One Size Doesn’t Fit All
A quick comparison between Montessori and the traditional methods can be viewed here: Montessori vs. Mainstream Education. This video is also an excellent representation of the difference between a (properly accredited) Montessori school and other methods, both traditional and non-traditional.
The Difference in Montessori vs. Traditional Preschool
The difference between Montessori and preschool curricula that do not follow the Montessori method becomes immediately clear when comparing the two classroom environments.
In traditional methods applied in schools and preschools, a teacher imparts a topic-specific (or theme) concepts to a group – everyone learns the same thing at the same time. Upon the great influence of Montessori into our communities, some traditional preschools have started to adopt some Montessori-like concepts, but without the required training, thorough understanding and complete application of the methodology, which is what ultimately yields long-term development.
On the other hand, the Montessori Method starts by stipulating that “one size doesn’t fit all”. Each child is a unique individual and each child learns differently. Thus, Montessori tailors its approach to the unique needs of each child, and to the specific needs of each child’s established developmental stage.
In an AMI accredited Montessori school, learning is the result of both, the child’s own exploration and the teacher’s guidance. The Montessori Classroom has specialized materials which progress in complexity as the child progresses. Once a lesson is imparted, the child is given independence to explore the materials from various perspectives. It is through the handling of these materials that the child understands the core functions of each lesson, and that the abstract concepts are eventually revealed. The materials are designed for self-education, self-correction and endless creativity.
Every parent wants their child to be happy and successful. Although, arguably, happiness is a relative concept, the question of how a parent evaluates their child’s happiness is an interesting one to explore. Most parents default to asking their children “are you happy?” It goes without saying that happiness for a child rests primarily on immediate reward.
Montessori is about developing the joy for learning and discovery. If it is true that comprehensive Montessori programs such as those offered at Sapientia Montessori School and Cedar Park Montessori School have all (and far more of) the comforts, infrastructure, play-areas and joys of traditional schools, the true Montessori school is not a theme-park. That is, you will not find highly plastered or over-charged walls, cartoon figures, super-heroes, or any over-stimulating visuals or artificial tools. Whereas temporarily enjoyable by children, they soon become a major distraction to the learning process and detract from achieving a peaceful and balanced environment, so crucial to the overall development of the child.
Even more unfortunate however, is the lack of general awareness that a child’s highest period of concept-absorption is between the ages of 0 and 5 (the first stage of development), particularly the first three years. Indeed, the core foundation of what will become the child’s “world lens” is largely established during this initial and brief period of his/her life. Then, how do we want our children to spend those first years, in short-lived and fragile “fun” or investing in meaningful long-lasting joy, working towards true happiness?
The aim of Montessori is to have a balanced and peaceful environment, so that the child can flourish now and for the rest of his/her life. In the true Montessori school, the child develops the joy of learning, knowledge and understanding. In turn, happiness results from the independence, skills and creativity that the child develops, the intricate social interactions with his/her peers, and the freedom to explore and discover everything around him/her.
Therefore, parents must make a difficult choice. What is the kind of “happiness” that we seek for our children: Theme-park or life-packed?
For additional information about the benefits of Montessori, please visit our section “Montessori vs. Traditional Preschools”. The following guide about identifying the proper Montessori school for your family is worthwhile reading: Finding and Authentic Montessori School
- AMI - Association Montessori Internationale
- AMI-USA - Association Montessori International
- Why AMI-Montessori?
- Find an Authentic Montessori School
- Montessori Environments and AMI Classroom Standards
- AMI-USA Resources & Publications
Explaining Montessori vs. Traditional Education
If you find yourself in the position of explaining the difference between preschool and Montessori to others evaluating Montessori education vs. traditional education, or to fellow parents who are considering Montessori education, know that is all comes down to student-focused and stage-appropriate education. That is, a Montessori school is not primarily focused on making your child skilled at passing standardized tests or memorizing a traditional curriculum, although the education he or she receives will prepare him or her to excel in traditional forms of academic achievement.
Montessori is instead focused on nurturing your child’s natural love of learning from an early age, before it is tainted by the demands and structure that stifle so many students and dampens their passion for learning.
Traditional Education Traps
One of the benefits of Montessori vs. traditional preschool is that the Montessori Method is designed to sidestep all the traps that can cause students to struggle academically as they move further along the educational ladder.
One of these traps is the aforementioned “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning. A traditional classroom requires its students to conform to the average learning speed. This means students who are able to grasp certain concepts faster are slowed-down by having to adhere to simpler lessons, while those who fall behind never catch up.
Since Montessori schools create abundant opportunities for individualized learning, students have more freedom to learn at their own pace, and are therefore much less likely to be bored or fall behind.
Another trap that one can avoid through a Montessori education vs. a traditional education is the lack of autonomy that students’ have. In Montessori schools, students are encouraged to pursue their interests, to follow their creativity wherever it may take them and to enlist the help of teachers and other students in order to achieve this goal. This instills in them a love of learning. Students in traditional schools on the other hand, tend to learn to please teachers with the “right” answers.
The Purpose of Preschool
It all comes down to one question: What is the purpose of preschool after all? Is it simply to provide day care? Is it just a place where children get together and play? If so, many choices are available. However, if to you preschool is an opportunity to prepare your child for the social and academic environment that will be part of the rest of his life, and authentic Montessori school is your best choice. A Montessori school that fosters child development from a very young age and develops a passion for learning is the best type of preschool you can choose for your child.