Montessori Preschools Vs. Traditional Preschools

Updated on December 30, 2009
S.D. asks from Amherst, NH
8 answers

Hi ladies! I am in the process of selecting a preschool for my daughter for next fall. I've seen a bunch in my area and they all seem to be great programs. One of the schools I'm considering is a Montessori school and I'd really like to hear from kindergarten and grade school teachers as well as parents of Montessori children as to how those children did once they moved into a more traditional education setting. Also, what kinds of things should a preschool do to prepare a child for kindergarten?

Thanks in advance!

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answers from Burlington on

Hi, I lived above a woman who sent her son to Montessori for all 12 years and he went on to MIT. She had some regrets because she felt like his imagination was not supported in the Montessori system and she wished she had chosen the Waldorf preschool and grade school in her area.

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answers from Boston on

I taught in a montessori preschool program for years before having my own children and I think you have many things to consider. First, l love montessori but strongly believe that it is not for every child OR every parent. Second, not all Montessori is created equal and you must do your homework before selecting a montessori school. Maria Montessori never had a copyright on her name and as a result anybody could open a school and call it montessori. There are several types of Montessori schools (AMS,AMI,NCME, etc...) each is a different type of accreditation and has different standards that they hold themselves to. This is a very important piece of finding a montessori school and each of these schools will run very differently. One is not necessarily better than another but they are very different and you would need to decide what you are really looking for from a school.
Third, Montessori is (or should be if you have a good teacher) a very peaceful environment and despite what some people think it is not all about teaching/pushing academics on the children but rather developing independence, confidence, self-respect, and respect for the community or peers. Some parents choose Montessori because they want their children to have an academic advantage, while this may happen it is the WRONG reason to choose montessori. I highly recommend reading a book called Montessori - A modern approach by Paula Polk-Lillard if you are thinking about choosing Montessori. This is a quick read and sort of like the montessori "cliff notes" but it will give you a better sense of what you are "in for" and if this is a right choice for you.
I would be glad to answer any other questions you might have if you send me a private message.

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answers from Boston on

Hi S.,

I found Kelli D's comments to be fascinating. I think the emphasis on academics in preschool is totally unnecessary, whether it is a Montessori or other academically-oriented preschool. What is the point of having a child memorize a lot of facts? They might be able to name the continents, but they don't know what that means! They have no sense of the globe, the size of the world, north/south, or anything else! So it is really useless information designed, in my opinion, to make parents think the preschool is "better" and worth the money, or to push kids far beyond their developmental needs. After all, what is the hurry in pushing them? Kids are over-programmed, over-scheduled, and pulled away from creativity and "down time".

A good preschool will teach your kids colors and numbers, maybe up to 20. They'll learn to observe the world around them - is it a cloudy day? Windy? Sunny? Snowy? More importantly, they will learn to separate well from Mom & Dad, to work in a group, to sit in Circle Time, to work/play at different stations, to share, and to negotiate their own space without hitting or biting or yelling! They'll learn to write their names and to recognize their name on a coat hook or cubby. They'll learn to line up at the first sound of the fire alarm, and to stay with the group when they exit. Those are key skills in kindergarten. If they can function in a preschool class of 12, then they have a good shot socially of blending in with a class of 24. These were the emphases in my child's preschool, and he did great in kindergarten. I am friendly now, years later, with his kindergarten teacher, and she still remembers him because he adapted so well and enjoyed the love of learning anything she put in front of the class.

If a child has a particular interest, it's great if the preschool allows him to pursue it during "choice time" - for example, my son was fascinated by dinosaurs and knew the names of a zillion of them. He got a lot of this from going to museums with us or watching shows on dinosaurs. When they studied them in kindergarten, he knew a lot more names than the other kids, and even helped his teacher with the pronunciation of "coelephysis" (which I can't even spell!) - but it was his INTEREST and not our desire to push him into learning facts. It didn't make him smarter than the other kids, and it didn't lessen his interest in school. Every kid has an area of "expertise" but it should be because they WANT it, not because a preschool forced everyone to learn the same things by rote.

It's much more important that children be able to master different skills (fine motor, gross motor, color/shape differentiation) and experience textures and the joy of exploration/discovery. They don't need to learn facts like continents or whatever. The reason this information is "not reinforced" as mentioned in the earlier post is: IT'S NOT NECESSARY OR INDICATIVE OF ANY TYPE OF INTELLIGENCE! The public schools don't care, because it's not important or relevant developmentally in the early grades. We don't really need to push our 3 and 4 year olds so that they are guaranteed to get into Harvard! In fact, even Harvard doesn't want fact-heavy freshmen who can't adjust to living independently and getting along with a wide range of people. THAT'S why my son's kindergarten teacher remembers him and enjoyed him.

So, good luck with your search. I would look more into stability/continuity in the staff, a developmental approach, and a warm & stimulating environment, and skip the academics for 3 year olds!

Enjoy this time with your little ones!

