Do you know the difference between Montessori vs. public school? It is one of the most common questions I get asked, so you're not alone. This article will outline the key differences between these two types of schooling. We will discuss the Montessori philosophy, in which the emphasis is on individualized learning and freedom of choice.
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Then, we will discuss some of the biggest concerns that people have about public schools and more traditional learning environments. And of course, we will give you our personal opinion about which we think is the better option overall (hint: it's not an easy answer!)
What is the Difference Between Montessori and Public School?
The Montessori philosophy focuses on individualized learning and freedom of choice. In a Montessori classroom, students work at their own pace and choose the activities that interest them. This type of schooling is beneficial for children because it considers each child in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. In Montessori, children are not graded or evaluated traditionally with letter grades. Because Montessori students do not have to worry about tests or assessments they can focus on exploring their interests and learning new skills.
In contrast, public schools n the United States are very different from Montessori schools. Most public schools and more traditional schools often focus on standardized testing to evaluate students' progress and achievement levels. There is also a heavy emphasis on “teaching for the test” in these types of classrooms because teachers are often judged based on how well their students perform during state assessments.
Additionally, public schools are required to follow the Common Core Standards. The standards themselves aren't necessarily the problem but having such set standards usually means teachers feel very boxed into specific teaching methods. Oftentimes traditional classrooms have expectations that all students must learn the same material at the same pace. Children learn differently so this can be challenging for students who don't fit into a perfect box (hint: many don't and that's OK). Additionally, public schools are often very overcrowded and unfortunately underfunded. The combination of these two things typically leads to decreased resources and lower-quality education.
Are Montessori Schools Better Than Public Schools?
There is very rarely a one size fits all approach to learning–and this is one of the reasons we love the Montessori approach to education. Each child is unique and deserves an education that meets his or her individual needs. In a Montessori classroom, the focus is on exploration and creativity, which can be difficult to achieve in a traditional public school setting.
That said, there are many wonderful public schools in the United States that provide students with more opportunities to explore their own interests and have teachers who can differentiate. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time a public school is not going to be as individualized as a Montessori school just by nature.
What are the Advantages of Montessori Schools?
One of the biggest advantages of Montessori schools is that Montessori students get to explore their own interests and learn at their own pace. There are no grades or test scores in a Montessori setting, so students can focus on learning for the sake of learning instead of worrying about earning good marks from teachers or parents. Montessori is also beneficial because it teaches children to be independent thinkers who aren't afraid to ask questions.
In addition, Montessori classrooms are usually much smaller than traditional public schools, which means that students receive more individual attention from teachers. This can be especially helpful for children who struggle in a larger classroom setting.
The Montessori method is also very hands-on, which is great for children who learn best through tactile experiences. Many Montessori classrooms have contained areas where students can explore different subjects such as math, science, language, and practical life.
Children in the Montessori environment are given a significant amount of time to focus on tasks while the teacher observes. The Montessori teacher is typically extremely adept at watching and learning about their students and their environment. The teacher will then make adaptations and changes to the classroom based on what is needed for student success.
What are the Disadvantages of Montessori Schools?
The biggest disadvantage of Montessori schools is the cost. Most Montessori schools are private, so they charge tuition for students to attend classes there. While some public Montessori programs do exist–they are rare and often very difficult to get into because of high demand from parents who want their children enrolled in these types of settings (and don't have the means to pay for them).
Another disadvantage of Montessori schools is that children are not always prepared for the competitive college admissions process. Because Montessori schools don't focus on standardized testing, some students may struggle when they have to take more traditional tests like the SAT or ACT. Thankfully, many higher educational institutions are doing away with using tests like the SAT as a factor in admissions.
How is Montessori Education Different Than Traditional Education?
Montessori education is a child-centered approach to teaching and learning that was developed over 100 years ago by Maria Montessori. The Montessori method emphasizes hands-on learning, independence, and self-direction.
Children in a Montessori classroom are typically given more time to focus on tasks while the teacher observes. The Montessori teacher is typically extremely adept at watching and learning about their students and their environment. The teacher will then make adaptations and changes to the classroom based on what is needed for student success.
Traditional education, in contrast, is more focused on teaching children information that has been predetermined by a curriculum. In most traditional schools, there is a greater emphasis on grades instead of mastery of skills. Children in traditional schools are typically placed into grades based on their age, rather than their abilities. In a Montessori school, children are in mixed-age groups. The Montessori curriculum is always evolving and changing based on the needs of each child in the classroom.
Many Montessori schools also have a greater emphasis on social-emotional learning than traditional education models. Social-emotional learning is an essential part of being a successful person, both personally and professionally. In Montessori classrooms, children are given more time to develop practical life skills that help encourage independence, discipline, and responsibility.
A Montessori Education Promotes Independence
In a traditional school setting, students are often told what to do and how they should do it. In the Montessori environment, children are given more independence and freedom. They can choose their own learning materials based on their interests or needs at any given time throughout the day. The Montessori teacher is an observer in this process rather than a director.
