Frequently Asked Questions

What is Montessori education?

Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to eighteen years old. Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. Guided by her discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which children could freely choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities.

Children in Montessori classes learn at their own pace and according to their own choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. This self-learning method gives the child ownership of the learning process.  Learning is an exciting process of discovery, building a high degree of self-confidence, concentration, motivation, self-discipline, self-reliance, self-mastery, love of learning, and independence.  In addition, the child develops social skills and an overall joyful disposition.

What is Classical Education?

Classical Education emphasizes the pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. It is aligned with child development and broken into three main stages, Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, called the Trivium. Younger students have minds ready to absorb information. At Good Shepherd School, we do this through a “living books” approach, where literature and history are read and experienced. For example, in our 1st-3rd grade American History cycle, students might read and discuss Colonial America, then dip their own candles, card raw wool, and learn to identify native species, much like the first settlers did. In the same way that grammar forms the foundation of language, the Grammar Stage of classical education sets the stage for more analytical thought in the Logic Stage.

I am considering your program. Why would I send my three year old to school?

Good Shepherd School’s classroom is filled with simple yet beautiful materials scientifically developed by Maria Montessori. Dr. Montessori observed that during the early years, a child’s mind is most “absorbent” and easily stores information.  She saw that when the young child is given the order and structure of objects, letters, and numbers, the child can effortlessly absorb the information, building the foundation for a love of learning.

Dr. Montessori’s method is not only intended for intellectual gain but an education for life.  Children develop joy, independence, critical thinking, self-discipline, concentration, a love of order, obedience, and a sense of wonder. Primary instruction includes presentations in math, language, sensorial skills, and practical life.

Dr. Montessori used the term “normalization,” referring to a calm, focused, child absorbed in his or her work.  Young children who have a consistent, well-prepared environment (like a Montessori classroom) reach “normalization” faster and with less difficulty.  A three year old in a Montessori environment, five days a week, will respond to the intellectual challenges of focused learning more quickly and more easily than would a child of three who attends class for just three days or not at all.

How do I know if my preschool-aged child would do best in a half day or a full day program?

Children who begin as three year olds start out at half days.  Older children who enter the classroom are transitioned to full day when it is appropriate.  The best time to transition to full days depends on the individual child and specifics are worked out between the parents and the school.

My child will be entering Kindergarten. Which program is right for them?

That depends. Kindergarten children are placed in our Montessori Primary program. The Kindergarten year is the culmination of a child’s journey in the Primary environment. They will work on letter sounds, phonograms, reading and writing, mathematic operations, geography, and more. There is a significant adjustment period for new Montessori students and for this reason we limit the number of new Kindergarteners we can accomodate.

There is very limited placement for Kindergarten students who are unfamiliar with Montessori. If you enroll your preschooler at age 3 or 4, they are guaranteed Kindergarten placement. If we are unable to place your Kindergarten student, we encourage you to apply again for first grade, where we have significantly more space for new students.

How is the Classical Elementary program structured?

Following the successful model of our Montessori primary program, our Classical education program provides the benefits of multi-grade classrooms. Class sizes are kept very small in order for the teacher to work with small groups of students at their own level. Younger children aspire to learn the work that they observe the older children doing. Older children take ownership of the classroom, a rare experience for middle and youngest children in a family setting.

Are you a Catholic school?

Good Shepherd School is rooted in the Catholic tradition. Our Board of Directors, administration, and faculty are committed to a faithful, authentic, and orthodox transmission of the Catholic Faith, in full unity with the magisterium of the Church. Good Shepherd School sees the life of liturgy, sacraments, and prayer as integral to cultivating sanctity in the ordinary, everyday circumstances of life. We are the only Montessori and Classical school in Loudoun County, committed to the Catholic Faith.

Why include an Atrium?

Our school is committed to providing Catholic Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to our students. An Atrium is a prepared space to address the spiritual needs of the children.  In the Atrium, each child comes to Christ in his or her own way, through activity and hands-on learning that engages the five senses.  Dr. Montessori observed that many of the activities the children engage in while in the classroom reach their pinnacle of expression within the Atrium.

Does Good Shepherd School fulfill requirements for Catholic religious education and sacramental preparation?

Our program meets the requirements for Catholic religious education as approved by St Francis de Sales parish and St. John’s Parish.

 Where is GSS located?

The school is housed in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Purcellville, Virginia.

What is tuition?

2019-2020 tuition is listed on our “Tuition and Financial Aid” page, along with important dates and discounts.  A number of financing plans are available.

We keep tuition competitively low, while dedicating our resources to providing the very best academic experience possible, with a 1:9 teacher to student ratio.

Is there financial aid or a discount for additional children?

We are very happy to be able to provide financial aid to roughly 50% of our families. We recognize that choosing private education is costly, especially when you have multiple children!  The Board is as generous as possible when awarding aid.

Each family budget is unique. We do not offer stock discounts for multiple children. Instead, the discount comes in the form of aid, and multiple children are absolutely taken into account. We believe this is the best way to tailor your financial aid award to your individual family situation.

How are tuition costs determined?

Good Shepherd School is a 501(c)3 non-profit. Tuition covers costs associated with hiring teachers and assistants, facilities, materials expenses, and administrative expenses.  We have worked to minimize expenses and keep tuition levels highly competitive with tuition at local schools. The school is not a money making venture. To keep tuition costs affordable, families are asked to volunteer time to help teachers and administration.

What are the hours?

Classes begin after morning drop off from 8:15-8:30am. Half day Primary students leave at 11:30am. The school day ends at 3:00pm.

Do you offer after-school care?

We do not.

Are Montessori children successful later in life?

Research studies show that Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.  There have been numerous recent articles in the press referring to major company founders attributing their success to Montessori education (e.g. Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google and Jeff Bezos of Amazon).
Some example articles are at:

Good Shepherd School admits students of any race, color, national origin, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school.   It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, or athletic and other school-administered programs.