Looking for Information on Montessori Vs. "Regular" Preschool

Updated on September 02, 2010
K.U. asks from Detroit, MI
16 answers

Hi everyone - my daughter just turned 3 years old a few weeks ago. I have her enrolled to start 3-year-old preschool through our school district but there is also a Montessori school in the area that offers education for infants and toddlers all the way through age 12. I still want to keep her in the program she is signed up for now, because she will have the same teacher and friends that she had when we did a 2-year-old program last year - the teacher is wonderful and my daughter adores her. However, she does not teach 4-year-olds and I am starting to wonder what sort of advantage Montessori could offer my daughter.

Not bragging, but just for reference: My daughter learned the alphabet last year just after she turned 2. She knows both the big and small letters. She is starting to figure out what letter starts a word based on it's sound. She can count to 12 (to 10 in Spanish) and seems to understand what the numbers mean, i.e. 2 is more than 1, and 3 is more than 2. She knows all her colors and shapes. Some people have remarked that she might be gifted but I honestly don't know. She is very verbal, always curious, and very friendly and social - she enjoys playing with both kids and adults. I am wondering if, after this year, should I consider Montessori and what are some differences between Montessori and "regular" public school?

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answers from Norfolk on

The Montessori school where we lived in Northern Va was wonderful! My son started at 3 1/2 and stayed with them through Kindergarten which was the highest grade they did at that school. We stayed with them as long as we could.

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answers from Nashville on

Montessori is a wonderful method for children who are gifted or who have a true love of learning and will pursue that love, or who have problems in some areas of learning. My son was in Montessori when he was 5. The method will teach your child on their level and will find ways to teach them that go with the way your child learns - that part is great if your child learns differently than the average child or if your child is either above or below their learning curve.. Not every child learns to their highest potential with the rote method taught in our public school systems or will become bored as they cannot progress beyond the grade or whereever the other children are in the class. The Montessori method is fabulous in this event IF you have a teacher who works with your child and who will actually push your child a little. My experience was that they taught my son great, however, if he wanted to flit off and play something else, that was ok; if he chose to do something else rather than learn his alphabet, that was ok. My son was very bright and also seen as gifted, but he had trouble paying attention, so if he had the choice of fun or learning to read, he would choose to go have fun. Therefore, I felt he wasn't advancing as fast as he could or should have been without a more structured place of learning. The Montessori method was good in that it allowed him the freedom to pursue something else or some other activity, however, I felt after the year, that he simply wasn't getting enough persistent "persuasion" to actually learn ... there was too much freedom. It may not be that way with all the Montessori schools, but before I switched, I would find out exactly how much they push the children to complete tasks or go forward with their learning and just how much freedom to choose they are given. There are some good gifted programs in other schools now that help the advanced child move forward. Research and ask questions ... You'll be glad you did.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Montesori is not for every child. I am not Montessori certified but assisted in a Montesori based classroom taught by a certified Montessori teacher. Yes, the children are generally well behaved and appear to be happy. However, I went to place a child on my lap (3 yo) to help him write his letters and was abruptly stopped. Teachers have limited physical contact with Montessori children. I am a certified teacher with an early childhood endorsement and have taught preschool for some 10+ years. Physical contact is such as consoling and a quick hug is desireable to young children. It may be the only hug they get all day. Also, personally, I have known children who attended Montessori, but did not do well when initially transferred to public school, but are blossoming now in public school. I agree. Wherever your child is happy and comfortable is the place to be for him/her.


Montesori is not for every child. I am not Montessori certified but assisted in a Montesori based classroom taught by a certified Montessori teacher. Yes, the children are generally well behaved and appear to be happy. However, I went to place a child on my lap (3 yo) to help him write his letters and was abruptly stopped. Teachers have limited physical contact with Montessori children. I am a certified teacher with an early childhood endorsement and have taught preschool for some 10+ years. Physical contact is such as consoling and a quick hug is desireable to young children. It may be the only hug they get all day. Also, personally, I have known children who attended Montessori, but did not do well when initially transferred to public school, but are blossoming now in public school. I agree. Wherever your child is happy and comfortable is the place to be for him/her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

I have worked in both settings. Every single time I have worked in Montessori settings the children were unruly, wild, had NO structure, did whatever they wanted whether it was nap time, play time, story time, eating time, anything. The philosophy is that children do better without structure and learn better. I found that school age children in this setting take hours to calm down after leaving the center to go to school and are considered to be discipline problems at school. It seems they just can't calm down and it is directly related to the kids coming from the Montessori settings.

