Montessori vs traditional schooling options both claim to support the child – but anyone who spends time in both environments is quick to note just how different they appear.
The educational choices for your child might initially seem quite straightforward: public or private school. But with a little research, most parents are finding themselves struck with yet another choice: Montessori vs traditional.
What is a Montessori school?
A Montessori school is one that is founded on the principles of Maria Montessori’s research. These schools use the Montessori method for education, and focus on the child as a whole, rather than just academics.
Children often begin to attend “school” much earlier in a Montessori education. Montessori students can attend as early as 18 months of age, whereas a traditional education doesn’t begin until preschool or kindergarten, many years later until years later.
Montessori vs traditional schools differ in many ways.
Many of these differences stem from the founding principles of the school. In a Montessori setting, each school is founded on the principles determined by Maria Montessori:
- Respect for the child
- A prepared environment
- Sensitive periods of learning
- Independence and discovery
This difference in structure is apparent whether you are observing a preschool, kindergarten or elementary classroom. This educational method poses quite a few differences between Montessori and “regular” school.
Let’s dive in to the biggest differences between Montessori vs traditional education.
What’s the difference between Montessori vs traditional school?
While there are many subtle differences between Montessori vs traditional education, some of the biggest differences revolve around the structure and flow of each method. If you were to compare Montessori vs. traditional schools, here are some of the most apparent differences you would find.
Montessori schools don’t have grade levels. Students are not grouped with others of their same age, and instead often work with others who are 2-3 years younger or older than themselves.
Traditional schools are almost always directed by a teacher. Montessori schools are self-directed, allowing children to work at their own pace and follow their own interests each day.
Montessori schools support a unique curriculum for each individual student, whereas traditional education typically follows a one-size-fits all progression.
Traditional schools have an average ratio of 25:1 students per teacher. Montessori schools function in much smaller groups with students leading their own instruction.
Montessori students structure their own day, progressing through activities at their own pace and time. They are free to move about or talk at any time, in contrast to a traditional school setting where students follow a very rigid schedule, with scheduled opportunities for discussion and breaks.
Comparison of Montessori vs. Traditional School
The above differences are likely quite obvious to any student or parent who is familiar with a traditional school setting. However, besides the main differences, there are still quite a few which are more subtle.
Here is a comparison chart of Montessori vs. Traditional Schools.
- Multi-age classroom: often working with other children that are 2-3 years different in age
- Self-paced instruction: students choose their own activities and work at their own pace
- Curriculum varies based on the child’s unique interests and pace of learning
- Smaller ratios of students per teacher – often taught in small group settings
- Teachers serve as guides that follow the student
- Learning is completed through self-correction and the students’ desire for improvement
- Freedom to move about and speak at any time
- Have the ability to pursue discoveries and individual ideas
- Focuses on the whole child, emphasizing all aspects cognitive development
- Single age classrooms and grade levels
- Teacher-paced instruction: curriculum is often set and the pace of learning determined by the teacher
- One-size-fits all curriculum that remains the same for each student
- Average ratio of 25:1 students per teacher
- Teachers serve as the authority figure which is always dominant to the student
- Learning is motivated based on a punishment and reward system
- Strict rules, boundaries and schedules that structure where students move and when they speak
- Teacher’s guidance limits what topics can be pursued and when
- Focuses on predetermined sequences of cognitive development, along with an emphasis on social development
Is Montessori better than traditional school?
With so many differences, parents are left to decide which type of schooling is “better” for their child. They are stuck comparing Montessori vs. traditional school and find themselves dealing with a multitude of separate opinions.
Ultimately, the question of whether a Montessori or traditional school is better comes down to personal opinion, values and much more. Parents who place more value on their children developing independence, accountability and having an opportunity to foster their strengths often feel that a Montessori education is the best fit.
On the other hand, parents who value social development, extra-curricular activities and a formal progression of learning often feel that a traditional school setting is the best fit.
Advantages of Montessori School vs. Traditional
As Montessori education becomes increasingly popular, more research and studies are being completed to determine which system provides the “best” outcome for students.
What has been found so far is that any level of Montessori education, whether its preschool, kindergarten or elementary, fosters students’ interest, competence, confidence and autonomy when it comes to their education.
Pros of Montessori education:
- Creates a love of learning
- Enhances students’ confidence
- Promotes problem-solving
- Inclusion of different backgrounds and special needs
- Encourages social interactions
- Promotes independence and autonomy
- Creates accountability for learning
Disadvantages of Montessori School vs. Traditional
Despite the seemingly wholesome, student-focused environment in a Montessori school, there are a few disadvantages when it comes to the choice between Montessori vs traditional. Many parents opt for a traditional school setting due to the inconvenience and lack of availability of Montessori schools.
Cons of Montessori education:
- Tuition is often expensive
- Many Montessori schools have limited options for teens
- Montessori schools are not available in every area
- Some students prefer more formal, structured environments
- Smaller school sizes offer less social opportunities and extra-curricular activities
The decision of whether to send your child to a Montessori or traditional school ultimately comes down to the child and your belief as to what type of environment will allow them to grow and learn the most. Many parents find themselves forced into choosing a traditional education simply out of convenience or lack of resources.
Understanding the differences between Montessori vs traditional school is the first step in setting your child up for success. Regardless of the choice you make, educating yourself will help you support your child throughout the years as they learn and grow.