Montessori Vs. Traditional Preschool Education

One of the biggest questions the parents of toddlers face involves preschool. Most people are aware that it’s difficult for many children to adjust to being out of the home during the day – but it’s easy to forget that there is a large adjustment for parents as well. Along with uncertainties about having your children physically not present during the day, another concern is about the quality of education & socialization they receive in preschool.

The early years of life that Maria Montessori called “the absorbent mind” period, from birth to 6 years old, are incredibly important to establishing the foundations of knowledge and personality that will last a lifetime. As your child enters preschool, for the first time they will be repeatedly exposed to influences outside of your control, without you being present. Did you make the right choice in picking a preschool program?

In the past, preschool programs were often conflated with daycare programs, and involved essentially “warehousing” children while parents are at work. This industrial-age model for childcare was accepted for years, but a transition from the production-line mentality of the 20th century to the knowledge-worker mindset of the 21st has led to demand for higher quality education for children.

Montessori is one such form of education, and in preschools that embrace the Montessori Method, the child participates in a self-directed environment of growth, learning & socialization in an environment specially prepared to foster achievement. If you are among the many parents seeking a better approach to preparing your child for maximum success as an adult, then a Montessori preschool is definitely an option worth considering closely.

You’ve likely heard that Montessori preschools have advantages vs traditional preschool programs, but to help you understand what makes this approach to learning superior, let’s go through some key points that explain why Montessori preschool education is better than a traditional preschool program:

Why Choose Montessori Vs. Traditional Preschool?

1. Self-Directed Learning

Traditional preschools rely on discipline & direction, where Montessori-based preschools allow students to move around freely and choose which activities to focus their attention on. This approach to self-directed learning is a cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy, which inspires children to engage deeply in learning by giving them the freedom to choose. This is different than traditional preschool programs, where teachers typically decide which activity the child will engage in, how they will participate in it, and how success should be measured.

The self-directed nature of Montessori education is guided by teachers, but also by what is called the “Prepared Environment”, which features a variety of sets of easily-understand objects that encourage the easy grasping of concepts like color, shape, texture and dimensions and other academic concepts of literature, math, and science. Children learn with these materials in a hands-on manner, and Montessori materials are designed to encourage self-correction of errors.

2. Mixed Age Classrooms

An underlying concept of the Montessori system is the mixed age group classifications, which is modeled after the mixed ages in typical families. Typical Montessori classrooms have children aged 3 to 6 years, and one of the benefits of this is that older children are given the opportunity to be supportive, caring leaders in skills mastery. As older children work to master progressively more complex skills, they also share their expertise with younger ones.

In a Montessori preschool, working with peers is strong encouraged, which helps children develop strong social skills and positive peer-level relationships built on collaboration & cooperation. This allows children to form strong social bonds and learn how to effectively collaborate to share knowledge and solve problems rather than competing for rewards.

3. Teachers As Guides

One of the most important differences between a Montessori school and one using traditional teaching techniques is the role that the teacher plays in the classroom. In a more traditional setting, the teacher stands at the head of the class, direction attention from subject to subject based on a rigid time-schedule based on a lesson plan for each day.

At a Montessori preschool, the teachers act more as a guides to the learning process rather than directors exerting control. Students are able to freely move from between various projects in the classroom, choosing what they want to study rather than having a lesson plan  imposed on them. This allows the child to decide how much time and attention to give to each particular subject, enabling them to remain focused on each task until complete, instead of attempting to rush through things to stay on schedule. Montessori teachers are also typically against rewards for the completion of tasks.

In a Montessori school, there are no rewards, “time-outs,” sticker charts, or even grades. The Montessori Method is built on encouraging a genuine interest in learning and problem-solving, rather than the traditional Pavlovian approach to motivation. This makes the Montessori school especially helpful for students who don’t fit within a certain learning mold, and for parents who want to see their children develop a deeper level of skills mastery & understanding.

4. Proven Curriculum

Traditional preschool education is far from standardized and rarely accredited. In contrast, MACTE-accredited Montessori Education is built on a strong educational philosophy of child development developed by Dr. Maria Montessori and focuses on the four avenues of learning: Practical Life, Sensorial Development, Development of Language, and Early Preparation of the Mathematical Mind.

Mastery of the skills in the four learning avenues bolsters self-confidence and develops essential motor skills needed to advance to more complex lessons. Children learn both confidence and competence through these early avenues of learning, and have fun learning and mastering new challenges.

5. Confidence & Self-Esteem

The self-directed nature of the Montessori learning environment helps children develop confidence and self-esteem that exceeds what they typically achieve in a traditional preschool classroom. Teachers, acting as guides, establish rules and expectations for behavior, and children are empowered and take pride in following the rules & achieving subject-matter mastery. Older students assist younger students in learning, which helps create a strong sense of community, and assists the development of positive social skills and group problem solving abilities.

6. Developing a Love of Learning

Since students at a Montessori preschool are encouraged to work at their own pace on projects and activities and projects of their choosing, they’re able to focus their attention on the topics that interest them the most. This allows them to build a depth of knowledge in each subject area that is impossible when given strict time-limits and task based work. As they learn and their knowledge and success in skills mastery grows, it also encourages them to develop a love of learning and a desire to continue gaining knowledge, helping them become self-motivated lifelong learners.

The Time For Montessori is Now

As society transitions from the industrial era into the knowledge economy, our needs for early childhood education have changed. Parents have embraced the realization that the Montessori Method’s focus on encouraging independence, self-mastery & holistic learning are critical to creating successful students who thrive as lifelong learners.

Through its learning practices, the Montessori Method places emphasis on language, sensory, analytical, and mathematical development which help children succeed not only in school, but also in a wide variety of practical life situations.  Children are provided with learning materials and guided towards activities which will hone their skills and promote their innate curiosity & inquisitiveness.

Unlike the traditional approaches to teaching and learning, Montessori Method acknowledges each child as the different individual, who may have his own individual likes and dislikes, capabilities, potential, and a unique personality of his own. Instead of focusing only on academic performance, the teachers will most importantly learn to focus on providing the children with a nurturing and safe environment, also termed as “a prepared environment” so as to encourage social interaction skills.

For today’s parent with concerns about the quality of education & socialization available for young children, Montessori education makes sense, and offers many advantages over traditional preschool education. Montessori is an educational model for the 21st century, which helps turn young inquisitive minds into innovative, successful adults.