Montessori Online School: Prisma’s Creative Online Education Program

Prisma’s innovative virtual program is inspired by the Montessori method, and by other methods decades of research prove are the most effective and engaging ways to learn.

Emily Veno
June 3, 2024
“The children of today will make all the discoveries of tomorrow...They must make all the improvements in houses, cities, communication, methods of production, etc. that are to be made. The future generation must not only know how to do what we can teach them, they must be able to go a step further.” -Maria Montessori, 1946
“Prisma is like if a tech startup and a Montessori school had a baby.” -Prisma Parent

I studied a lot of education philosophers in grad school—from Piaget to Dewey, Vygotsky to Freire. But only one of those education theorists has managed to become a household name.

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator best known for developing the Montessori method, which emphasizes child-centered, hands-on learning in a specifically designed environment.

Montessori preschools and elementary schools are popular worldwide. To many, “Montessori” is synonymous with any form of education focusing on the needs of the child over the needs of the traditional system.

Prisma’s unique virtual school draws on many of the best education approaches, including Montessori. We believe 1) For kids to constantly adapt to a rapidly changing future, they need to first and foremost love learning, and 2) school needs a radical redesign to prepare kids with skills they’ll need to thrive in the future.

What is Montessori Education?

Maria Montessori was very specific in her guidance for Montessori teachers. Any official Montessori curriculum will be led by educators who have been through Montessori training and use the following approaches:

Child-Centered Learning

Montessori's method emphasizes independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Montessori classrooms allow children to move freely and choose their activities. Kids are at the center of the learning, rather than the traditional approach, where the teacher is at the center and kids follow.

Like proponents of self-directed learning, Montessori believed when kids are motivated to learn, they’ll learn more than if they’re forced to study something they’re not interested in.

Prepared Environment

Montessori classrooms are meticulously organized to support specific developmental stages, with materials designed to enhance sensory, practical, and academic skills. Think a classroom with various “centers” including materials like wooden blocks, play kitchens, and sorting games. Montessori teacher education will focus on understanding each developmental stage and which materials are appropriate for each.

Mixed Age Groups

Unlike traditional classrooms, Montessori settings often have mixed-age groups. Maria Montessori believed mixed-age learning environments promoted peer learning, collaboration, and a sense of community.

At Prisma, we believe foregoing strict grade-level grouping also benefits kids who learn at different levels in different subjects (maybe they’re super advanced in math but a couple grade levels behind in writing).

Hands-On Learning

Montessori materials are designed to be manipulative, enabling kids to learn through hands-on experiences, and direct interaction with their environment.

At Prisma, we use project-based learning because we also believe kids learn more when they need to apply their learning to something concrete, instead of simply answering multiple-choice questions.


Montessori Approach in Middle and High School

Although Maria Montessori initially focused on early childhood education, her methods have been adapted for older students. Not every middle or high school claiming to be “Montessori” interprets her method the same way, though. There are also many other popular learning approaches and terminology that overlap with Montessori.

In general, most Montessori schools for older kids will emphasize project-based learning, real-world applications, and choice.

Montessori Homeschooling

Many families implement Montessori principles full-time or part-time at home. There’s no one set way to practice the Montessori method within homeschool curriculum. Many families, especially in the preschool and elementary school years, purchase Montessori materials and Montessori guides to design their home as the specific prepared environment Dr. Montessori describes.

As your child gets older, the unit study approach to homeschool may align well to Montessori principles. (Prisma’s model is also inspired by the unit study approach).

Is Prisma an Online Montessori Program?

Many families looking for an innovative, engaging learning program outside the traditional norm start by investigating online Montessori options. Others may think: is it even possible to do Montessori-style learning online?

We founded Prisma because we found many families were interested in a more flexible and personalized education than traditional in-person public school. But just because they wanted flexibility, doesn’t mean they wanted their child to learn alone. Families wanted real community, and the type of hands-on, high-quality curriculum you’d find at a Montessori school—only online.

Prisma’s innovative virtual program is inspired by the Montessori method, and by other methods decades of research prove are the most effective and engaging ways to learn: project-based learning, interdisciplinary learning, competency based education, and more.  

Our programs for grades 4-12 deliver the best of all these models in an innovative online format.

Here’s how we’ve adapted Montessori to the online learning environment:

  1. Choice-driven learning: Prisma’s curriculum is organized into themes covering all academic skills. Within each fun theme (like Unsolved Mysteries or Build a Business) learners choose projects to complete based on their interests.
  2. Real-world relevance and practical life skills: The real world isn’t divided into school subjects. Prisma’s interdisciplinary themes show kids how academic subjects are relevant. For example, instead of learning economics from a textbook, fun simulations in Build a Business teach supply and demand and balancing a budget.
  3. Hands-on projects: At the middle and high school level, “hands-on” learning goes beyond building with blocks. Prisma learners apply academic knowledge to meaningful projects. Maybe they’re writing and illustrating a children’s book, or building a history museum exhibit. Or they’re using creative digital tools like 3D modeling software, Canva, Scratch, or Soundtrap Podcasts.
  4. Community-driven learning environment: Families tell us their favorite aspect of Prisma, hands-down, is the community! Each learner is matched into a small peer cohort that meets daily for collaboration, academic workshops, and socialization. Kids team up on projects, have engaging debates and discussions, and build lifelong friendships.

How Prisma’s Unique Virtual Program Builds Love of Learning

For many parents, enrollment in a Montessori school makes sense for preschool, kindergarten, or even elementary school. But by middle or high school, they get nervous: is a Montessori approach rigorous enough to prepare for college? Or they think: life isn’t about fun all the time. Sometimes you have to do the boring and hard thing, so it’s okay if school is boring and hard, too.

At Prisma, we feel differently. We think if your child isn’t deeply engaged and interested in school, they’ll go through the motions, ultimately not learning much. Kids who love school are more likely to love learning. And people who love learning will be the ones who are able to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

Prisma builds love of learning in kids through 1) our “hard fun” curriculum, 2) expert teachers called ‘learning coaches’ who mentor each learner, and 3) a close-knit, uplifting peer community.

Because we know we’re doing something radically different, we’re obsessive about testing our results. In a recent survey, 96% of parents said their child was happier at Prisma than their last school or homeschool experience. Even better? 95% of learners said our curriculum was fun.

On the learning itself, a recent audit of our curriculum by renowned project-based learning experts highlighted the rigor of Prisma’s academics. “It is one of the best PBL curricula I have seen!” said Blair Lee of SEA Homeschooling. “The integration of subjects is extremely well done. The frontloading of material for students is thorough and thoughtful, with an attention to detail that I found impressive. Above all, this curricula is FUN! It isn’t often that the entire body of lessons is both of high educational value and enjoyable to do.”

Learn more about Prisma’s accreditation by Cognia

More Online Learning Programs and Montessori Guides

Montessori Curriculum for Homeschool

Project-Based Online School: How It Works

Community Over Zoom? Our Secrets to Building Bonds in a Virtual School

Online Homeschool Programs

Online Elementary Schools

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