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answers from Hartford on

Hi S.,
My husband and I are huge Montessori supporters! Our son has been at Litchfield Montessori for almost 6 years and we are in love with the school and the Montessori philosophy. They are taught patience, kindness and how to make good decisions. I have heard many, many positive transitions from Montessori into public and/or other private schools. And a great deal of Montessori children far exceed traditionally taught kids academically as well. Seeing our future leaders taught to respect each other as well as our environment is priceless in todays quick-fix, video game society.
Please contact me with any other questions or concerns about Montessori if you'd like!
E. K. :-)



answers from Hartford on

Hi S., I know I'm a bit late here. But here are my two cents: I have a Stepson who attended a regular Preschool & then Private/Catholic school since Kindergarden. Today he is in 5th grade & struggles so much with just some basic skills & enthusiasm towards school.
I also have a 3yo son who attends Montessori school & I have never seen such progress in a child in 3 short months. He speaks English (he only spoke spanish till he entered the classroom), does chores around the house, plays, sings & loves school!!! His teacher could not say enough about him when we met 2wks ago!
I really think a good Montessori education is priceless, children develop in such different ways, far more independent & caring than in the commonly known mainstream preschool. However, Montessori is not for every child, find out about the type of education & see if your child fits the description. Good Luck!




answers from Boston on

One of my daughters went to a Montessori preschool and my other went to a traditional preschool. My daughter who went to Montessori is now in 4th grade and when entering public kindergarten she knew how to count in Spanish (and many other Spanish words), knew all the continents, knew how to count to 1000 and add numbers, etc. . .but since they don't reinforce any of that right away in public school she forgot it all by the end of kindergarten and has had to relearn it along with her peers. They just now, this year learned the continents and I tried to get her to remember what she knew in preschool and she had no idea what I was talking about.

My other daughter (traditional preschool) is now in 1st grade and didn't know any of that stuff when she started public school and it has been fun to watch her learn it for the first time right along with everyone else. She has done just fine academically.

Socially, Montessori is such a calm, quiet, respectful environment that it was a perfect setting for my sensitive child. Seems like all her Montessori friends were equally sensitive and this is why they all have had some difficulty socially in the public school setting. The general public school population (in our school anyway) is louder, rougher and less respectful than the Montessori kids (I'm generalizing, I'm sorry) and many of my daughter's friends really struggled in first and second grade with getting used to such a loud, active environment. (My daughter was sensitive before going to Montessori - one reason why I chose that setting and I think that's the case for other parents as well because it seems a better fit). I don't know if I would change her preschool experience because it was so nurturing and confidence building for her, but at the same time it was A LOT of money for a school that gave her information she was just going to forget and not any exposure to what the real school setting is like. You might have Montessori advocates who argue with me (their point is that the kids minds are sponges at that age and you can teach them anything and everything. . .but my point is that if it isn't reinforced they will lose it. . .so are you going to keep them in Montessori throughout their schooling? Our Montessori went up to 6th grade and I felt this pressure to have my daughter continue or else it wouldn't be worth what we invested in preschool and they were right!). So if you have the money and can stick with Montessori, I would say it is an excellent learning environment that teaches respect and academics. But if you are switching to public school starting in kindergarten then it might not be worth the investment.

After reading one of the other responses, I just wanted to add that Montessori doesn't do any rote memorization. The continents are learned during their birthday celebrations. The child whose birthday it is holds the globe in their handa and carries it around the circle (sun) the same amount of times as they are old (4 times around the circle if they are 4 years old) while they are singing the continents song (my memory of the ceremony might be off, but it's something like that). Also the learning is done in a very sensory type approach. . .lots of experiencing, touching and feeling to learn and it's mostly self-directed. They don't force the kids to do math, they think that they will engage in those activities when they are ready. They are taught to pour water from heavy glass pitchers into glass cups for their own snack, they are taught independence and self-sufficiency. Again, it was great learning environment, but I'm just not sure it translated well to our kindergarten experience.



answers from Springfield on

My sister has four children and her last one did a year of Montessori before heading off to kindergarten. She told me that this child was far better prepared for kindergarten than her first three who all had different pre-school experiences in two different states. She mentioned things like enhanced eagerness to learn and explore, better manners and ease in social situations due to self-confidence. This one is not at all shy or quiet, though, so who can say what the results of a 'regular' pre-school experience would have brought?
We started our 3 and a half year-old in a Montessori Little Children's House this September and couldn't be more thrilled. There are nine in his class with two teachers. He goes 3 days a week, for 3 hours, which is exactly what we were looking for to transition him from being with Mom all day towards a 5 day-a-week school year of the future. Not all Montessori's have the three day option, the other one in our driving range didn't offer it.
He was a little sad the second morning, but since then it's been smooth sailing. We've yet to experience resistance to heading off to school - we say "let's get your coat on and go to Montessori" and he hurries for the door. It's beautiful! Each day when I pick him up one of the teachers gives me some feedback on his day. We love the emphasis on courtesy and grace, how they handle sharing, foster independence, original thought and activity and how they encourage the students to 'choose and do' (pick a work you're interested in, do it until you're done then return it to the shelve for another to use). We also appreciate the toilet-training support - eeeek!
We're not really focused on WHAT he's learning, he already knew his colors, letters and could count to fiftyish, we don't care too much about acquisition of random facts at this time. He's seems to be learning to love learning, which was our goal. This foundation is what we hope will last. I agree with another poster that Montessori is a calm, peaceful environment. We plan to keep him there next year, and then most likely will send him off to public school for kindergarten - it is pretty expensive! We did worry about the transition to a traditional school environment, but are counting on the instilled good manners to help carry him through the differences, and we believe that right now it's totally worth the cost.


answers from Hartford on

I am a pre-school/early childhood major and I believe it depends on the program and the teacher. Do your research on both!

Good luck!

M.- SAHM and WAHM of three!
(Consider going natural-we expose our children to toxic chemicals daily!!!)

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