I always caution parents that if you want your kids to have rules at home and to learn to listen and follow directions then stay away from Montessori settings. If you want your kids to go to a center that allows your children to roam around freely doing whatever they want, all day, even fixing their own meals when they get hungry with minimal assistance, the Montessori may be for you. I was appalled at the last place to see a couple of chairs pulled up to a small ice cream store style table with bread and peanut butter on the table. That was what the kids fixed themselves for lunch or snack when they got hungry. No sitting down to eat a healthy meal, no family style dining, no manners, just grazing at will.

Montessori does seem to offer the more well to do person a bit more advantages due to their philosophy and building set ups, with dance rooms so some can pay for private dance lessons, fenced in areas with pet like donkeys or ducks for the kids to take care of, more money to spend on nicer play equipment, better play ground toys, better toys in the centers int eh classrooms. They just look better because they charge tons more than another center.

I say stay with the place you are already at. Your daughter just turned 3, she will not be with another class for another year and then will be eligible for public or private Pre-K. Which is just way better that a child care setting of any kind.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you can afford to give your child a self-directed education (as many good Montessori) schools do, then you should.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

WOW. Sounds like you've got a super child!

It might be wise to look at websites of Montessori in general,
and the particular local Montessori school.
And visit the Montessori school.
There are some differences, even in Montessori schools.

There are also differences among "regular" preschools.
So if you're happy with the one you're in, good.
It may be better than others in some ways, not in others.
Since your daughter loves her teacher, some time this year
when you are chatting with her, ask her opinion
and recommendations regarding next year's options.

I have a grandson, almost 3, who has
some of the same abilities and accomplishments.
Perhaps we could do a little matchmaking
when they're older. (hee hee hee)


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Here is my thing, it might be great now but what happes at 12yrs is your option public school then, after they had been trained montessori for so long, how do they adjust.

ask for tours at both places.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

True Montessori method is actually extremely structured and geared towards individual accomplishment, and involves a lot of one on one instruction. A majority of "Montessori" schools out there are just slapping the label on but not practicing the true method.

It sounds like you have a good relationship with your current school, and your daughter has built a trusting bond with the teacher. I would continue that.

But if you are interested in this "Montessori" school, I would first research the principles of Dr.Maria Montessori's philosophy and curriculum, interview the school on their practices and philosophies, and then compare the two.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

If she learned those things because SHE wanted to, then Montessori may just be the thing for her. Montessori is very child-motivated -- not necessarily child-led, as the teacher still leads the structure of the class, but the child is given a lot more independence in working on projects. Some kids will respond well to it, some will not. Also, some schools called Montessori or using Montessori in the title will adopt some of the Montessori philosophies, but are still pretty much mainstream classrooms. You may want to ask if the teachers are Montessori certified.



answers from Detroit on

Montessori is not necessarily for "giftedt" children, but for self-motivated children. It works well for children who are able to stay on-task without constant monitoring and for kids whose natural curiosity leads them to always take the next step. Because the "Montessori" name is not trademarked, any school can call themselves Montessori. Make sure you do your homework.



answers from Detroit on

Be wary of the label "Montessori". As someone else already said, anyone can call their school a Montessoti school.

That said, a true Montessori school will allow the children the freedom to pursue their interests, while at the same time encouraging them to try difficult tasks. If they are learning the alphabet and your child is interested in colors, they will work within that framework. ie. Can you show me which dinosaur begins with the letter T? Encouraging them to choose difficult tasks and praising them when they have attempted them is key - it helps them build that self confidence which in turn makes them want to try difficult tasks.

Practical life skills are also taught in a true Montessori. My daughters toddler class (18 months - 2.5 years) used tongs to transfer cooked spaghetti noddles from one bowl to another. They use ladles to transfer water, spoons to transfer rice or beans, etc. They also have fun with the senses - they fingerpainted with pudding - teaching both touch and taste, while encouraging sight and sound.

A sense of awareness of the world around you is also taught. My daughter at age 1.5 came home one day telling me she lives in North America, and was able to point it out on a map. Maybe she doesn't know exactly what that means, but she is well aware that there is something bigger than her own toddler-centric world.

Observe the class, it may or may not be a fit for your child. Based on your description of her, it seems she will benefit from a true Montessori!



answers from Saginaw on

I agree with a lot of the advice that has been given, especially Debbie - that the Montessori may not encourage your daughter to continue her awesome success so far. A LOT depends on the teachers, so go talk to them and even observe the classroom.