This focus on independence helps children learn how to problem solve and make decisions for themselves. It also teaches them how to work independently and be self-motivated. These skills are essential in the workforce and in life.
A Montessori Education Encourages Creativity
Montessori schools are known for their focus on creativity and the freedom to explore. Many Montessori schools have art studios that children can access throughout the day when they want to be creative or express themselves in a different way.
Montessori Education Embraces Mistakes As Part of the Learning Process
In traditional schools, mistakes are often seen as negative things. Mistakes are usually corrected immediately by the teacher or a parent since they want to make sure their child is always doing things correctly and following directions.
Montessori schools embrace mistakes as part of the learning process. In Montessori education, mistakes are not only accepted but also encouraged. Teachers and parents understand that making mistakes is all part of the learning process.
Montessori schools use a three-hour work cycle where children are given time to focus on their tasks without interruption. Often, Montessori students will spend this time working independently or collaboratively with other students in their classroom. This increases accountability and responsibility.
Montessori Education Encourages Children to Be Mentors To Younger Students
In a traditional school setting, teachers are typically the only mentors and role models for students. However, in a Montessori classroom, older children often mentor younger students. This encourages strong leadership qualities and an understanding of others’ needs or abilities. Older children can help younger students when they are struggling with a task. This is often more beneficial to the younger student than if their teacher steps in to assist them.
A Montessori Education Encourages Students To Be Active Learners, Not Passive Receivers of Information
In traditional schools, students are typically passive recipients of information that is given to them by the teacher. The focus is on absorbing information and answering questions correctly so that the student can move on to the next topic.
In a Montessori school, students are encouraged to be active learners. They are given time to explore different topics and ask questions. This allows students to learn at their own pace and develop a deeper understanding of the material.
Montessori focuses on the Whole Child, Not Just Academics
Montessori is based on the belief that children are capable of learning and doing so at a young age. Montessori Schools focus on academics, but also emphasize social-emotional development, physical activity, and independence.
A Montessori Education Encourages Collaboration Rather Than Competition
In traditional classrooms, students are often encouraged to compete with each other for grades or recognition. This is not the case in a Montessori environment where collaboration and cooperation are emphasized over competition. Students work together to complete projects or solve problems instead of competing against one another.
A little more about the founder of the Montessori Curriculum, Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori method Was Created by Maria Montessori, an Italian Doctor, and Educator
Maria Montessori was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome with a medical degree. After working as a doctor, she became interested in educating children who were living in poverty. This led her to develop this method of early childhood education.
Montessori believed that children are naturally curious and want to learn about the world around them. She developed an educational philosophy based on these beliefs now known simply as Montessori.
Materials You'll Find in a Montessori School
Montessori students learn using materials that are specifically designed to support the Montessori approach. The materials are designed to be as hands-on and engaging as possible so that students can fully engage in their learning. Montessori materials help children learn by doing. With the Montessori approach, students are not lectured about a topic or given worksheets to complete. Instead, they are presented with materials that allow them to explore and discover the information on their own.
Some of the materials you might find in a Montessori classroom include:
- wooden puzzles
- mathematical counters
- sandpaper letters and numbers
- maps and globes
- real-life visuals
Should I send my child to a Montessori School?
If you are considering Montessori for your child, it is important to do some research. There are many different types of Montessori schools and learning centers so it is best that you find one in your area and visit them before making any decisions about whether or not to enroll your child there.
Keep in mind that just because a school calls itself “Montessori” doesn't mean it truly follows the Montessori principles. Check the American Montessori Society and AMI websites to find accredited schools.
Why are there no plastic toys in Montessori schools?
One of the first things you might notice about a Montessori classroom is that there are no plastic toys. Instead, Montessori classrooms use natural materials such as wood and metal to create toys for children to play with.
The reason for this is because Montessorian educators believe that children learn best when they are able to interact with their environment. Toys that are created out of more natural materials tend to provide a better sensory experience for children than plastic toys.
Is Montessori too Academic?
This is one of the main concerns I hear parents voicing–and often it is because they don't truly understand how a Montessori school functions. The Montessori approach is absolutely going to have younger children in what looks like a more academic classroom environment, but the teaching methods used in this type of school are so individualized compared to traditional preschools or an elementary school that teachers are able to focus on students learning styles, as well as the child's interests which help children develop at their own individual pace.
Are There Public Montessori Schools?
Montessori methods are sometimes used in public education. There are charter Montessori programs that are free to families and there are public schools that use Montessori methods as a part of their curriculum. However, these schools tend to be rare than private Montessori schools because there is no official accreditation for Montessori programs in the public school system.
There are many organizations that are working to try to bring more public Montessori schools to the United States. If you are interested in helping bring a Montessori style elementary school or middle school to your local area reach out to your district superintendent and the board of education. Share this article with them and ask them to consider implementing the Montessori method of education.