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Montessori vs Traditional Schooling: What’s the Difference?

As a parent, you want the best for your child, especially when it comes to their education. While it’s easy to assume that all classrooms and learning environments are the same, there are distinct differences between Montessori vs traditional education.

A Montessori school is a school that teaches using the Montessori method. This method was founded by Maria Montessori and focuses on the whole child versus basing success and growth on academics or standardized testing.

Keep reading to learn the differences between Montessori vs public school so that you can choose the right learning environment for your child.

The diffrernce between Montessori and traditional education

Child-Centered Classrooms

The Montessori philosophy is centered around the idea that play allows children to learn about the world around them. Each activity is carefully designed to ensure that children use their experiences and discoveries to learn new concepts and ideas.

This is applied to simple and complex tasks, from learning how to count, the alphabet, and learning how to serve a meal to others.

Traditional classrooms use teacher-centered lessons and activities. These classrooms are marked by:

  • A rigid curriculum
  • Large student-teacher ratios (ie. 1:25)
  • Teaching based on the teacher’s pace

In a traditional setting, students aren’t encouraged to learn at their own pace, and there’s no emphasis on the fun of learning new things.

Encourage Curiosity

Montessori programs encourage freedom and curiosity to explore and learn. Because the philosophy recognizes that children don’t all learn the same way, lessons are tailored to each child’s needs based on their academic abilities and developmental stage.

The traditional classroom also emphasizes primarily academic development versus social-emotional development and limits a child's ability to discover and embrace self-paced learning and problem-solving in a social context.

Active vs Passive Learning

In a Montessori classroom, all lessons are hands-on and active. Children can discover and learn for themselves so that they can better understand the world around them.

Traditional classrooms teach orated lessons that rarely involve active participation. Instead, the focus is on passive listening and learning and the ability to memorize the information that’s presented.

The Classroom Environment

A Montessori preschool classroom is designed to be warm and welcoming. However, unlike traditional preschool settings, you won’t see endless colors and bright lights.

Instead, the spaces are brightly lit but there isn’t an overabundance of overwhelming colors, which can be distracting for some. Instead, you will find learning materials that “pop” against a neutral backdrop.

With Montessori vs traditional preschool, there’s also a big difference in the way the classroom is designed.

The space is sectioned off into stations. Each station is stocked with child-friendly materials that support hands-on learning – this is the prepared environment.

Parents will also notice that everything is child-size, all the way down to the furniture. Chairs and tables are arranged in a way that allows for creativity and exploration, no matter the activity.

Activities are neatly arranged on shelves for children to interact with as they please. Everything in the room has a place and purpose.

In turn, children become invested in maintaining a clean, organized environment.

Multi-Age Classrooms

Traditional classrooms are very rigid when it comes to placing children in a classroom-based on their age. However, Montessori education believes that multi-age classrooms offer greater opportunities for growth and learning.

It’s thought that young children benefit from the wisdom and guidance of older children. When older children can teach younger ones, they better retain the information that they are teaching.

While this doesn’t mean that you’ll find a 4-year-old in the same space as a 12-year-old, expect a mixture of ages. Most Montessori schools have rooms that group children that are up to three years apart in age.

Outcomes of Montessori Schooling

Because there are such profound differences between Montessori vs regular school, the outcomes are extremely different.

In the traditional classroom setting, children learn to be passive learners and listeners. And often instead of learning at their own pace, they’re forced to memorize information in an effort to do well on a test.

The Montessori classroom embraces self-paced learning, creativity, and self-discovery. Children who learn in this environment benefit cognitively and socially.

Research has even found that Montessori methods offer elevated outcomes in many aspects, including:

Montessori schooling appeals to a child's natural want to learn. Children grow to love learning new things.

Instead of learning because it's mandatory, Montessori children learn because it’s fun and exciting.

In turn, children have a sense of pride and confidence in their accomplishments. This is very different from the traditional classroom, where children learn self-esteem through validation from their teachers and peers.

Montessori vs traditional: final thoughts

Children who begin their academic career in a Montessori classroom are responsible, engaged, and intelligent. They have a zest for learning and discovering new things, which positions them for academic and personal success throughout their lives.

If you believe Montessori schooling is best for your child, find a school in your local area and watch your child blossom!

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