Montessori vs Regular School?

Updated on April 19, 2013
C.C. asks from Fort Worth, TX
8 answers

Hope I don't sound dumb, but I'm just curious. What exactly is a Montessori school? How does it differ from a typical public school? Thanks!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I read a fantastic book. I believe it was called "How to Raise a brighter Child". It was based off of Dr. Momtessori's teaching style. Read it and you will have a firm understanding of what Montessori is and is not. Frankly, it is a lot of common sense and you have probably already done many of things intuitively. Still a great book though.

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answers from Green Bay on

Just to add to things others have already said, in order to REALLY be a Montessori school, the center/school AND staff need to be specifically trained and certified in the Montessori curriculum. There are MANY schools out there who advertise that they are Montessori, and they might try to follow the ideas of Montessori, but not being trained in it or certified specifically in the practices of the Montessori curriculum probably could lead to the unfavorable outcomes that Gamma G mentions.

All education curricula are not for everyone. Just like public school is not for everyone. There is a lot of information about the Montessori curriculum/theoryon the internet - google it to learn more.

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answers from New York on

My kids went to Montessori school for pre-school. Their learning style is based on the idea that children all learn differently. There are brilliant children who do not learn well in an environment where they are required to sit still for 6-8 hours a day. They may learn much better by moving around, touching things, making things, etc. Other children learn very well sitting and watching / listening to another person in front of the room.

My son is like the first kind of child described above - he's a kinesthetic learner. He struggled so much learning the alphabet, the sounds each letter made, and sight words. But if we practiced words while we threw a ball back and forth, or did flashcards for sight words while he jumped up and down he figured it out. If the lesson was about three dimensional shapes and he could hold the wooden shape (cone, cube, pyramid, etc.) he remembered it forever.

Montessori is good for the kinesthetic learner. That child will probably learn more in a Montesorri environment and will like school more. BUT - if he/she ever has to go back to a traditional classroom enviroment it will be a really tough transition. Montessor also allows children to move ahead or stay on a topic based on their learning speed. If a 5 year old can understand and is interested in learning multiplication he can sit at the table with the 7 yr olds during those lessons. If a 7 yr old is struggling with reading skills he can sit at the table with the 6 yr olds who are learning it.

Overall I think the Montessori method is a better method for about 20-30% of kids who are being underserved in traditional public (& many private) school arrangements based on their style of learning. However, the traditional classroom set up works wonderfully for most kids. (My daughter is a good classroom learner - although Montessori wouldn't have hurt her - now in 11th grade she does her school online since she struggles with the social pressures in a large suburban high school - but I'd never have my son school that way)

Good luck evaluating what's best for your child. There's no absolute answer for all kids - and each kid is different.

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answers from Dallas on

Montessori by Definition
"Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 30,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to eighteen years old.
Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Although a range of practices exists under the name
"Montessori", the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:
-Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common.
-Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
-Uninterrupted blocks of work time
-A Constructivist or "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
-Specialized educational materials developed by Maria Montessori and her collaborators
Montessori education is fundamentally a model of human development, and an educational approach based on that model. The model has two basic elements. First, children and developing adults engage in psychological self-construction by means of interaction with their environments. Second, children, especially under the age of six, have an innate path of psychological development.
Based on her observations, Maria Montessori believed that children at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model would act spontaneously for optimal development."

That being said, the program is clearly not meant for everyone.
We put my daughter in a Montessori half day program when she was two and she truly thrived in the environment. She was naturally curious, and always wanting to know the how and why things are the way they are.
However now, at four years old, we have transfered her to a traditional classroom in preparation for Kindergarten.
Gamma G, is correct, in that the Montessori structure does not cross over well once your child is put in a more controlled educational environment.
I do feel that it is the responsibility of the parent, not the teacher, to determine their child's readiness for a non-montessori program and to move forward accordingly.
My daughter is very independent, social, vocal, inquisitive, and strong willed. Montessori helped her develop and grow into herself, where as a traditional program may have been to stringent during those early stages of development.
Now that she has a better grasp on how the world around her works and why, learning that there are rules to follow within that world, was the next natural step regarding her education.
It's really hard to say how any child will react to anything, unless you put them in the situation.
If you are interested in the program, schedule a meeting with a school and bring all your questions and concerns to the table.
Try it out, and if it's not for you, no harm no foul.
Chalk it up as another lessoned learned for you and your child.

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answers from Orlando on

My kids go to a Montessori school. If you are considering one, make sure it is truly Montessori. Anyone can use the name. Check their affiliations and ask about teacher certification/training. Visit the school and observe a class in session. There's plenty of information easily found online. Any Montessori school will also give you an abundance of materials explaining the philosophy when you visit.

