How a Montessori Education Differs From a Traditional Education

How a Montessori Education Differs From a Traditional Education
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How a Montessori Education Differs From a Traditional Education

The Montessori Method is a child-centered approach to education based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. The holistic approach focuses on the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of a child. At Milton Montessori School, we understand that learning is a lifelong process, and we create an environment that is a place of learning, achieving and exploring. No two children are the same, so why should their education be? Our classrooms are designed to meet the independent and curious nature of the children—each child learns at their own pace, and through individual choice, they uncover the learning methods that are most successful for them.

Maria Montessori developed this approach after observing and studying children from birth to adulthood. She discovered that children have fantastic powers of concentration if properly stimulated, far exceeding that of most adults, and that the goal of the educational process should not be to fill the child with facts but rather to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. Montessori said, “The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore, it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; she will reveal herself as the greatest marvel of nature.”

If you are interested in learning about how a Montessori education differs from a traditional education, continue reading to discover the differences.

Approach

A Montessori education and a traditional education differ in many ways. The most evident and well-known difference can be seen in how each approaches the teaching-learning process. A traditional education is somewhat of a “one size fits all” approach. Teachers come up with lesson plans and instruct all of the students in the same way and at the same pace. Students are given deadlines to complete assignments, regardless of whether or not the material has actually sunk in, and the focus is on the teacher rather than the student. A Montessori approach to education focuses on each child as an individual. Montessorians understand that every student deserves an education that is tailored specifically to their needs. Teachers observe students and ask themselves things like, “What does this child understand? What are the next set of skills this child needs to learn? How does this child learn–which methods are most effective?” After the students are observed, teachers strategically prepare their classrooms for their future students, taking into consideration the most effective methods of learning for each child. A Montessori education is completely student-centered. Instead of sitting at a desk and silently listening to a teacher lecture, students are guided by their teachers and encouraged to explore, discover and learn with hands-on lessons and activities.

Education Model

The Montessori Method was built upon the fact that children are natural learners with a natural desire to learn. The Montessori education model focuses on allowing children to learn spontaneously and on their own without any pressure from the teacher. This strategy makes it possible for children to enjoy learning and discovering. Montessori classrooms are arranged and equipped with a number of resources that children can use during their learning and exploration. Teachers act as guides rather than enforcers, and students are encouraged to learn and grow in whichever ways are most effective for them. Traditional education, on the other hand, can feel, to some, like prison. The structured environment where students sit and listen to a teacher lecture forces children to learn only the lessons provided, utilizing only the resources made available to them. Lessons are prepared for the class, as a whole, rather than focusing on each student as an individual.

Time

In a Montessori classroom, children are allowed enough time to work on a task until they are happy with the result and ready to move on—their learning processes go uninterrupted. In a traditional learning environment, students work under time constraints all of the time. Schedules are planned according to how long the teacher thinks each lesson should take to complete. For example, a teacher at a traditional style school may set aside an hour of the day for a lesson on addition and subtraction, and after the hour is up, every student will be finished and moving on to the next lesson. But what if there are students who need more than an hour to fully understand the math lesson? A traditional education allows every student the same amount of time to take tests, complete assignments and learn new concepts. A Montessori education understands no two students learn in the same way and at the same pace, so there are no time limitations on how quickly children need to complete a task.

Teachers

At a Montessori school, teachers act as guides and consultants to the students. Teachers interact with students one-on-one to ensure each student receives the individualized and personalized education they deserve. The students discover their own learning paths and the teacher acts as a guide, helping the students continue their lifelong learning processes at the pace that is most comfortable for them. Traditionally, teachers follow lessons that are predetermined and must be delivered in the same order, at the same pace and without regard for each student’s individual learning needs—there is no customization or straying from the plan, even if some of the children fall behind or are in need of extra time to fully comprehend the lesson. The same lesson is taught to every student in the exact same way. Teachers in traditional learning environments may get to know each individual student in their class, but they will not be able to execute the most successful learning methods for those students because their teaching strategies need to be universal.

Classroom

Montessori classrooms are organized and prepared taking every student’s individual needs into consideration. Classes are student-centered and involve lessons and activities that give children opportunities to learn, grow and explore. At Milton Montessori, the students are our priority. Everything we do, we do with your child in mind, which is why we focus on student-centered activities rather than teacher-centered instruction. In traditional education, the focus is on the teacher and her lesson. Students spend a lot of time listening rather than doing. Even splitting off, away from the teacher, and working on group projects is teacher-centered because students are focusing on a lesson that was organized and planned by the teacher. In a Montessori setting, the students are in the driver seat and dictate how and when they learn the things that they are interested in. In many instances, the teachers are actually learning from the students by observing behaviors and tendencies in the classroom.

