General Questions

For a larger overview of Montessori programs, we highly recommend checking out the American Montessori Society’s FAQ page-this can give you a great idea of larger Montessori questions!
While not as specific to our school, this is a great starting point to learn about Montessori if you aren’t familiar with the philosophy or are just starting to learn more about it.

-What is the enrollment process like?
The enrollment process goes as such: 1. Tour 2. Apply with application & fee 3. Wait to be accepted 4. Enrollment form and enrollment fee to secure your spot. We will then work with you to decide on an appropriate start date if it is after the beginning of the year.

-What is the school-year schedule like?
Our programs run from late August-early June and follow a typical school-year schedule with breaks for Spring Break, Winter Break, Etc. We do have Summer programming, which is provided only to families who are enrolled in the previous school-year on a first-come, first-serve basis.

-I’ve heard children in Montessori are allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want. Is that true?
Simply put, no, that is not true. The Montessori environment is prepared specifically to allow children to exercise what is called “freedom within limits”. This means that the classroom is set up to allow children to explore works they have been given lessons on. How far they explore the work is up to them, and the guide (teacher) encourages self-discovery. This does not mean they run about with no boundaries. There are classroom guidelines as to how to handle and care for each component of the room and guides help children choose appropriate works while providing them with the means to truly dig into what they’re interested in. Balance in maintained by the guide in a way that is respectful of the child so that they are still meeting (and usually exceeding) age-appropriate requirements. This helps the child maintain a love of learning while being exposed to an incredible amount of materials!

-What is the role of the Montessori Teacher?
The Montessori teacher is called a Guide because s/he guides the classroom activity.
S/he carefully plans the environment in the interest of the children and helps the
children progress from one activity to the next. The guide is trained to deal with
each child individually, allowing him/her to choose from many activities within
his/her range of ability. S/he stands back while a child is working and allows him/her
the satisfaction of his/her own discovery.

-Is Montessori a religious program?
No. While some schools do affiliate with religious organizations, Montessori is not itself a religious program. Stepping Stones Montessori is a non-religious school.

-What is the purpose of the Montessori method?
The main purpose of the Montessori method is to develop an environment where
the child can unfold spontaneously and manifest the greater person within. The
Montessori Guide studies the developing life and how to best aid in its
development. It is a preparation for a lifetime of learning.

-Is Montessori too structured for children?
While there are specific guidelines for each material and activity within the classroom, children gain a sense of security from these instructions while being encouraged to take each bit of learning further! They are welcomed to deeply explore while they are in what are known as ‘sensitive periods’, which are times of piqued interest in specific areas. Again, “freedom within limits” is crucial to the balance of a child’s development!

-How do Montessori children adjust to a traditional school?
Children who have been in a Montessori environment are generally very flexible and
adjust quite easily to a traditional school situation. They are generally better students and spend their time in more productive ways because of their self-direction and positive attitude toward learning.

-What about socialization and group work?
Socialization in the Montessori classroom comes from the willingness of the child.
In the classroom you will notice the children interacting continuously, choosing to
work on projects together and older children helping younger ones. Each day there
is a large group activity, small group lessons and outside play.

What are the tuition rates?
Please click here to go to our tuition form.

-How does Financial Aid work?
Financial Aid is income-based and requires the submission of a Financial Aid application and your family’s previous year 1040/W-2. Funds may be available from Stepping Stones Montessori to those between 175% and 350% of the poverty guidelines.
State funds are available to many families now with the expansion of funding, which can be found by clicking here.

-Is priority given to siblings for enrollment?
Yes! Siblings of already enrolled students do get priority in placement.

-How does the waitlist work?
Our waitlist is not first come, first serve. We select families based on things such as schedule request, commitment to Montessori, etc. Our staffing is set up in such a way that some assistants are half-day, and so to stay within licensing ratios we must consider how many full and base program children we are able to take.

-Do Montessori guides follow a curriculum?
Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar—such as math, science, history, geography, and language—but they are presented through an integrated approach that weaves separate strands of the curriculum together.

While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. And the study of the pyramids is a natural bridge to geometry!

This approach to curriculum demonstrates the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic—and to give their curiosity full rein.

-How is a Montessori Primary School different from other preschools?
In most preschools, a teacher teaches the children educational concepts in a group
with times set aside for specific events. In a Montessori Primary School the children
learn concepts spontaneously as they work independently with the many materials
in the environment.

Who started the Montessori method?
Over one hundred years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician,
used her skills of scientific observation while leading children in the Casa de Bambini
de Roma. Based on her unbiased observations, she developed unique materials, a
child-centered environment and revolutionized educational thought by stressing
respect for the child, freedom of expression, self-education and training through use
of movement and the senses.

-When do students get ‘specials’, or enrichment classes like music, art, and Nature Discovery?
The specific classes go as such: all students have Music with Ms. Dianne throughout different days of the week every week. Art with Ms. Wendy and Nature Discovery with Mr. Jim are specific to child in Elder (Kindergarten) and Elementary. This year, Ms. Tanya has held Yoga and Ms. Amanda has held Science Fridays for the elders as well! Elementary enjoys Maker’s Time and Outdoor Games every Friday.

It should be noted however that music, art, and nature are huge and essential pieces of the casa at every age, every day! We designate these time for the older children as enrichment pieces, but all children engage in these areas daily in multiple facets. You will find art, music, and nature all throughout our casas (classrooms)!

