Choosing a preschool education program for your children can be overwhelming, especially for first-time parents. What’s the best learning philosophy out there? Will it suit my child? Will my child learn better there compared to the other? For many parents, the first question when it comes to selecting a daycare or preschool program for their kids is whether they should go for Montessori or a traditional method?
In this guide, you will get the information you need so you can decide on the best preschool teaching method for your child.
Montessori vs. Traditional: Teaching Philosophy
Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the Montessori vs traditional learning methods.
The most common misconception about Montessori education is that children are allowed to do whatever they want, with no boundaries or structure for learning. This couldn’t be more wrong.
In the Montessori method, children learn at their own pace, and they are guided by their own interests. In this type of setting, the teacher follows the lead of the children, while children are free to make their own choices on how to spend their time, without boundaries set by the teacher.
In a Montessori classroom, they consider playing a vital part of learning – also known as a child’s work. Child-directed programs emphasize active self-paced and individualized learning. Teachers observe, guide, and track their progress. They facilitate the use of various learning materials.
A teacher’s role is divided into these categories:
- Prepare the classroom to appeal to children’s curiosity
- Determine which lessons are timely based on the interest of the child, teach a new concept, or reinforce a child’s learning
- Invite children to the lesson (show children how to use the learning materials)
- Children are free to choose their own learning materials
This approach allows children to be independent, confident, self-disciplined, and self-regulated.
Traditional Play-Based Method
For traditional play-based classrooms, the belief is that children learn best through play. However, the play is more “teacher-directed,” and playtime is usually open-ended and without a fixed structure. The teacher is the central figure of the classroom. This means the teacher leads the children taking part in play-based activities, such as pretend play and other group activities. Teachers then follow up with educational lessons.
However, since the learning is “play-based,” children spend most of their time playing with toys. While they will have time to choose whatever toy they want to play with, the learning is scheduled and pre-determined. Children usually rotate through different stations and participate in different group activities, such as art time, storytime, etc.
The teacher is responsible for keeping everyone engaged in different activities to ensure children are meeting the guidelines expected for them based on the curriculum. This way, kids develop their cooperation skills, problem-solving skills, social skills, and conflict resolution skills.
Which learning method should you choose: Montessori vs Traditional?
Both methods prepare children for the next step of their education – kindergarten. More importantly, they help develop the children’s love for learning. While both philosophies have their own sets of pros and cons, in most cases, you cannot decide on philosophy alone.
Most parents base their decision on practicality, such as distance of the school from their house, availability (not all communities have Montessori schools), schedule, and cost. However, your decision cannot just end there. You must also check the physical condition of the school, its reputation, the credentials of the staff (especially the teachers), and of course, the accreditation.
Knowing the key differences between traditional and Montessori programs is an important first step. Once you feel you have the right option, ask around and check out different schools in your area. Ask for recommendations from friends, read online reviews, and check their social media profiles. More importantly, visit the schools, ideally during school hours. This is the best way to get a better feel for the school.
If you are considering a traditional school, choose a play-based school with a heavy emphasis on the social and emotional development of children over academics. If you’re considering a Montessori, remember that your child will still likely move to a traditional school eventually. Thus, make sure the Montessori prepares your child for a traditional school setting as well.
When touring schools, make sure you ask about the staff’s qualifications, especially the teachers and the leaders of the school.
More importantly, consider your child’s preferences and needs. No one knows your child better than you. Does a noisy environment overwhelm your child? What about your child’s high energy, does it fit with the environment? How do their program and philosophy fit your child’s personality? Ask the teacher or their staff about anything you can think of that concerns your child’s learning in their facility. There are no wrong questions.