriculum includes practical life activities, sensorial works, and social activities.)
  • Mixed-age student grouping. Children work in mixed-age environments, where older students are encouraged to help younger students. ; the younger students get extra assistance, while the older students learn how to teach others. Both students learn collaboration skills.
  • Calm, orderly environment. The Montessori learning environment is intentionally neat and orderly, and the classroom atmosphere is one of calm. (Not silent, but not chaotic, either.) A calm, orderly environment allows students to focus on and enjoy learning.
  • Peace education. Montessori education emphasizes peace. At Bluffview Montessori School, minor conflicts between students are resolved by the students under the guidance of a teacher who trains them in peaceful conflict resolution skills.
If you have more specific questions about Montessori education, check out our Montessori Q & A page, as well as our Links to Montessori Resources page.
 
Will my child be able to learn in such an unstructured environment?
Many parents worry that their child “needs more structure” in order to be successful at school. Montessori is not the most comfortable choice for every family. However, before dismissing Montessori education as an option for your child, consider these points:
  • Structure and order are key ingredients in Montessori education, from the design of the environment to the educational materials and the method of instruction.
  • Traditional educational methods impose order on students through external means (punishments, incentives, the use of stationary individual desks); Montessori education is designed to help students develop internal self-discipline, which may be why one study found that Montessori students showed more advanced executive control than their peers.
  • The development of self-discipline is an ongoing process that does not happen overnight. Montessori teachers expect new students to take several weeks or even months to adjust to the Montessori environment—but that is okay, because the development of self-discipline and responsibility is an important part of the child’s growth.
  • Maria Montessori initially developed her educational approach with children who lived in mental institutions; later, she achieved great success with previously unschooled children living in a Rome housing project. Both groups of children were initially dismissed as “uneducable.” Maria Montessori’s methods turned out to be just what they needed. Subsequent experience has reinforced her early finding: children who “need structure” more often than not thrive in a Montessori environment.
Do students receive grades?
Montessori education rejects the traditional grading system (A-F letter grades) because it creates an atmosphere of competition among students and pressure from parents to “make the grade.” Rather, teachers evaluate each student through direct observation of his or her work. This evaluation is ongoing, allowing teachers to make adjustments as necessary to meet each child’s individual needs.
 
Formal progress reports for students in kindergarten through grade eight are mailed to parents or guardians three times a year. These progress reports are based on the level or depth of understanding that a student has in each subject area, and have nothing to do with test scores, project completion, study skills, or other criteria used in traditional grading systems. (Study habits are evaluated in the “Work habits” section of the progress report and in the teacher comments.)
 
Parent-teacher-student conferences are held in November, and teachers are available for consultation at any time throughout the year.
 
The NWEA MAP test is administered to students in Grades 2-8 in the fall (pretest) and spring. (post-test). Students in grades 2-6 will also be tested using the NWEA MAP test for Math midyear as a benchmark test for our Math Intervention program.
 
The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments are administered to students in Grades 3-8 in the spring. Standardized tests are used to determine academic achievement levels and to evaluate the curriculum presented in accordance with our charter agreement and with the requirements of the State of Minnesota Department of Education.
 
Are students tested?
Besides the standardized tests mentioned above, teachers may sometimes give students tests in order to better gauge their level of understanding or mastery of a topic. For instance, elementary students usually take spelling tests, as well as timed "math facts" tests. However, testing is not the primary means of assessment, and these informal tests are not graded.

Do students receive homework?
A lack of homework is one of the characteristics of Montessori education! Studies show that, in elementary school, homework is rarely helpful for boosting student achievement, and experience bears that out: Montessori educated children perform as well as other children on conventional measures of academic success (see The Montessori Advantage), A holistic approach to education recognizes that children need time for other activities (play, socializing, exercise) in order to thrive. All the same, students at Bluffview Montessori School can expect to receive some homework. All students are asked to spend time reading at home, either by themselves or (for younger children) with a parent. Children who need extra practice with their math facts or other basic skills may be provided some tools for practicing at home. And elementary students may be assigned long-term projects to work on at home, such as science fair projects or book reports. And Erdkinder students are assigned more more homework to help them prepare for the transition to high school.
 
What is your approach to discipline?
Bluffview Montessori School takes a progressive educational approach in order to provide for a safe and peaceful school environment. When a student first enters our school community, the child is provided not only with the skills necessary to learn basic safety rules but to interact with classmates, teachers, and the larger school community in positive and constructive ways. Montessori education fosters the development of inner discipline in the child, which consists of four components:
1) A distinct knowledge of safety rules
2) A clear awareness of responsibility
3) A respectful attitude towards the members of the classroom community and the school environment
4) Preparation of the proper way of acting under different circumstances.
 
