Different schools that I have worked at have different methods of transitioning children into the Montessori 3-6 program. Some start the previous year. Some programs have children start on a shorter schedule. Others have all of the children start all at once.
Some schools encourage children to visit their future classroom for a couple of hours or a few days. This works for transfer students in the middle of a school year, as well as prospective students for the following school year. Toddler classes may wish to have their children visit the early childhood rooms. Kindergartners should spend time in lower elementary.
Students completely new to Montessori benefit from spending a couple of days in the classroom, to ensure it really is a good fit.
Many schools like to phase in new students at the beginning of the school year. Some schools divide the class into several small groups, made up of children of all ages. Each group spends a day or two coming for an hour or two at a time. Later, groups are larger and the children stay for a longer period of time. Finally, they all start coming their regular schedule.
Some schools have returning students come back full day from their very first day. These children normalized in the classroom the previous year, and are confident in the routines. New children phase in by coming for an abbreviated amount of time each day for a few days. Only a few children start each day, so that they can get needed attention settling in. Other schools have a similar method, only the new children stay the entire class period on their first day.
Some schools have all of their children dive right in to the regular schedule instead of transitioning into Montessori school. All children are present for the entire class time, from the very first day. Within these schools are some teachers who may pull smaller groups for ground rules review and presentations.
Advantages and disadvantages of transitioning
Transitioning with a phase-in schedule provides great advantages to the students in the Montessori classroom. It allows for a focus on ground rules and procedures within the classroom. More attention can be given to the new students, to help them feel more comfortable in their new environment. Returning students can get comfortable again in their classroom, then gladly assist the new children.
The difficult part of a transitioning program usually lies in scheduling conflicts for parents. Many parents work full-time and have difficulty finding adequate care for their children. Some school programs are able to assist with this with wrap-around care.
Sometimes an extended phase-in schedule for transitioning into Montessori school can also feel somewhat tedious to the teacher who is ready to get started on lessons. But Montessori educators are aware of the benefits of easing back into the new school year.