Pre School Education Methodology: What Is Best Option?

Updated on January 23, 2011
M.T. asks from Sunnyvale, CA
13 answers

Looking pro's & cons in Montessori versus regular pre-K school. Aim is to get basics right more than academic throughput.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I would visit each school and sit in on some classes and talk with the teachers. I tend to go by my "feel" for the place as much as anything.

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answers from Boise on

Your best bet for basics is to do preschool at home. You can be far ahead of either of these two choices.

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answers from Detroit on

We have 2 girls (3 & 5) and both are in Montessori. We cannot say enough good things about the structure and way the children are educated. Our 5 year old is in Kindergarten and she is reading and writing sentences. She is practicing math of all types...4 place addition, single place subtraction and multiplication. Our youngest comes home talking about Asia and Africa. And she is learning her sounds along with writing letters...all in preperation for reading down the line. Mind you, they are totally normal kids...all they want to do is run and play after school, but we know they are getting such a great foundation for learning now.

Montessori takes a different approach to learning. Children select their "work" and they know not to disturb another's work space....teaching respect for people and their property. They do activities like Push Pin (using a tack and poking a piece of paper all the way out to make an object) and sewing buttons on burlap...this will help teach children to hold a pencil properly and write with a steady hand for neat penmanship.

Our 5 year old has a contract to complete Monday-Friday. Her contract consists of Math, Language, Geography, Science and Reading. This teaches her time management. She needs to complete given items in each category each day. If she finishes all 4 contracts, she gets "free choice" on Friday's. If she doesn't, she must complete any remaining work on Friday AND then she has free choice.

Our Montessori has webcams, so I can peek on the girls while I am at work. I swear they are little robots there. They take something out, they put it away properly when complete. When walking down a hall or from one class to another, all the children walk in a PERFECT line with their hands behind their backs!! Our 3 year old sits on a line for 45 mins without moving or fussing with anyone during group time. It's amazing. Of course, it's kind of a free for all at my house it seems, but again, I know the foundation is there ;)

Our children have to go year round because we both work and it costs us about $25k a year. So, it's a TON of money, but it is so, so, so worth it.

We have a GREAT public school system which is FREE and we are 99% sure that Ava will remain in Montessori for Elementary (at least for 1-3). Although we would love the extra cash, our children are gaining something that can never be taken away.

Good luck!! I know it's a HARD decision. Our oldest was in several different enviornments before we found Montessori.

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answers from Eugene on

For my money Montessori teaches values and self discipline and following your own interests. Reading.. any child can learn to read in 6 weeks if they are interested. We sent our kids to a Summerhill type school since we did not have a Montessori that went all day nearby.


answers from Spokane on

I would go Montessori. It's more self directed and the activities are fun as well as self teaching. So what it does is combine sensory, academics & life skills. You're not just sitting at a desk or table and doing silly worksheets like so many pre-k are doing now. Most of our public schools are pushing academics younger & younger and it's of no benefit to the children. They might show a bit of an edge at first but after a few years it's all evened out anyway so there was no point in the end.

My kids enjoyed the Montessori way. We did it at home for a while before they were sent to an awesome charter school. I only wish the local Montessori school had opened sooner! If you really like this method, but choose to keep your little one at home, Elizabeth Hainstock has written books about one. One is "Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years". She also wrote one for older children. This is not a curriculum. What it does is tell you how to make your own equipment. Montessori stuff is bloody expensive! This will still answer a lot of question about Montessori. It's just so child oriented that even though I no longer homeschool, it's still a big part of my life.



answers from Chicago on

I am looking into these options as well. In asking friends and family, one of the responses I often hear of Montessori or Montessori based curriculum is that it teaches a love and desire to learn.



answers from San Francisco on

I've answered questions in the past regarding this, because I feel so strongly about it!

Having both my sons in Montessori for a total of six-plus years, I can say that it was the best thing for them. I wish main-stream public schools would adopt more of their teaching procedures.

Some things you can (or should) expect in a good Montessori school are independence and thinking for themselves, lots of hands-on teaching methods, and a mix of older children with younger ones. This is very beneficial as the older kids are free to help the younger kids, and in doing that, the older ones learn more as well. These schools will also teach the kids to have respect for each other and adults.

One former teacher told me, "We teach children to think about problems and solutions rather than just memorizing facts. We teach them how to think." That has really stuck with me and that is one difference I have observed from public school.

My kids are now 7 and 10 and both went to Montessori through Kindergarten. They were ahead in academics when entering public school and were interested in learning.

I have heard that some Montessories aren't very organized, so i would definitely observe a routine day at the school and make sure they are truly using the Montessori method.