Teachers at all age levels provide lessons in appropriate classroom and school behaviors. Students learn to solve difficulties among themselves based on three major propositions that are posted in every room:
  • Respect for self
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for the environment
Educators model appropriate behaviors to further provide examples of how people act in social settings. The mixed age groupings allow older children to model proper behaviors for the younger children thus providing more examples of appropriate behavior. Because of the open and respectful nature of this approach, students understand that mutual respect, care and consideration for others, and an empathetic interest in the environment are important both in school and elsewhere.
Altercations between students usually begin in the classroom. As a result, most minor incidents of discipline are handled internally. This level of discipline is informal and employs resolution skills taught in the Peace Curriculum. This approach involves students, guided by their teachers, in learning skills to interact positively with one another (while being allowed the opportunity to be heard in any matter of discipline.)
 
Bluffview Montessori School established a formal discipline policy to ensure that all children are treated fairly and uniformly during any disciplinary process. The Student Code of Conduct is that formal policy for all students, including students with disabilities or students who receive special education services. The policy is built around the concept of degrees of unwanted behaviors and the processes to be followed. Consideration is included in the policy for children with special needs and the policy follows all applicable state and federal guidelines for discipline policies.
 
What does it mean to say that Bluffview Montessori School is a charter school?
According to the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, “charter schools are tuition free independent public schools that are open to and welcome all students, no matter ability or need, and are governed and operated jointly by licensed teachers, parents and community members.”
The Center for School Change at Macalester College elaborates by saying that a charter school:
  • is a public school funded with public money;
  • is a public school where there is no tuition;
  • is non-sectarian, non-religious, and may not discriminate in student admissions;
  • is operated by parents, educators, and/or community leaders;
  • is free to be a unique school designed to meet the needs of the students it intends to serve;
  • is a public school that operates under a contract with the local school board, state board, or a university;
  • is a public school whose curriculum is determined by the charter school board of directors;
  • may have the same transportation as that provided by the local school district;
  • is required to meet the same graduation standards as other schools; and
  • is responsible for improving achievement or it will be closed.
Read more about charter schools at the Center for School Change’s “What is a charter school?” page.
Bluffview Montessori School is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501C-3 organization incorporated in 1970. It became the first Montessori charter school in the United States in March 1993. The Bluffview Montessori School’s Board of Directors (BOD) consists of community members, parents, and teachers. The majority of seats must be held by licensed teachers. The staff and parents of the school elect Board of Directors members for three year terms at the Annual Membership Meeting each May.
 
What is the tuition schedule for the Children’s House preschool?
The tuition schedule for the Children’s House preschool is as follows:
 
Preschool
5 days/wk.
3 days/wk.
2 days/wk.
Half day (7:45-10:45)
$345
-
-
Full day (7:45-2:45)
$495
$310
$210
 
Do you offer after-school care?
After school programs are available at Bluffview Montessori School from 2:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Two programs are offered; one for preschool students and a second for elementary students. The hourly cost of both after-school programs is $4.00. The maximum per-month billing for the after school programs is $150.00 per month.
 
What are the requirements for admission to the Children’s House preschool and Kindergarten?
1.       Preschool children must be 33 months of age before entering the Children’s House and must also be toilet trained.
2.      Preschool children should have language development sufficient to meet their needs in a classroom environment.
3.      Children must be age 5 by September 1st of the current school year in order to enter Kindergarten.
 
How do I enroll my child?
Contact the school office at 452-2807 to request a school enrollment form and the other necessary paperwork, or download it from our Registration pagem where you can find more details about the application process.
 
You may apply to enroll your child at any time, providing there is a vacancy. The formal open enrollment period is during the month of February. If there are no vacancies, applicants will be placed on grade-specific waiting lists. Enrollment is solely dependent on space availability. Siblings of currently enrolled students and the children of faculty are given priority enrollment.
According to our charter agreement, all spaces in the charter school filled during open enrollment are drawn from waiting lists that are constructed by lottery. If space exists after this time, children are admitted from waiting lists that are built on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most students are enrolled in the charter school in Kindergarten. If there are more applications for Kindergarten than there are vacancies, a drawing will be conducted in accordance with the process specified in the charter agreement. (Please refer to the school office for further information.)
Bluffview Montessori School is a public charter school. Enrollment is open to the entire community. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, or place of national or ethnic origin.
 
Does Bluffview offer special education services?
Yes. Bluffview Montessori School has a dedicated special education staff and offers a variety of intervention services. Contact Lori Cloutier for more information at lcloutier@bluffviewmontessori.org.

Will my child be able to make the transition to a more traditional academic environment?
All of the anecdotal evidence we have suggests that the vast majority of students who leave Bluffview Montessori School do just fine in a more conventional academic setting. We hear glowing reports from teachers in the local high schools and our alumni (who often take on leadership roles in high school) speak fondly of their experience here, often returning for school events. Here's additional evidence that, in general, Bluffview students perform well in more traditional academic settings:
  • About 80 percent of our graduating 8th grade students go on to make the honor roll at area high schools in their freshman year.
  • Our standardized MCA-II test scores are among the best in the area.
  • Studies show that Montessori educated students have GPAs and ACT test scores that match or exceed those of their peers. See The Montessori Advantage for details.