I do not agree with Gamma G's response. My kids' classrooms are super quiet. All the kids work independently and together and move slowly and deliberately around the room as needed. Students' work spaces and concentration are allowed to continue as long as they will focus on the task at hand, and all students are expected to respect each other's learning process and work space. My kids have NO problem sitting quietly, listening and learning. They DO learn by doing and manipulating objects, but it is confined to a small personal work space. A Montessori classroom is very quiet, organized, focused, and collaborative. It is not a free for all with kids hopping from one activity to the next. Yes, students can choose their own activities, but their choices are limited and they must complete activities within strict guidelines. There is a lot of structure.

Montessori isn't the right choice for everyone, but my kids will be in a Montessori classroom for as long as possible.

I should also add that my kids's school is accredited by several national organizations, so they follow strict educational guidelines, standards, and evaluations.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I love Gamma G's response - pick public school if you want your kid to sit down, listen and learn. My son went to Montessori through kindergarten. I LOVED the learning style - he has a VASTLY deeper understanding of mathematics than kids get in most public schools. He can SEE that when you square a number, you get a square and when you cube a number you get a three dimensional cube. And that was kindergarten. He was multiplying in K while his current first grade class mates (and we are a top ranked school system) are figuring out addition of numbers less than 10. Unfortunately our Montessori only went through K and a 25 minute drive every morning was not an option for us.

I would have no hesitation about starting in a Montessori program and changing if that doesn't work for your child or your child ages out. My son has had no problems whatsoever going to public school and he is a much more self motivated learner than I think he would have been. The goal of school is NOT to get them to sit down, sit still and listen to the teacher. The goal of education is to develop life long learners and a life long LOVE of learning.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd do public school because once your child has to conform to a regular classroom they will struggle. It's been my experience that Montessori does not teach the kids to sit down, be quiet, and do the work. It's more about learning by doing and touching. Playing and experimenting with stuff in the room.

It's nothing like regular school so when they eventually go to regular school, even private or public, they'll be used to being up and moving around, not sitting down and doing work like a regular classroom.

When I worked in Montessori schools/child care center for kids from 6 weeks to 12 years of age, our school kids were the most rowdy and uncontrollable kids for at least 2 hours after they got to their regular schools. The teachers felt that this was because when the kids came in they went and got out toys, played games, played ping pong, etc...where other centers had the kids sitting down doing quiet stuff so they'd be settled down and ready to participate in school when they arrived.

Our kids brought home notes from their teachers about this issue on nearly a daily basis. So I know it was an issue with several different schools, age groups, and different teachers. So based on "my own experience" working in a Montessori child care center with the school aged kids, I found the program to wind them up and spiral their behaviors off the chart.

So I would recommend public school if you want them to sit down, listen, and learn, Montessori if playing and hands on learning that way is your goal.

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answers from Portland on


Montessori Schools are founded on the philosophy of Maria Montessori, an Italian philosopher and early childhood educator. Montessori Schools (true Montessori, some use the name but are 'inspired by' instead of following the philosophy to the letter) are characterized by the following:

Freedom within limits (environment and daily routines are highly structured and thoughtful to encourage learning)
A carefully prepared environment which guarantees exposure to materials and experiences. (The props/tools children are given helps to prepare them, incrementally, for further learning, therefore foundations like dimensional, tangible representations of numbers, letters, shapes are all offered so as to augment better understanding of these concepts when presented in two-dimensional formats.)

Montessori is heavily steeped in experiential, constructivist theory of learning (very hands-on). *Active* learning. It is difficult to compare the two (Montessori method vs public instruction) because there is no standard instruction style in public school-- it really varies from teacher to teacher and school to school. Some are more experiential/move around the classroom and some are more "sit here, listen and do as I say". I used many Montessori philosophies in the preschool I had, including teaching basic biological nomenclature through puzzles, offering tangible objects to explore and allowing a well-chosen variety of activities at specific times throughout the day. Montessori also stresses what we call 'scaffolding', wherein concepts are presented first by the instructor, and then the child may explore the props within clearly guided limits.

Some families find this sense of structure too limiting for their child; others find it very peaceful and helpful. Do your research on Montessori lower elementary (6-9) and upper elementary (9-12) and if you are considering a program, do ask questions regarding how the instructor assess mastery of knowledge. The reason I suggest this is because there has been the case that some constructivist schools do not have clear evaluation methods for academic standards and end up passing children into high school who haven't mastered the basics. Not all schools are as loosey-goosey, but some are.

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