Active Participation

A Montessori education encourages active participation in the classroom. With a number of hands-on activities to choose from, students discover information for themselves. They interact with classmates, move around the classroom and are active participants in their own education. At a Montessori school, students learn by doing. In a traditional learning environment, students sit in desks and learn by listening, memorizing and then taking a test on the material. This is an extremely passive approach to learning, and many times, students will have a difficult time retaining information after memorizing and regurgitating the information via a quiz or test. Children are naturally eager to learn—you can see it in the way they are always trying to touch or taste new and unfamiliar things. This curiosity should be encouraged, and in a Montessori setting, it is! For example, if a student is curious about a ball sitting on the classroom floor, a Montessori teacher will encourage the child to pick it up and learn about it—how does it feel? What does it look like? What color is it? A traditional teacher, on the other hand, would give the child the answers to those questions in an attempt to explain what a ball is. Telling a child how a ball feels and having them feel it for themselves are two very different teaching methods. How can you possibly discover how something feels or looks without examining it on your own?

Self-Esteem

In traditional classrooms, self-esteem is thought to come from external validation, acceptance and judgement. This mentality results in children who allow their self-esteem to be influenced by external sources like other children, teachers, the media and more. At Milton Montessori, we know that self-esteem comes from within—it stems from an internal sense of worth and pride in one’s own accomplishments. We emphasize self-made self-esteem by encouraging students to be proud of their achievements. As these children grow up, they will be less easily affected by external influences and will remember that they are in control of their own self-esteem. Children with positive self-esteem are confident, in control and learn to grow from their mistakes without the fear of rejection.

“Grade Levels”

Traditional learning environments group children into different grades by age, and without considering where each child is at developmentally. This is a huge oversight by traditional classrooms, as age is not the best way to establish where a child is on their lifelong-learning path. At a Montessori school, “grade levels” are much more flexible and are typically determined by the child’s developmental range. Children who are developing more quickly or more slowly can work in an environment with peers who are at similar developmental stages. Not only do Montessori students learn using hands-on activities and lessons, they learn from their peers. By using developmental range to determine “grade levels,” students have the opportunity to interact with other students who may be younger or older than them and who may be able to introduce your child to new learning opportunities.

Focus

A traditional education, of course, focuses on academics—social and emotional development are not addressed or nurtured in a traditional classroom. The Montessori Method, on the other hand, focuses on helping a child develop and grow as a whole, which includes intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual development. The acquisition of academic, social and practical life skills is invaluable and one of the largest differences between a Montessori education and a traditional education. Learning is a lifelong process with endless opportunities for growth and development. What children learn in a history or math book will one day be much less important than the essential life skills a child can start building now, with a Montessori education. Learning extends far beyond textbooks, essays and tests.

Exploration

The Montessori Method focuses heavily on encouraging students to explore, learn and discover. Students are provided with resources to help them research and learn more about any given subject. Each child chooses what they want to explore, and then they go about finding methods and materials that will successfully help them understand whatever it is they desire to learn. One student may want to learn about bumblebees while another student is fascinated by the moon–resources are available to both students, inspiring them to learn whatever they would like, whenever they would like. This approach shows children that learning is fun! In a traditional classroom, the scope of what students can learn is limited to what the curriculum outlines for that year. Available resources are also limited to materials that support the curriculum. In essence, a traditional education tells children what they need to learn, how they need to learn it and how quickly they need to memorize the material. There is no freedom to learn about things outside of the lesson plan.

Discipline

In a Montessori classroom, students are encouraged to learn and explore freely. They are encouraged to move around the classroom and talk with other students. Some believe this type of learning environment is not structured enough and that it allows children to run amuck without restriction—this actually could not be further from the truth. A classroom with this kind of freedom teaches children how to utilize internal self-discipline. They learn to speak in “indoor voices” that are not disruptive and distracting. They learn how to share toys, books and other school supplies. They learn self-discipline that is nurtured and encouraged by the teacher. In a traditional classroom, the teacher is the enforcer of discipline. Students learn that all discipline must come from an external source, rather than developing their internal self-discipline. This can eventually result in the child experiencing difficulties deciding what is “right” and what is “wrong,” on their own.

Motivation

In a traditional learning environment, motivation is achieved using a “reward and punishment” system. This means children are motivated to pay attention, listen to instruction and complete assignments because they don’t want to get in trouble by the teacher. Good behavior, like turning in homework, listening quietly and acing a test, is praised (reward), while bad behavior, like tardiness and failing to turn in homework, is frowned upon (punishment). In a Montessori classroom, students are motivated from within. Teachers encourage students to be proud of tasks they complete, and their pride then motivates them to complete future assignments because a “job well done” makes them feel good. When students are self-motivated, they become self-starters, go-getters.

Learn more about our Montessori school.

At Milton Montessori, our priority is guiding our students as they grow and develop. Our wonderful faculty cares deeply about education, and we take every necessary step to ensure our students have the absolute best Montessori education. If you are interested in learning more about our school or taking a tour of the campus, please get in touch with us today! Enrollment is currently open for the coming fall semester. We look forward to meeting you and your family soon!

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