Montessori Philosophy
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Montessori Philosophy

What is a Montessori school?

Maria Montessori in 1913Over 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian Physician, created a new vision of education for children, which is often thought of as the “education for life.” Montessori is a worldwide education system founded at the beginning of the century that is based upon a lifetime of research by Dr. Maria Montessori.

Dr. Montessori’s philosophy is based on the natural development of children and their intrinsic desire to explore, discover, and learn from the world around them.

To enter a Montessori school is to enter into a world specially prepared for the comfort and stimulation of the child. The classrooms are carefully designed environments where children of mixed ages work together or independently with multi-sensory materials that invite them to touch, to think, to experience. Children move freely around the classroom, are able to choose activities that interest them and are able to continue working with it until a sense of accomplishment is achieved. Before the child chooses another activity, materials are put back in place. With the freedom to choose, children develop self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-mastery.

Because the Montessori classroom is child-centered, the Montessori teacher is seen as more of a facilitator than an instructor. The teacher serves as the link between the student and the learning environment, observing each child’s progress, and introducing the next step to enable the child to master a skill.

Montessori vs Traditional

Montessori philosophy differs from traditional school in three primary ways.

Multi-aged classrooms: Children are grouped in multi-age groups spanning two to three years. Multi-age classrooms serve to: encourage cooperation, minimize competition, provide opportunities for indirect learning for younger students as they observe older peers, foster self-confidence in students who serve as role models, and provide long-term child/adult relationships. Educational materials are concrete to aid the child to learn order, to discriminate physical dimensions, provide opportunities to teach responsibility, coordination, and interdependence, and to indirectly prepare for complex abstract concepts.Each child initially responds to an inner urge to develop both knowledge and build identity through spontaneous activity which charts the course for individualized lessons.

Here is a specific list of differences between Montessori and Traditional way of teaching:

Montessori Classroom
Montessori classroom


  • Whole to part presentation of subjects.  The universe is presented and then the details.
  • Teacher acts as guide and follows the child; child determines direction of learning by own interests.
    Material is available for exploration.
  • Purposeful and self- selected  work provides internal self discipline.
  • Through observation, teacher adjusts instruction to child’s learning style.  Most lessons given on a one to one basis.
  • Mixed age grouping
  • Community building is encouraged promoting service to others, both academically and socially.
  • The child takes responsibility for his/her own ideas, judgments, actions and decisions.
  • Child discovers concepts through repetitive work  with manipulative materials.
  • Uninterrupted work time  is designed into daily schedule to honor child’s individual focus and interests.
  • Control of error lies in the material itself.  Child’s own intelligence fosters correction.
  • Self-perfection is a natural tendency of every child and the excitement of self mastery and discovery motivates children to learn.
  • Multi-sensory materials for physical exploration.
  • Practical life skills are central to overall curriculum.
  • Child can work where s/he is comfortable, moves around and talks at will (yet disturbs not the work of others). 
  • Organized program for parents to understand the Montessori philosophy and participate in the learning process.


Traditional Kindergarten
Traditional classroom


  • Part to whole presentation of subjects. Details are presented based on graded curriculum and the universe is built detail by detail over a span of years.
  • Teacher has central role in classroom activity; child receives direction from adult via predetermined activities.
  • Discipline is external to child via the authority of the teacher.
  • Instruction, both individual and group, is adapted to adult’s teaching style. Most lessons given in small to large groups.
  • Same Age Grouping
  • Independent work encouraged
  • Orientation of work and classroom milieu determined and directed by the teacher.
  • Textbooks and worksheets reinforce lessons given by the teacher.
  • Instruction pace is usually set by group norm or teacher.
  • Work is set up for a right and wrong answer.  Teacher indicates errors.
  • Learning is reinforced by external rewards such as grades, rewards, and verbal acknowledgements.
  • Textbooks and worksheets provide the source of information.
  • Child expected to have acquired self- care skills prior to entering school.
  • Child  assigned own chair and expected to spend  most of school day stationary.
  • Parent involvement central to assisting with social activities and field trips.