The Montessori Difference

What is the Montessori difference? Families that are new to Montessori often ask: “What makes Montessori different from other preschools?” The answer lies in the way learning experiences are delivered. The prepared classroom environment, Montessori materials, and Montessori teaching principles provides children with the support they need to thrive in the formative years of their early education. These solid foundations launch Montessori students into the future as capable and confident learners who will go on to achieve the only Montessori standard: “Excellence in anything you set your mind to.” The best way to learn more about the Montessori difference, is to book a tour! For more information about the key differences between Montessori and play-based child care services, see below.

Key Differences:

The key differences associated with Montessori education include:
Prepared learning environments
Montessori learning materials
Child-focused teaching
Active learning experiences
Adaptable Curriculum

Prepared Learning Environment

The first Montessori difference can observed in the structure of the Montessori classroom, which is a prepared learning environment. Within the Montessori classroom, the Montessori learning materials are displayed within their specific Curriculum area, including: Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language, and Culture. Each material is displayed in progression order, from easiest to hardest, and from left to right. This logical structure encourages children to organise their thinking, progress logically through the Montessori program, and absorb the outcome of the material at their own pace. The left to right orientation of the Montessori materials also assists children with preparation for reading and writing, and the way that the brain naturally processes information. By comparison, play-based child care services generally offer a classroom environment without a sense of order or structure, which does not provide the same style of harmonious learning environment.

Montessori Materials

The second Montessori difference can be observed when you look around the shelves of the classroom. Each Montessori classroom contains a full suite of authentic Montessori learning materials sourced from Neinhaus and Bruins, the leading providers of Montessori materials internationally. Montessori materials are sensory-based learning tools that are designed to isolate one skill or concept. The materials encourage hands-on learning, independent problem solving, and analytical thinking. Most unique about these hands-on learning tools is that each material is designed with a control of error. This allows children to work with the materials and discover the learning outcome through repetition and practice. Working with the Montessori materials teach children how to develop the skills of ‘Executive Function,’ such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, independence, and intrinsic motivation. By contrast, play-based child care services generally offer a range of activities that are predominantly play based toys, as opposed to educational learning materials.

Teachers’ Roles

A further Montessori difference is the role of the Teacher. In a Montessori preschool, the role of the Teacher is to provide students with learning experiences that are designed to animate their own “inner teacher.”  They will never say, “no you’re doing it wrong,” or compare one child’s progress to another. Instead they observe, guide, and respect each child’s own unique development journey. This structure encourages students to develop the skills of independence, self-regulation, impulse control, and critical thinking; ultimately leading to a harmonious classroom environment, and the optimal learning space for children. Montessori Teachers also create daily lesson plans for each individual child, and teach at a child level, as opposed to a class level. This structure allows each child to progress according to their developmental needs and interests. In comparison, most traditional preschools deliver the same weekly plan, at the same pace, in the same order for all students.

Active vs. Passive

In the fourth place, Montessori lessons are interactive learning experiences that engage children’s senses. Doctor Maria Montessori understood experiential education to be a crucial aspect of children’s development because of its link to how children come to understand their world. Children first learn through their hands. Incorporating both gross and fine motor skills in learning activities is crucial to a balanced approach to each childhood education that incorporates the social, physical, mental and emotional aspects of child development.Therefore, many Montessori materials encourage the development of these skills from a young age. By allowing children to experience learning through their senses, the Montessori materials teach children to become independent, self-motivated learners, with the skills to thrive. In contrast, traditional preschools generally encourage learning through passive learning experiences, such as listening and play-based activities.

Montessori Work Cycle

A further Montessori difference is the three-hour work cycle. The Montessori work cycle is a structured period of learning at the beginning of the school day that allows children to direct and manage their learning. During the work cycle, children are free to choose from a tremendous range of Montessori activities from all areas of the Montessori Curriculum, and develop key knowledge areas through repetition and practice. Each child is free to follow their interests, develop the skills of concentration and problem solving, and work at their own pace. By comparison, traditional preschools do not usually offer such an extensive block of time for children to direct their own learning, and develop their concentration on activities.

Mixed Age Groups

The sixth Montessori difference is mixed-age class groups. In Montessori, classrooms are flexible and determined by the child’s developmental range, as opposed to chronological birth year. This structure allows children to work at their own level, while socialising with children of diverse ages and developmental abilities. Mixed-age groupings encourage unique learning opportunities, including/l imitative learning, peer tutoring, and all round collaboration. Mixed-age classes also encourage students to develop a strong sense of community, as children stay in the same room for 2 – 3 years. In most traditional preschools, classes are defined by chronological age within a 12 month period, rather than a child’s stage of development.

Adaptable Curriculum

Further, the Montessori Curriculum covers five key developmental areas, including: Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language and Culture. Culture also includes the study of Geography, Science, Music and Art. Each Curriculum area contains a range of learning materials that progress in difficulty as children first master the basic, then intermediate, and advanced foundations of the Montessori Curriculum. The activities in each Curriculum area are designed to teach specific learning objectives, whilst also offering a range of learning extensions, to further re-inforce key concepts. In this way, the Montessori Curriculum is adaptable and expandable to meet each child’s unique developmental needs and interests. In traditional preschools, the Curriculum generally contains set learning objectives, that do not offer learning extensions to suit individual student needs.

Self-Made Self-Esteem

The eighth Montessori difference is self-made self-esteem. One of the basic principles of Montessori education is that a child’s self-esteem comes from a sense of pride, resulting from effort, as opposed to achievement. In Montessori, there are no gold-star rewards, uniform standards, or prescribed notions of what is considered “average” or “normal.” Each child is free to develop their own natural talents and abilities, to flourish as well-rounded individuals, and to love what is unique about themselves. In the Montessori classroom, children are given the opportunity to develop their independence, and achieve through their work with the Montessori materials. As the materials are self-correcting, children learn to master the activity through repetition, practice and sheer effort. These foundations are crucial to developing self-made self-esteem, where the reward for work is completing the activity, not external praise. In traditional preschools, self-esteem is reinforced through external praise based on achievement, as opposed to praising effort.

Love of learning

Further, the goal of Montessori education is to inspire a life-long love of learning. Doctor Maria Montessori believed that children were born with a natural desire to learn, as this allowed them to interpret and actively participate in their world. The aim of Montessori education is to nurture this passion, by providing children with the environment, materials and guidance they need to achieve their full potential. In Montessori, every child is perceived to be a natural born scientist, and the world is their laboratory. The role of Montessori educators is to provide students with the opportunities and support they need to explore and master the knowledge and skills that will pave the way for their future successes. As a result, Montessori education inspires the natural talents and abilities of each child, and prepares them to thrive throughout their educational careers.  In traditional preschools, children are encouraged to learn because it is necessary for school and employment, as opposed to soul fulfilling.

School and Life Success

Finally, Montessori views education as an aid and a preparation for life. It is focused on the complete development of the child’s emotional, social, cognitive and physical self. Each child is free to develop their own natural talents and abilities, to develop at their own pace, follow their interests, flourish as well-rounded individuals, and love what is unique about themselves. In this way, Montessori education aims to prepare children to become life-long learnings, that are not only ready for school, but for life. In traditional preschools, education is largely focused on school readiness, as opposed to real life skills.