Maria Montessori started the movement which bears her name by tackling Rome's poorest, most disadvantaged children. Her original Casa de Bambini or Children's House was opened at the behest of the local authorities. As Dr. Montessori observed the children under her care, she developed the theories and philosphies which are the essence of Montessori to this day.
While Montessori has its roots in the slums, it is hugely popular in middle class communities throughout the world. Dr. Montessori never trademarked her name or the method which bears her name. As a result Montessori schools come in a wide variety of styles and approaches depending on the philosophic track which their directors have adopted. You will need to check very carefully to ensure that the school you are interested in actually adheres to Dr. Montessori's teachings and methods. You will have over 6,000 schools from which to choose.
You won't find a Reggio Emilia school per se. You will find Reggio Emilia inspired schools. These are schools which have made a point of adopting the ideas and philosophy which the Reggio Emilia movement has codified. Things like naturally lit classrooms and a collaborative approach to education with plenty of parental involvement are what appeal to many parents. On the negative side of the ledger is the reality that there are only about 50 Reggio Emilia inspired schools in the United States.
Waldorf education is the brainchild of the German philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Features such as your child having the same teacher for several grades during each stage of her schooling, the emphasis on developing the imagination and the eurythmics make a Waldorf education very special. The U.S. has over 200 schools covering almost every part of the
Progressive schools trace their origins to the early part of the 20th century when education reformers such as John Dewey. Progressive schools de-emphasize traditional testing and marking as part of their assessment. The emphasis is on allowing the child to thoroughly explore subjects, ideas and things which catch his interest. That concept may alarm some parents who worry about their children taking 5 Advanced Placement exams and getting into Harvard. But the truth is that colleges and universities these days look at much more than SAT and AP scores during the admissions process.
Mae Carden established her first school in New York City in 1934. She was astute enough to trademark her name and method. As a reult Carden schools follow her methods and ideas to the letter. She believed in educating the whole child. Carden students begin public speaking as early as kindergarten. Classes are multi-age and group children according to
skill levels. Carden schools are usually proprietary and are very popular in the western states.
Alternative schools cost about the same as any other kind of private school with the exception, of course, of the much more expensive special needs and therapeutic schools. Tuition varies widely depending on the programs offered.