There are dozens of educational systems and methods out there and many of them are similar. Montessori, however, is a very unique method that has steadily grown more and more popular over the years. What is it that makes Montessori so special, and what makes it different from all other educational systems?
Montessori differs from other educational methods mostly in its focus on and respect for children as individuals. Montessori was built on the philosophy of independent, self-based learning. Each child has a different learning style and pace that they should be given the chance to practice.
Montessori sounds pretty fantastic don’t you think? There is a lot more to know; read on to learn the differences between traditional schooling and Montessori schooling as well as the pros and cons to both. Once you are through you should hopefully be able to make an informed decision!
Montessori Schooling Explained
As mentioned above, Montessori is fairly unique in comparison to other methods. First and foremost among its differences is Montessori’s focus on individual learning. This approach assumes that every child learns differently and has individual needs and learning styles. Montessori schooling also focuses on helping students to develop in every aspect and every area: physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.
The Montessori method also makes a strong point of fostering its students’ independence. Helping these students know how to learn for themselves is one of the most valuable practices of the Montessori method. Most traditional schools require all the students to learn at the same pace with the same assignments and activities.
Montessori classrooms emphasize the importance of allowing children to move at their own pace. They can pull ahead or hang back for a while if that’s what they need to learn properly. This practice of developing self-sufficiency helps these students to increase their self-confidence, their purpose, and their motivation in learning. If students are taught to learn and discover at an early age, they will be able to maintain a love and purpose for learning throughout life.
Another thing that most traditional schools do not share with Montessori is its level of versatility. In the Montessori classroom, every child is believed to be intelligent and have a learning style as unique and special as their personality. Since this is the case, every classroom is equipped with an extremely wide variety of lessons and activities that will cater to all different levels and interests of the children that attend. Essentially, no child will be left out.
In keeping with the self-led learning system, teachers are not referred to as teachers but rather as guides who are meant to collaborate with the student in their learning process. A sort of learning triangle is meant to be created in Montessori classrooms and should be comprised of the student, the environment, and the teacher/guide. Teachers will not stand at the front of the classroom and lecture. Rather, they will move around the classroom and act as “guides” to assist their students along their developmental journey and help them refine important life skills.
In the Montessori classroom, failure is considered to be an important part of success, or in other words, an important part of the learning process. In traditional schools, students are quite often rewarded for their perfection on assignments. The Montessori method teaches students to view their mistakes as learning opportunities.
This is all to work toward helping students learn how to fix mistakes and errors on their own without feeling ashamed or embarrassed about messing up. The goal is to help students move forward despite any mistakes they make. This, too, will assist students in increasing their confidence and self-sufficiency.
Most traditional schools focus solely on academic education. Another major difference between traditional schooling and Montessori schooling is the focus on more than just academics. The Montessori curriculum makes room for the study of academia but it also teaches students how to behave in public and greet other people properly. Rather than trying to inhibit socializing in the classroom, Montessori guides and parents encourage it.
Emotional and social development is extremely important for children this young. Additionally, Montessori focuses on teaching its students practical life skills which are things that will actually be practiced later in life. Academia is important, but those practical skills are crucial as well.
The Montessori classroom design is set up in such a way that multiple activities can take place without the room being thrown into chaos. There is a certain area for each different activity (sensorial work area, snack area, etc.) and every element of the room (including the lighting and colors) makes a difference in how the place functions. Materials are organized in such a way that students can easily access them. This, again, is an effort to keep the focus on the students’ ability to choose and make their own decisions.
Unlike traditional schools, Montessori schools use a variety of materials (especially hands-on materials) to encourage learning in their students. These tools help students to foster a love of and interest in the world around them and everything in it. The materials are designed to appeal to every single one of the senses. This is a far cry from most traditional schools which usually only employ textbooks, worksheets, and similar materials to instruct their students.
Another huge difference is that Montessori in no way normalizes seated/book learning. Rather, the Montessori classroom emphasizes the importance of active and instinctive learning. Children naturally learn through play and discovery. The Montessori curriculum makes it possible for them to do just that daily. It encourages natural learning that embodies all of what being a child should be. Traditional schooling focuses more on book learning and the memorization of information.
