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Many people are familiar with Montessori at the preschool level. But more and more people are now discovering the benefits of Montessori for the elementary years. If you are new to Montessori elementary education, you might be wondering if Montessori is really that different from traditional elementary programs. The answer is that they are in fact radically different. While we acknowledge and applaud teachers in non-Montessori schools who do things differently, this is a comparison between the traditional view of elementary education and the Montessori approach.

Here is a list of five BIG differences between traditional and Montessori for the elementary years:

Active LearningDifferences between traditional and Montessori elementary education www.ageofmontessori.com

In traditional elementary classrooms, the teacher teaches and the child listens. The child is required to memorize and recall information for testing. The child is passive in his learning.

In Montessori classrooms, the child learns through hands-on projects and self-motivated, active discovery.

Flexible Curriculum

In traditional elementary school, teachers are required to teach an establish curriculum at an established pace.

By contrast, Montessori education teaches individuals in small groups based on observable needs. The curriculum does not dictate the pace of learning. Rather the child learns what and when she is ready. The child may work on a lesson as long as needed. The teacher is present to act as a guide or coach.

An Individual Approach

In traditional elementary schools, students at every grade level have the Differences between traditional and Montessori elementary education www.ageofmontessori.comsame program, i.e. 3rd graders take the pre-established 3rd grade program.

In Montessori elementary, grade levels are flexibly defined within a developmental age range (usually of 2-3 years.) Each child will work with his teacher in his unique progression through the curriculum. Groups of developmentally similar children work on the right projects or lessons for them. This approach recognizes the individual needs of each child, not just their chronological age.

Accounting for Accountability

In traditional schools, the teacher is the one accountable for covering the curriculum. If the children fall behind or are ready to move forward faster, there isn’t a whole lot the teacher can do about it. He or she is responsible for covering a certain amount of information within a specified period of time.

In a Montessori school, the child is accountable for her own learning. Children are taught how to track their own progress every day. The child participates in creating her own learning path.Children are involved in choosing their own individual and group projects beginning in first grade. The child learns self-motivation and accountability from a very young age.

Where do you get your Confidence?

Differences between traditional and Montessori elementary education www.ageofmontessori.com

In traditional classrooms, it is assumed that the child needs external motivation and praise in order to learn. The teacher uses rewards and punishments. Self-confidence comes from external sources.

In the Montessori classroom, the child works to satisfy his own curiosity and inner need for accomplishment. The child’s natural learning pace is honored, allowing the child to be successful at every lesson. The child gains genuine inner confidence through his own achievements.

Want to become a Montessori Elementary Teacher? Elementary Montessori Teacher Training Program

If you are interested in learning more about Montessori elementary education, we welcome you to enjoy our free, on-line webinar entitled Why Montessori for the Elementary Years? In this webinar, we discuss the reasons why more and more families, including those at more than 300 public schools in the United States, are choosing to enroll their children in Montessori elementary programs.


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  1. This is very Americanised and is not a true representation of what happens in New Zealand schools. I think you will find that what is happening in New Zealand classes today is far closer to the Montessori approach. Children are never taught the same thing but rather work at their own level.

    1. Hi Ann,

      It’s good to hear that New Zealand schools are closer to Montessori. Many Americans do not know how personalized the Montessori method is. Thanks for sharing. Deborah

  2. Montessori is becoming popular in New Zealand, more schools are opening and we are proud that parents are recognizing the approach. Pure Montessori schools strive to personalize the approach. Research and evidence support the techniques.

  3. Hi,I just loved the article…it gave me an idea about elementary Montessori…My both 7 and 4 years olds are Montessori educated.But now the elder one joined a private school after 6 years..as elementary Montessoris are reared here.Is there any elementary Montessori homeschooling site or source.I just love Montessori method as I have seen the chance in my children.Thanks.

    1. Hi Kez,

      Thanks for sharing! Perhaps our readers could share if they have elementary homeschooling options to recommend. We do offer:

      * The opportunity to audit the Montessori Elementary Teacher program. For more info: http://dev.ageofmontessori.org/montessori-elementary-teacher-training/

      * Here are a couple of free webinars:

      The Cosmic Plan, The Heart of Montessori Elementary: http://dev.ageofmontessori.org/cosmiceducation/

      Why Montessori for the Elementary Years?

      * And a professional webinar: How to Guide Elementary Children’s Work

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