Anyone new to the Montessori education often find themselves asking this question: “What makes Montessori different?” The answer is a lot of things! This is an important thought for parents to ponder on as they make the big decision between a Montessori school, or a traditional kindergarten or school.
Depending on where you are, the options are abound, which adds to the difficulty and weight of your decision. The first step in deciding between Montessori vs kindergarten is to know the key differences between the two styles of learning. Not all students are the same and the different approaches will have a different impact on your child’s learning.
The Difference Between Montessori and Traditional School
There are a number of factors that can influence your child’s ability to learn and flourish. However, with the Montessori Method, your child will be able to experience a different approach that is systematically developed to encourage their natural learning capacity. While the traditional method of teaching does have its own merit (after all, this is the most prevalent method used in schools today), there are areas wherein it is lacking what the Montessori style of learning aims to address.
Below are some of the key pointers that showcase the difference between Montessori and traditional school.
The Montessori Environment
The Montessori classroom is designed to be a prepared environment. This classroom is developed to facilitate learning, creativity, and observation in the mind of young students. It taps into the natural cognitive and emotional development of the child, aside from the physical environment, and the student-centered lessons and activities that are significantly different from the teacher-centered lessons and activities offered by traditional classrooms.
Mixed Age Classroom
Aside from the approach on teaching and the classroom environment, another distinctive feature of a Montessori school from traditional schools is the mixed age of the students. The traditional kindergarten, or classroom, will designate students to every classroom based on their age. But in a Montessori classroom, children aged 3 to 6 are joined together in one classroom. The proponents of the Montessori program believe that the mixed age setting will benefit both the young and older children. It brings confidence to the older kids, and teaches them the essence of leadership and responsibility. For the younger child, it makes them feel comfortable learning from others they can relate to.
Active vs Passive Learning
The hands-on approach to learning in a Montessori classroom ensures that children are actively learning. They are able to discover things for themselves rather than passively being handed out information, given tests, and memorize terms. The learning is also equipped with real-life significance, so your child is more ready to face the real world.
At the same time, there is a lot of collaboration, interaction, and socialization in a Montessori classroom so a child is most likely to develop real-life skills that they can use once they step out of the classroom environment.
Everyone is talking about individualization over the past few years, but this approach to learning has been implemented by the Montessori program since its founding. This approach is one of the key differences of Montessori vs kindergarten and other traditional schools. Learning takes place at the child’s own pace and educators serve as a guide in helping a child discover his or her own learning path. While the lessons and activities are pre-determined, the pace is adapted to suit each student.
A child is likely to develop self-esteem and confidence when they make a discovery, or have a certain accomplishment. In every Montessori class, they will be able to discover new things and learn new lessons. This boosts their level of self-confidence. Plus, they will be keener to explore as they want to discover more things they can learn. Another aspect is that the Montessori system discourages rewards. Therefore, children are not motivated by any reward but by their own interest to learn and discover.
Love of Learning
This is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages that Montessori schools have over traditional schools. The curriculum in a Montessori school is designed and developed to waken the child’s inner hunger for knowledge and learning. It makes the idea of learning fun for them. Every class session isn’t boring. Thus, your child is encouraged to learn because they enjoy the process.
Experts agree that motivation is the most important factor that will determine a child’s capacity for success – in school and in life. At a Montessori school, the child’s innate love for learning is their source of motivation in and of itself.
Why Choose Montessori During Kindergarten Years?
There is no right or wrong answer in choosing between Montessori vs kindergarten. With the child’s interest to learn and with proper guidance from parents, any child can excel in any learning environment. But there is a slight edge that is offered by Montessori’s approach to learning and this is most evident during the kindergarten or preschool years of your child. As the foundation of your child’s knowledge and learning, it prepares them for more learning and creativity as they grow older.
The kindergarten years are when your child can gain the most benefit from the Montessori approach. The Montessori method was developed after years of research on a child’s cognitive, emotional, and neurological development. And Montessori is a developmental model that taps into a young child’s innate capacity to learn.
Educational research over the past few years have shown that many students do not fully understand what is being taught to them. According to Howard Gardner, a Harvard Psychologist, the traditional method of teaching follows a pattern of giving kids lessons that are masked as answers for “tests” that are given to them later on during the curriculum. In the research, “On Teaching for Understanding: A Conversation with Howard Gardner”, Gardner further expanded that students are limited in their capacity to take knowledge based on the educational setting and are incapable of doing that in a different setting, such as in real life.
This is where Montessori gets an edge over traditional schools. Montessori focuses on student-centered learning, to enrich a child’s innate ability to learn and take knowledge. Instead of teaching a child what a concept is, they are given materials to discover that concept and learn it on their own. This, according to Montessori educators, is what makes the knowledge acquisition more impactful and deep for the child. The learning does not happen on the surface level, but through the sensorial experiences of a child. This has been the criticism of traditional methods of teaching for years. Oftentimes, when children step out of the classroom, what they “learned” goes away in a few months or years – it is not retained.
In a nutshell, the key difference between Montessori and traditional school will be stated as a question: do children really understand what they learned, or have they simply memorized the correct answers? Since it focuses on student’s centered learning, Montessori education, unlike traditional school, is based on self paced learning and exploration.