Montessori schools foster an excellent sense of community. As a matter of fact, that sense of community is at the very heart of a healthy and productive learning process. This community consists of teachers (guides), students, and parents, all of whom work together to create a good learning environment that will help children to be as productive on their journey as possible. Because teachers and students work so closely for so long, good relationships will be able to form over time.
Last but not least, the Montessori method strives to instill in its students a sincere love for the world around them. Dr. Montessori strongly believed that nature possesses a certain beauty, harmony, and order and that children would develop much better if they could understand that.
The Montessori approach provides the opportunity for children to explore the world in a way that will give them a well-rounded education. Montessori teaches children to be good global citizens. Students can learn mutual respect for other people and other cultures in the world. This method seeks to instill peace and kindness in each child.
Montessori Schooling: The Pros and Cons
Some people use traditional schooling and some people choose Montessori. There’s no right or wrong answer, just whatever works best for you and your child. However, there are definitely pros and cons to both methods. Let’s talk about Montessori’s pros and cons. Hopefully, knowing them will help you to make an informed decision!
As we have seen, Montessori focuses deeply on individuality and self-based learning. Children have the opportunity to pave their own way per se, with the gentle guidance of their teachers and parents. Obviously, adults in the children’s lives do have a say, but Montessori encourages children to seek out learning on their own terms. The nice thing about this is that once children know and understand how to learn on their own, that practice will be worked into them and they’ll have it for the rest of their lives.
Additionally, unlike public or traditional schools, Montessori teaches its students how to behave properly in social situations. This can be extremely helpful for shy children in particular. At a Montessori school, every student will have the chance to practice interactions with their peers in a safe, comfortable environment. They will be taught proper etiquette and greetings. This too will be ingrained in children at a young age and help them turn into model citizens.
Montessori schools also put effort into making learning fun. Many students fail in traditional schools because they simply don’t love to learn. Montessori schools allow their students to learn in a way that best suits them and their individual needs. Maria Montessori said that play is the work of a child. Children will be encouraged to do the exact thing that helps them learn naturally, and they will have fun doing it!
Additionally, because the Montessori curriculum is so open-ended and versatile, it accommodates all individual needs, including special needs. Every child, no matter what their needs are, will be allowed to work and progress at their own pace without pressure from peers or teachers. This is what makes the Montessori method an ideal choice for a lot of people.
Of course, there are a few things that might make getting a Montessori education a bit difficult. For example, if one allows a child to foster their independence too much, it could lead to them not wanting to work with other people in the future because they believe they will be fine on their own. This might be a dangerous possibility for some.
Cost also must be addressed. This depends widely on where you live and what is available in your area, but Montessori schools are usually more expensive than traditional schools.
There also might be long waitlists for the schools in your area, so there’s no guarantee that your child can secure a spot in a Montessori classroom.
Traditional Schooling: The Pros and Cons
Traditional schooling has made quite an impact too, of course. It is an older method that has been around for hundreds of years and should not be ignored. Let’s talk about some pros and cons.
One of the traditional schooling’s greatest strengths would definitely have to be its structure and organization. While some students may prefer Montessori’s loose structure, many other students might prefer and even find comfort in the structure of a traditional classroom. In a traditional classroom, routines and schedules can be relied upon, giving students a good sense of preparation for whatever might be coming next.
Discipline and punctuality are also taught more consistently in traditional schools. School starts at the same time every morning, keeping in theme with giving students a certain sense of preparedness which can be fairly comforting. It also helps students to establish a sense of responsibility. They have deadlines and a system to keep to, plus plenty of extracurricular activities which will help students to expand their skillsets even outside of the classroom.
Like Montessori, traditional schooling can carry a pretty hefty price tag. Registration can often be a huge hassle and paying for extracurricular activities takes its own chunk as well. It is much more expensive than, say, an online education choice. This can become a serious problem for families with budget issues.
General education can also be prevent children from finding areas of strength in their curriculum. Montessori schooling, for the most part, means students have the chance to study what they truly love and are interested in. Because of general education, students are all required to follow the same coursework whether or not they are interested in it. This somewhat defeats the purpose of individual education. This is one area in which Montessori is somewhat superior.