Montessori vs. Traditional

W e hope that the following will help clarify the differences between a Montessori educational setting and a traditional educational setting such as daycare centers, preschools, kindergartens, and elementary school. A Montessori education is based on well-researched principles of child development and utilizes a curriculum centered around hands-on materials and activities that help a child develop a strong self-image, high levels of academic and social competence, and the confidence to face challenges. A traditional education is deeply ingrained in a mass-production notion of uniform learning. This traditional belief stipulates that everyone should learn the same things at the same time; however, one of the great advantages of Montessori education is differentiation and customization.

Encouraged to explore and evaluate from an early age, Montessori-educated children are problem-solvers and independent thinkers who manage their time and work well with others. They exchange ideas and discuss work freely. Children in a traditional daycare, preschool, or kindergarten setting are generally expected to progress through a group-paced curriculum in a teacher-centered environment with little or no opportunity to guide their own learning according to their strengths, interests, or abilities. Guided by highly trained and specialized teachers, students in Montessori classrooms have opportunities to delve deeply into subjects and topics of particular interest while continuing to meet the high academic standards of a Montessori curriculum. Learn more from the table below (from



Views the child holistically, valuing cognitive, psychological, social, and spiritual development Views the child in terms of competence, skill level, and achievement with an emphasis on core curriculum standards and social development
Child is an active participant in learning; allowed to move about and respectfully explore the classroom environment; teacher is an instructional facilitator and guide Child is a more passive participant in learning; teacher has a more dominant, central role in classroom activity
A carefully prepared learning environment and method encourages development of internal self-discipline and intrinsic motivation Teacher acts as primary enforcer of external discipline promoting extrinsic motivation
Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to students’ learning styles and development levels
Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to core curriculum benchmarks
Three-year span of age grouping, three-year cycles allow teacher, students and parents to develop supportive, collaborative, and trusting relationships
Same-age and/or skill level grouping; one-year cycles can limit development of strong teacher, student, and parent collaboration
Grace and courtesy, and conflict resolution are integral elements of a Montessori classroom Conflict resolution is usually taught separately from daily classroom activity
Values concentration and depth of experience; supplies uninterrupted time for focused work-cycle to develop Values completion of assignments; time is tightly scheduled
Child’s learning pace is internally determined Instructional pace usually set by core-curriculum standard expectations, group norm, or teacher
Child allowed to spot own errors through feedback from the materials; errors are views as part of the learning process Work is usually corrected by the teacher; errors are viewed as mistakes
Learning is reinforced through repetition – the key to mastery Learning is reinforced externally by test scores and rewards, competition, and grades
Care of self and environment are emphasized as integral to the learning experience Less emphasis on self-care, spatial awareness, and care of the environment
Child’s daily work flow includes independent study as well as group activity that is highly collaborative among a multi-age setting
Child is usually assigned to a specific work space; talking among peers is discouraged
Multi-disciplinary, interwoven curriculum
Curriculum areas usually taught as separate topics
Child learns to share leadership; egalitarian interaction is encouraged
Hierarchical classroom structure is more prominent
Progress and assessment is ongoing and  reported through multiple formats including: conferences, narrative reports, teacher observations, checklists, and portfolios Progress is usually reported through conferences, report cards/grades, and test scores
Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and help each other Most teaching is done by teacher and collaboration is an alternative teaching strategy
Child is provided opportunities to choose own work from interest and abilities, concepts taught within context of interests
Curriculum is organized and structured based on core curriculum standards
 Goal is to foster a love of learning.  Goal is to master core curriculum objectives.