Families that are new to Montessori education often ask: “What makes Montessori different from play based early learning services?” The goal of both Montessori and traditional preschools is the same: to provide learning experiences for the child. The biggest difference lies in the kind of learning experiences each school provides and the methods they use to deliver these learning experiences. The top ten biggest difference include:
1. Prepared Learning Environment
The Montessori classroom is prepared in advance, based on observations of the student’s individual needs. The classroom incorporates child-centred lessons and activities, as opposed to teacher-centres lessons or activities.
2. Active vs. Passive
Lessons in the Montessori classroom are hands on, encourage active learning experiences, and engage multiple senses. Traditional preschools encourage learning through passive learning experiences, such as listening, memorising, and taking tests.
3. Montessori Work Cycle
The three-hour work cycle encourages children to become self-motivated learners with strong problem solving and critical thinking skills. In the Montessori classroom, children work on lessons for as long as they are interested, and interruptions are avoided whenever possible. Time limitations are mandated by schedules in most traditional preschool classrooms.
4. Teachers’ Roles
Montessori teachers act as guides and consultants for students on a one-on-one basis to assist each child on their own unique development journey. Lessons are dictated by the students, and their unique needs and interests. Most traditional preschools deliver the same lessons, at the same pace, in the same order for all students.
5. Mixed Age Groups
In Montessori preschools, classrooms are flexible and determined by the child’s developmental range, i.e. 0 – 2, 2 – 3, 3 – 6. This allows children that are developmentally ahead, or behind, to learn and develop at their pace own. 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.
6. Adaptable Curriculum
The Montessori curriculum covers eight key developmental areas, including: practical life, sensorial, mathematics, language, culture, art and science. Each area of the Montessori curriculum, and the learning materials associated with each subject, are expandable based on the student’s needs and interests. In traditional preschools, the curriculum is predetermined without regard for each child’s individual needs.
7. Self-Made Self-Esteem
One of the basic principles of Montessori education is that a child’s self-esteem comes from an internal sense of pride in his or her own achievements. In traditional preschools, self-esteem is thought to come from external validation and praise.
8. Love of learning.
The aim of Montessori education is to nurture the natural talents and abilities of each unique child, and cultivate a life-love of learning as a positive foundation for future learning. In traditional preschools, children are encouraged to learn because it is necessary for school and later life.
9. Learning Materials
In a Montessori classroom, children are free to choose their learning activities from any area of the Montessori curriculum. Each material has its own set of outcomes, is multi-sensory, and is designed to be self-correcting. In this way, Montessori learning materials facilitate long-term learning experiences that encourage children to work independently, develop strong problem solving skills, and learn at their own pace. In traditional preschools, teachers make the learning materials available to the students when it is time for each lesson, and children are encouraged to learn through play.
10. School and Life Success
Montessori education is focused on the emotional, social, mental and physical development of the child to provide them with strong foundations for future learning. In this way, Montessori education aims to holistically prepare children, not only for school, but for life. In traditional preschools, education is largely focused on school readiness.