-What do volunteer hours consist of?
Volunteer hours are a way to ensure our school community stays healthy and strong. 16 hours are required of each enrolling family, which can be completed throughout the school year through various tasks such as, but not limited to; buying snack, doing classroom laundry, providing materials like playdough and flowers, assisting in various school events, helping with coordinated efforts like fundraising, etc. If hours are not completed, a fee is assessed per the Parent handbook which can be found here.

Toddler (18 months-3 years) Questions

-What does joining toddler look like?
The toddler program runs from ages 18 months-3 years. We have a base program (8:30 am-12 pm) and a full-day program (8:30 am-3:30 pm) and do have before and aftercare during the school year. Please note that we are not like typical daycare which has a full-year program. We are a school and operate as such with breaks that coincide with East Lansing’s calendar for things such as Spring Break, Winter Break, etc. Acceptance into the toddler program comes with the commitment to stay through the Primary program, which includes the Kindergarten year. This is due to the importance of the 3-year cycle in Montessori. 

-Do children have to be toilet trained to join the toddler program?
No, we actively work on toilet learning when children join the program in a way that allows the children to become naturally curious about using the toilet. They will be offered the chance to sit on an appropriately-sized toilet at every diaper change and observe other children who are using the toilet. We also do standing diaper changes to encourage this transition of taking off and pulling up pants as one would do when toileting.

-Is the toddler program like a normal daycare?
No. The toddler program is considered an extension of our school and as the precursor for Primary. As such, our toddler program does not function as a typical daycare would. There are set start and dismissal times instead of open drop-off and a commitment to staying through our primary program, as mentioned above.

-What are the requirements for a child to join toddler?
A child needs to be 18 months old, walking steadily, and down to one afternoon nap in order to join our toddler program.

-Does the Toddler Program have the same schedule as the rest of the school? What about snow days?
Yes, our Toddler Program is also part of our greater school program. It is not a daycare. Toddler follows the same break schedule and has snow days just as the regular school does.

Primary (3-6 years)

-What does joining primary look like?
The primary program runs from ages 3 years – 6 years. We have a base program (8:30 am-12 pm) and a full-day program (8:30 am-3:30 pm) for the 3 and 4-year-olds (our elder program is full-day) and do have before and aftercare during the school year. Please note that we are not like typical daycare which has a full-year program. We are a school and operate as such with breaks that coincide with East Lansing’s calendar for things such as Spring Break, Winter Break, etc. Acceptance into the primary program comes with the commitment to stay through the Primary program, which includes the Kindergarten year. This is due to the importance of the 3-year cycle in Montessori. 

-Do children have to be toilet trained to join the primary program?
Yes, children must be toilet trained to join the primary program. We do understand and assist with any accidents, so be sure to send extra changes of labeled clothing for your primary student!

-What is the difference between the first two years and third year of the primary cycle?
The first two years of the primary cycle are spent building all the foundations needed for children’s Elder (or Kindergarten) year when all of the lessons they’ve learn previously come together, so to speak. Each primary student looks forward to the Elder year as it means increased leadership, responsibility, and experiences within the casa! Elders take on a role of leadership in helping younger students with lessons, taking on classroom jobs, taking part in reading buddies with elementary students, and enrichment programs like Music, Art, and Nature Discovery classes in the afternoons!

-Why do children need to stay for the Elder year?
The Elder year is the culmination of the last two years of Primary a child has built upon. Elder year is the time when a student achieves full mastery of the materials and lessons and begins to take on leadership roles in the classroom, including helping other younger children and really solidifying this knowledge. There is no better teacher than giving a lesson on the material! This prepares them for the years ahead. Elder year is the unifying piece of this three-year cycle and what the previous years build up to, which is why we require children to stay.

Elementary (1st-6th Grade)

-What is needed to join Elementary?
Taking a child into our elementary program who has not been at our school previously requires a one-on-one conversation with our Head of School and Elementary Guides. Special consideration needs to be given to parenting philosophies, prior Montessori education, any additional needs to help the child acclimate and succeed, and so on. If your student has been enrolled in our school, they will go through a great deal of preparation throughout their time with us to make sure they’re ready for Elementary.

-Is State Testing required?
Yes. Although testing is absolutely minimal in Montessori and used more as a way for guides to gauge understanding than grading, there are certain state tests like M-STEP that students must take. Please note, our students tend to score higher than average in the tested categories on these tests.

-Do students leave prepared for public school after attending Stepping Stones Montessori?
Absolutely! Guides work with students throughout the Montessori program to ensure they are properly prepared for public school. Students learn important skills from self-guided time management, task prioritization, and effective application of academic concepts to retention of a natural passion to learn that we find students in a traditional public setting may not be encouraged to keep. We have an amazing set of alumni students who are succeed in a variety of settings in the classroom and beyond!

-Is homework assigned in Elementary?
No. There is a strong body of research that points to homework doing very little to assist children in their learning. It is far more important that children have time after school to spend time with family, with nature, and learn about their culture. Cooking dinner, taking part in family activities, and enjoying bonds with siblings are all examples of the greatest learning tools available to children! Please take a moment to read our blog post for more information on the philosophy of homework in Montessori.