Forest Bluff Montessori School FAQ

Below, you will find a collection of Montessori school FAQ about Forest Bluff School and the differences between Montessori and traditional education. If any of your questions are not answered in our Montessori school FAQ, feel free to contact us!

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

Whereas traditional education treats children essentially the same from ages five to 18, and expects passive, rote learning, the Montessori approach embraces and utilizes the distinct characteristics of children in their different stages of development and requires them to be active learners, engaging with their environments. Montessori teachers present new concepts, often through manipulative materials, to one child at a time – or at the elementary levels – to small groups. For the most part, children schedule their own days, choosing their work with guidance (only when necessary) from the teacher. The classrooms are peaceful, calm and inviting, and the children are taught to treat one another with respect and courtesy. Although we take as our minimal curricular requirements the curricula from local public and private schools for each age level, a Montessori education reaches far beyond these basics, into higher studies and deeper concepts that many would not think possible to teach children. Students are encouraged to develop and explore their own interests and passions, and frequently achieve results that surprise even us.

How are Montessori teachers trained?

Although teacher training varies from school to school, teachers at AMI accredited Montessori schools, like Forest Bluff, are required to have completed a full year of AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) training and practice teaching in addition to their Bachelor’s degrees. This training is specific to each age level, and covers not only the academic disciplines and presentations but also the developmental tendencies and needs of children at that age. Most AMI trained teachers also receive a Masters of Education in addition to their Montessori diploma. 

What Montessori programs are offered at Forest Bluff School?

We offer a comprehensive education from birth through early adolescence, with guidance and continuing education for parents with children at all age levels. Programs include our Parent and Child Series, Young Children’s Community, Primary Level, Lower Elementary Level, Upper Elementary Level, Secondary Level and the Continuing Education Series for parents including morning discussions and evening lectures throughout the year.

How do Forest Bluff students transition to traditional schools?

Our graduates report great ease and success in transitioning to high school, and continually earn top honors, grades and leadership positions in their high school and college years. Our students have successfully matriculated locally at Beacon Academy, Lake Forest Academy, Lake Forest High School, Loyola Academy, New Trier High School, Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, and across the country at schools including Andover, Exeter and Deerfield Academies, St. Paul’s, Thacher, and Westminster.

Our alumni consistently say that study skills and time management they learned at Forest Bluff, as well as the depth of their academic understanding, facilitated a smooth transition and helped them to keep up with rigorous school work. Because our students are not tested and graded, they carry no built-up anxieties with them to their high school exams, and actually look forward to showing what they know. And because they have not been overwhelmed with homework from the age of six, they approach their at-home assignments with fresh energy and interest. Most importantly, the love of learning cultivated and protected at Forest Bluff lasts through high school and college, and leads our students to choose challenging AP, International Baccalaureate, and honors level courses far beyond the average load.

To hear directly from Forest Bluff Montessori alumni, please see our video: Forming the Educational Foundation for Your Life

What colleges have Forest Bluff students attended most recently?

Bates, Boston College, Boston University, Claremont McKenna, Colgate, College of William and Mary, Colorado College, Columbia (NY), Dartmouth, Davidson, DePaul, DePauw, Duke, Elon University, Georgetown, Grinnell, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins, Kenyon, Knox College, Loyola University Chicago, Luther College, Miami University Ohio, Michigan State, Middlebury, MIT, NYU, Northeastern, Northwestern, Oberlin, 

Princeton, Rhode Island School of Design, Santa Clara University, Southern Methodist University, Spring Hill College, Stanford, St. Lawrence University, St. Louis University, Swarthmore, Tufts, Tulane, University of Chicago, University of Cincinnati Conservatory, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Denver, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Montana, University of Pennsylvania, University of Richmond, University of Southern California, University of Vermont, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Williams, and Yale. 

What have Forest Bluff graduates done with their lives?

We are continually impressed with the happy and fulfilling careers our graduates have chosen. No matter their course in life, they have all chosen work they feel passionate about, and work that makes a difference in the world.