In my personal opinion, at that age girls would probably do better in Montessori than boys, because girls are more cooperative and compliant and want to learn things like letters and numbers. My son just turned 4, went to Montessori part time for a year when he was 2-3, and didn't get a whole lot out of it. Some nice manners, and a relatively calm, quiet environment which suited his personality. Other than that, they didn't really encourage him to play with any of the more educational toys, just let him play with trains or run around with the other boys. I know that teaches cooperation, etc.... but kids don't always know what's good for them. Anyway, he never really liked it there, and when the only teacher he really bonded with left, I switched him and he really blossomed.

So my two cents that I am adding in to the others' comments is, listen to your child's heart. See where your child is comfortable and happy. That is an important component of learning at this age - they will soak up all kinds of stuff in the right environment, regardless of a particular teaching "method".



answers from Detroit on

Our children attend Schoolhouse Montessori Academy in Canton (there is also one in Troy & I believe they are opening one in Farminton Hills...check out the website if you like) and we LOVE it. Our kids are 5 and almost 3. Our youngest is moving from the Toddler room into the Pre-School room next week. She has learned such structure and independance that will help in the upcoming years. Our oldest has been in the program since she was 2 1/2 and will begin Kindergarten there next week (ALREADY!!). They are regular kids on the outside, but the stuff they learn about and know about is amazing. My 5 year old has known all of the continents for at least a year. She started reading last year. She was doing multiplication and adding numbers with 4 places last year. At Kindergarten round Up, the Director informed us that based on the public school ciriculum (sp?...), Montessori Kindergarteners will be approx 6 months ahead of the public school kids if they have been in the pre school program.

Take a tour of the school you are considering and ask if they allow for an observation of the class in action. I'm telling you, to see these kids "working" is really amazing.

Now, having said all of this, the tuition is a LOT, but we are getting what we are paying for. I am not sure how long we will continue their education there, but right now, we do not plan on moving them.

Good luck!!!



answers from Honolulu on

Since you want to know about that Montessori school... you should ALSO go to the public school... and talk with them. And go to the Montessori school and talk with them too. BECAUSE each public school differs... and per state as well. They do NOT all have the same curriculum. Nor do all Montessori schools.

And yes, I have known kids that later had to switch to a 'regular' public school or private school... and transition from Montessori. It was not easy, for the child.
Either way, I think Montessori is nice for very young children... but as they get up in grade levels.. then what?

all the best,


answers from Erie on

Both of my older two kids transitioned well into public school after attending Montessori for 6+ years. The only beef I have is that they don't teach handwriting, but that varies from place to place. I will edit later and explain more.

ok, I'm editing now.
I often hear the opinion that Montessori is unstructured and lets the kids do what they want. This describes a fake Montessori school. You have to find a school with the AMA accreditation, one who will let you come in for an observation, one that uses the right terms for things. Do little research about Maria Montessori and her methods, VISIT the school you are are considering. That said, it's not for every child. I worked in my children's school for two years and I saw that, first hand.
A typical day begins with the directress/teacher meeting the kids at the door, children come in and sit at the circle after being allowed a few minutes to mingle. The teacher then welcomes the children, there are a few group activities, and the kids are informed of the schedule for the day. Then the circle breaks up for the morning session, each child has a responsibility in the classroom, like watering plants or making snack, and these things take place at appointed times. There is always an assistant to help guide the children. The teacher usually takes groups of children to teach a lesson to throughout the day, and then they are dismissed to do work related to the lesson. Children are allowed to work anywhere, even in the hallway, and their works spaces are sacred and usually denoted by a card with their name on the spot. They should be able to walk away from the spot without worrying about someone else touching their work. All of these things are taught in preschool, children are encouraged to work diligently and quietly, there is usually classical music playing in the background. The children create a work plan at the beginning of the day, and have things checked throughout the day by the teacher and the assistant. There is always recess, a morning snack, and lunch usually takes place in the classroom.

That should give you a general overview, but do an observation at the school/s you are looking at. Ask lots of questions. Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

I would read about the Montessori philosophies and see if you agree with them. Do your research.

I am a big fan of it. My son will be in his second year at a Montessori preschool this year. I will probably have him there a few days a week through Kindergarten. Beyond that, I feel I will either do a Montessori or home school.

A child can learn as much as they want to at a Montessori school, whereas in a traditional preschool the possibilities may be limited. It sounds like your girl is very self-motivated and interested in learning. So, Montessori may be a good fit.

She would also get a lot of opportunities to fine-tune her motor skills (both gross and fine) in a Montessori through practical life activities.

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