Ten BIG Differences between Montessori and Traditional Education

What is the difference between Montessori and Traditional Education?

If you are new to Montessori education, often the first question you might ask is “what makes Montessori different?” Truly, the answer to that question is immense! So, in effort to make this bountiful banquet of information a little more digestible, I have organized some of the key concepts into these ten BIG differences:

The Prepared Environment

Montessori classrooms are prepared in advance based on observations of theDifferences between Montessori and Traditional Education www.ageofmontessori.org students’ individual needs. They include student-centered lessons and activities. Traditional classrooms are based on teacher-centered lessons or activities.

Active vs. Passive

Montessori lessons are hands-on and active. Students discover information for themselves. Traditional school lessons are often orated to students who listen passively, memorize, and take tests.

Give ‘Em Time

In the Montessori classroom, children work on lessons as long as need be, and interruptions are avoided whenever possible. Time limitations are mandated by arbitrary schedules in traditional classrooms.

The Teachers’ Role

Montessori teachers act as guides and consultants to students on a one-on-one basis. They assist each child along his or her own learning path. Differences between Montessori and Traditional Education www.ageofmontessori.orgTraditionally, the pace and order of each lesson is predetermined. The teacher must deliver the same lesson, at the same pace, in the same order, for all of the students.

Age Groups and Grade-levels.

In Montessori schools, “grade-levels” are flexible and determined by the child’s developmental range, i.e., 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, and 15-18 years of age. In traditional schools, grade levels are not flexible and strictly defined by chronological age within a twelve-month period.

Adaptable Curricula

Montessori curricula expand in response to the students’ needs. Traditional curricula are predetermined without regard to student needs.

Pace Yourself

The individual child’s work pace is honored and encouraged in the Montessori classroom. Traditional classrooms expect all children to work at the same pace.Differences between Montessori and Traditional Education www.ageofmontessori.org

Self-Made Self-Esteem

Montessorians understand that the child’s self-esteem comes from an internal sense of pride in his or her own accomplishments. In traditional classrooms, self-esteem is thought to come from external judgement and validation.

For the Love of Learning

Montessori curricula are intended to appeal to the child’s innate hunger for knowledge. Children learn to love learning. Traditional curricula focus on standardized test performance and grades. Children learn because it is mandatory.

Change is Good

The Montessori Method was created by Maria Montessori and is based on a lifetime of study and observation with regard to the way children really learn. Traditional education is based on…well…tradition.

If you are interested in learning more about Montessori education, we welcome you to visit Age of Montessori’s information-rich website, watch our powerful webinars (free and professional development,) join our discussions on Facebook, or participate in any of our many online courses.


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22 Responses to Ten BIG Differences between Montessori and Traditional Education

  1. Lucette Smoes 2015/06/05 at 8:54 PM #

    From a few observations, it seems that students have some difficulty adapted to regular teaching when they have experienced the Montessori method. Students don’t seem to know how to conform to the traditional, authoritarian system. They may even look less intelligent, and irresponsive.

    • emilyj 2015/06/06 at 2:30 AM #

      Hello Lucette and thank you for your comment! What you have voiced is a very common concern. May I invite you to read the blog below which addresses that very concern…
      or please enjoy this free webinar which also addresses your thoughts…
      I hope you will join in! And thank you again!

      • Diana 2015/08/20 at 4:48 PM #

        Lucette, your observations reflect our experience. After 3 years in Montessori, our child transitioned to public for first grade. It was a terrible experience, my child was teased repeatedly, ignored by the teacher who complained that she wouldn’t follow directions, and she wrote numbers and letter backwards. They made things look like my daughter had a problem. It did not matter that I took 3 school years report, showing high grades and an articulate, polite manner. I knew better and got her tested at a well regarded university in our area. 146 score showed she was profound gifted. Moved her to private school for gifted children, and teachers told me after few weeks, that they have never met quite well rounded child, and they were not only talking about academics. Not to mention how her grades went up to the highest and letters and numbwrs were never backward again. I am grateful for Montessori, while they didn’t make her gifted, they sure helped us to nurture her in the best way possible. She says those years were her best memories ever.

  2. Carolyn Lucento 2015/06/06 at 9:15 PM #

    This is a fantastic article and every point is so very integral to Montessori and in my opinion a good education in general for a child.
    The concern voiced in the comment area is one that I have heard SO MANY times over the years! (I’ve been a Montessori teacher since 1980 and a public school teacher before that) And, honestly, the comments I hear MOST from families of children who have transitioned into a more traditional educational system are about how disappointing the new system has been for the family! So many have told me that their child had to go backwards with the academics offered in the new school. This is sad, but what is even sadder is that I hear so many tell me that their child found VERY LITTLE SUPPORT for using problem-solving skills and learning how to effectively & peacefully negotiate with others. Most families come back and tell me how well-prepared their children have been for the next step in their education after attending Montessori.