Among our alumni, we count a Rhodes Scholar, a Presidential Scholar, an advertising executive, an accomplished architect, professional artists, an award-winning author, bankers, a CIA agent, computer programmers, cybersecurity experts, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, a jewelry designer, lawyers, Montessori teachers, a museum curator, musicians, an opera singer, a Peace Corps leader, a press secretary, actors, a US Air Force Captain, a veterinarian, and more. To learn more, visit our Alumni Reflections page.

Why should I choose Forest Bluff School? What is the difference between Forest Bluff School and other Montessori schools?

Unfortunately, the Montessori name is not trademarked, and quality among Montessori schools varies widely. AMI accreditation is the surest sign of a good school with high academic standards. Among AMI schools, Forest Bluff is internationally renowned for its continued excellence, the range of its academic programs, its successful Secondary Level, and the leadership of some of the most respected names in the Montessori community. Teachers and administrators from around the United States and the world visit Forest Bluff for inspiration and observation. We are proud to be a guiding light in both the national and international Montessori community.

How does the Forest Bluff School curriculum align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

While the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a widely-debated and controversial topic in many educational circles—and the Montessori community is no exception—Forest Bluff School and AMI/USA recognize the need to identify how the curriculum of a traditional Montessori education aligns with the CCSS, a set of baseline expectations in English Language Arts and Mathematics for publicly-funded schools. Fortunately for Forest Bluff School and its students, AMI accredited Montessori schools have a robust and rigorous curriculum that exceeds the expectations of CCSS. In Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, Dr. Angeline Stoll Lillard states,

…no other single educational curriculum comes close to the Montessori curriculum in terms of its levels of depth, breadth, and interrelationship across time and topic.

In an effort to illustrate how the Montessori curriculum aligns with CCSS, a group of over fifty AMI professionals—teachers, administrators, trainers, and consultants— created a mapping of a representative AMI elementary curriculum onto the CCSS. The documents are available on the AMI/USA website:


English Language Arts:

What is Forest Bluff School's recommendation on "screen time"?

It has been well established that children’s minds and their abilities for deep concentration and thought are altered when they spend their energies with technological tools instead of direct involvement with the world around them. For our part, we observe that the children who choose their work readily upon entering the classroom, are more independent and self-directed, make good choices throughout the day, engage positively with their peers, respect the work of others, concentrate well and are more contented and at peace with themselves, are invariably those children who do not spend their free hours in passive screen entertainment, texting, surfing the Internet, or engaging in video games. Therefore, we consistently encourage our families to avoid such activities for their children of all ages.

 Of course, we understand there are times and situations when families may choose to participate in screen time together (i.e. family movie night) or allow children to have independent screen time (i.e. iPad games on a long road trip after other options have been exhausted, etc.); however, we continuously encourage parents to be mindful of the amount and type of screen exposure their children receive. A growing body of research points to several negative impacts of excessive screen time; because “moderation” is a relative term, our consistent message to parents is simply to avoid screens and, instead, explore what else their children could be doing that allows them to engage with the world around them.

Is Montessori a good fit for every child?

Montessori offers environments with freedoms that require a higher level of responsibility, self-control, and grace and courtesy than many other school settings. Most children develop these qualities gradually in response to the Montessori structure and guidance of three-year-age-ranged classmates and the trained teacher. Although Forest Bluff is often a good fit for children who have come from other educational settings, there are times when Montessori does not give a particular child what he or she needs. In determining whether or not Forest Bluff is the best fit for a child, our mutual focus as parents and educators must be on which educational setting will most help a child to succeed. Being realistic about the limitations of any one environment is part of this collective conversation. 

Noyna and I would like to convey our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the deep interest you have taken in Shruti’s education and in our family. From the moment Shruti enrolled at Forest Bluff, you became involved in helping us become the best parents we could be. These 10 years have been nothing short of remarkable in watching Shruti grow to be who she is and see the same growth in so many other children at the school. Your constant presence and encouragement to all the families is one of the best assets of the school.