Hope this helps. We loved it!



answers from Chicago on

Montessori. The focus is on life skills not academics for the LO, and that is where it should be.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi M.,

I had already answered this question for someone else so I hope you don't mind I copied and pasted it below. I feel so passionate about my kids' Montessori education that I couldn't help but share again:


Wow, triplets! How fun! I have boy/girl twins and another child 2 years older, which certainly felt like triplets at times! When my eldest was preschool aged, we lived in the Sacramento area. I have studied and worked in preschools, including a Montessori school, so I knew I wanted Montessori for my children. I visited several Montessori preschools all around my area, must have been at least six. They were all so different in how they interpreted Maria Montessori's philosophies. It could be very confusing for a parent who doesn't really understand what she was all about and not sure what they really want for their children. One preschool really turned me off as a little tiny girl was wanting to sit in the staff girl's lap and they made a big deal about "no touching", probably to show me how they implement Montessori, but they were so rigid in everything they did, it was not a positive place for children at all. The activities and personality of all the staff and the entire atmosphere was so sterile. I finally found one that had a nice balance and interpreted Montessori in a way with which I was comfortable. It was a pretty good experience. She transitioned beautifully into public school.

For my twins, we had relocated to the Santa Rosa area by the time they were ready for preschool. Here I found College Oak Montessori which I continue to rave about. It really was just perfect for my kids and I can't say enough good about it. They had a real Montessori philosophy and the place was full of love for each other and for nature and for learning. My daughter learned to read at 4, and enjoyed so many of the activities. My son, learned all the basics for reading, and learned so much about science and nature and respect for others and the environment. It was so kid centered and didn't miss any aspect of their development. They learned how to do so much for themselves. They would set the little tables with cloth placemats and napkins for lunch and all would clean up their dishes and eating area after each meal/snack. Whenever I would visit, everything would be running so smoothly. There were never teachers yelling at kids out in the yard or telling kids what to do in the classroom. Everyone knew what was expected and everyone happily did what they were doing. I can't really explain what I'm trying to say, but as you can probably see, I just loved this place.

Both my twins were sooo ready for (public school) kindergarten. I would have loved to give them a full Montessori education but we only have private Montessori schools in this area and we couldn't afford to send our kids there either. My kids were so well behaved in school as they had learned such good habits, as well as a love for learning, that it was all just very natural to them. They were ahead of most of the other kids, which can create issues. Both my daughters had to spend reading time in first grade since they were both way past kindergarten reading and writing work. My son was chosen to mentor a few of the rowdy boys and they would have friendship groups in the counselors office where my son would play games with them and role model appropriate behaviors. He's a real boy so it's not because he's a nice quiet little boy at all times, he had just learned what to do in a learning environment. I saw their Montessori preschool education as a wonderful way to prepare them for school of any kind. That's my experience but I'm sure it is very different for each child.

Feel free to private message me if you want to know more. Otherwise, good luck. I hope you can find as good a Montessori school as I found! It was well worth every last cent (and there were sure a lot of them!), we spent on this!

And good luck to you too and feel free to pm me if you like.



answers from Sacramento on

If your child prefers predictability and structure, Montessori won't be the way to go. Our son has ADHD and needs predictability and structure, so we were advised to go with a regular pre-k program. One of our son's friends in kindergarten had a mom who taught at a Montessori school and she confirmed that kids with his condition tend not to do well with that learning style.

Regular pre-k definitely suited him the best and made for an easy transition to public schools, which also are very predictable and structured.

I agree with the others in that you do need to visit each school to form an opinion. Just because one child thrives in a particular school doesn't mean it's ideal for yours.



answers from San Francisco on

not familiar with Montessori but IMO the preschool that suits your child's temperament/learning style doesn't necessarily fit into a neat category of "montessori", "play based", or any other name tags that are commonly applied to pre schools - and like others have said, each school will have their own interpretation of what that label means.... so I guess I'm saying that visiting the schools and getting a feel for the environment and how it might suit your child is probably more relevant than pondering "montessori" versus "regular". Good luck :-)



answers from Honolulu on

How old is your child???

It also depends... on the school... regarding what your aim is.
But if you are home-schooling him as well... then you have more 'control' over that.

Each school per methodology... will have its own... 'style' as well. It is never a cookie-cutter template across the board... even among same methodology schools. Even a School Director... can impact the vibes of a school... too.
So best to go to the schools, with your child... and interview them and get a tour of the school.
Observe well... what you see, AND how your child reacts/feels... in the schools' environment.... and ask questions.... see how they react... to that.

all the best,



answers from Dallas on

We have both our girls in Montessori (3 and 4) and I LOVE IT. My only caution is there is no regulation on that term so you need to research the school and make sure it is truly following the montessori methodology. Good luck!!!

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