  3. emilyj 2015/06/08 at 4:11 PM #

    Thank you Carolyn for sharing your views. It is sad to think of the children going backwards and not finding support for their newly acquired skills. Perhaps things will change as more and more people discover the benefits of teaching our children these skills in the first place.
    Still, it is important to nourish those that we can, when we can. I think of the story of the parent who asked Maria Montessori, “…won’t it be a problem if my child attends a Montessori school for three years and enters the public school so far ahead? ”
    Maria Montessori replied: ” If you knew a famine was going to take place in three years, would you starve yourself for those three years in preparation? “

  4. Nash Rich 2016/06/06 at 12:32 PM #

    I like the idea of active learning. I think I would have thrived if all schooling was hands on. That’s for me personally though, but I think there is some kind of connection between learning and doing. I thought these were all some interesting things. I’ll have to consider this when my kids reach that age!

    • emilyj 2016/06/07 at 9:49 PM #

      Thank you for reading and commenting Nash. I hope it was helpful!

  5. Gloria 2016/08/25 at 8:45 PM #

    If we transition in kindergarten, is this better than first grade?

    • emilyj 2016/08/25 at 9:28 PM #

      Hello Gloria and thanks for asking. I am going to assume you’re referring to a transition into a Montessori program, thus, I will say: the sooner the better!
      Best wishes,
      Emily J

  6. Tejaswi 2016/09/08 at 2:06 AM #

    My son is now 2-6 months he started going from past 3 months 3 years I am planning in montessori after that which syllabus is good cbse r ib

  7. Beverley 2016/11/05 at 8:01 PM #

    Although I am sure the description of Montessori education is accurate, I question whether the author might be poorly informed regarding many perceptions of education in Canadian public school classrooms.The traditional methods described are generally considered very outdated in my experience as a certified teacher.

    I agree that likely most/all children benefit from one-on-one teaching. (I consider this tutoring). I also can’t help but wonder though, if having to share time with a teacher might help create a child who is less self-centered and who is more resilient and independent?

    • emilyj 2016/11/05 at 9:04 PM #

      Hello Beverley and thank you for your comment. I am very glad to hear that education in Canadian public schools is moving beyond the traditional. I applaud schools everywhere (public or otherwise) for making changes for the better, as so many have done. I wish the very best education for every child, every school, everywhere.
      I also agree that one-on-one tutoring, while beneficial, might also have some drawbacks. Montessori classrooms do not typically have a one-to-one student/teacher ratio. I apologize for the confusion. It’s more like this…children in the classroom are working either singly or in groups of two or three on lessons of their own choosing. The teacher(s) is moving around the classroom observing and guiding if needed. When she (or he) observes that a child is ready to move on to a new lesson, she might demonstrate, step-by-step, how this new lesson works. Then the child works on that lesson independently. Of course, that is a fairly simplified example, but you get the idea. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to clarify. I hope this is helpful.

  8. Beverley 2016/11/06 at 4:43 PM #

    Thanks Emily. I have taught one specific subject as a guest teacher in a Montessori school as well, so am aware of the ratio and of the many positive aspects of the program for sure.

  9. Star 2017/02/08 at 12:33 PM #

    I would like to know how the transition is for students that have been going to a Montessori school all the way through grade school and then attend a Public high school? Or possibly all the way through high school and then are going to a University?

  10. ammara 2017/06/05 at 4:17 PM #

    i want to conduct a research on montessori vs kindergarden system of education.plz any one tell me these both system are included in early childhood education.and plz help me selecting my research topic.

    • Emily J 2017/06/06 at 1:28 PM #

      Sounds like you’ve already selected a very worthwhile and excellent topic. Best of luck to you!

  11. Geraldene Alorrayed 2018/01/21 at 9:03 AM #

    I would like to enroll on thiz course

    • Age of Montessori 2018/01/22 at 11:31 AM #

      Hi Geraldene,

      That’s great! Thank you for your interest. Robert will be happy to answer any questions and help you through the registration process. You can reach him at 406-284-2160 and I will share your email with him. Here’s a link to some videos by students who share their experiences. http://ageofmontessori.org/testimonials/

      All the best!

  12. vk 2018/02/05 at 3:24 PM #

    My child is 2.5 years old and debating over montessori vs traditional preschool, but more inclined to montessori now. I found a good montessori but it is a home based montessori by a very good experienced teacher and has a class size of 8 kids in total. So there is a lot of attention for kids. But my concern is sending her to a home based school vs big school. Will she have issues when she goes to bigger public school while going to kindergarden. Any insight on this would help


    • Age of Montessori 2018/02/05 at 4:13 PM #

      Home based schools provide a cozier more personal experience both for child and parent. It is true that socialization will be different, but not necessarilly a negative. Every Montessori school is different and that difference can be size, quality of Montessori education, safety, cleanliness and a very important factor, the right fit for your child.

      Transitioning to public school from Montessori is a matter of preparing your child for the change – lining up to travel down the hall, everyone doing activities in unison, the bathroom being down the hall, cafeteria policy, procedure and etiquette. No matter where a child has been in his or her preschool years it is a gift to give them a tour of the school and how it works.

      M. Susan Hoffman
      Faculty – Master Teacher
      Age of Montessori

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