Montessori vs. Traditional

Montessori Education

Traditional Education

View the child holistically, valuing cognitive, psychological, social, and spiritual development Views the child in terms of competence, skill level, and achievement with and emphasis on core curricula standards and social development
Child is an active participant in learning – allowed to move about and respectfully explore the classroom environment Child is a more passive participant in learning
Teacher is an instructional facilitator and guide Teacher has a more dominant, central role in classroom activity
A carefully prepared learning environment and method encourages development of internal self-discipline and intrinsic motivation Teacher acts as a primary enforcer of external discipline promoting extrinsic motivation
Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to students’ learning styles and development levels Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to core curricula benchmarks
Three-year span of age grouping Same-age and/or skill level grouping
Grace, courtesy, and conflict resolution are integral part of daily Montessori peace curriculum Conflict resolution is usually taught separately from daily classroom activity
Values concentration and depth of experience; supplies uninterrupted time for focused work cycle to develop Values completion of assignments; time is tightly scheduled
Child’s learning pace is internally determined Instructional pace usually set by core-curricula standard expectations, group norm, or teacher
Child allowed to spot own errors through feedback from the materials; errors are viewed as part of learning process Work is usually corrected by the teacher; errors are viewed as mistakes
Learning is reinforced internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success Learning is reinforced externally by test scores and rewards, competition and grades
Care of self and environment are emphasized as integral to the learning experience Less emphasis on self-care, spatial awareness, and care of environment
Child can work where he/she is comfortable and the child often has choices between working alone or with a group Child is usually assigned a specific work space; talking among peers discouraged
Multi-disciplinary, interwoven curriculum Curriculum areas usually taught as separate topics
Progress is reported through multiple formats: conferences, narrative reports, checklists and portfolio of student’s work Progress is usually reported through conferences, report cards/grades, and test scores
Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and help each other Most teaching is done by the teacher and collaboration is an alternative teaching strategy
Child is provided opportunities to choose own work from interest and abilities, concepts taught within context of interest Curricula organized and structured for child based on core curricula standards
Goal is to foster a love of learning Goal is to master curricula objectives

Maria Montessori

maria_montessori-230x300Maria Montessori was born August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Dr. Montessori was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome La Sapienza Medical School, and the first female doctor in Italy. As a member of the University’s Psychiatric Clinic, she became interested in educating children with special needs and learning disabilities. In 1896 Dr. Montessori was appointed head of an institution in Italy that was devoted to the care and education of mentally handicapped children. Soon after working with these children, she had several 8 year olds take state exams, and they passed with above average scores. This success prompted Dr. Montessori to look into the effects of her teaching philosophy on children without disabilities.

Dr. Montessori then started a school in Rome, which opened in 1907. This school was called “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House”. At this school, she focused on teaching children ways to develop their own skills at a pace they set for themselves. This is a Montessori principle known as “spontaneous self-development”. The success of this school prompted the opening of many more like it around the world, and sparked an interest in the Montessori method of education.

In the 1920’s, Mussolini exiled Dr. Montessori from Italy because she refused to compromise her principles and make children into soldiers. She lived in Spain until the Spanish Civil War in 1936, at which time she moved to the Netherlands.  In 1939 she was invited to visit India, where she worked with her son, Mario Montessori, to lay a strong foundation for the Montessori Movement in India. In 1949 she left India, and returned to the Netherlands where she stayed until her death on May 6, 1952.

Montessori in the News


The Montessori MafiaWall Street Journal article by Peter Sims.

“We can change the way we’ve been trained to think. That begins in small, achievable ways, with increased experimentation and inquisitiveness.”


What do P. Diddy, Sergey Brin, and Peter Drucker have in common?The Korn/Ferry Institute article by Glenn Rifkin.

“Eliminating the rigid structures of conventional classrooms, a Montessori school encourages students to embrace their curiosity, think imaginatively and see the world as an array of possibilities.”


Maria Montessori: Is the Montessori Method Any Good?The Christian Science Monitor article by Eoin O’Carroll.

“A 2006 study of 112 students in a Montessori school and conventional public schools in Milwaukee found that the Montessori students performed significantly better on both cognitive and social measures.”


Succeeding at their own article by Alex Beam.

“You can’t understand Google unless you know that both Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] were Montessori kids,’’ one staffer tells Levy. “Montessori really teaches you to do things on your own at your own pace and schedule,’’ Brin says in the book. “It was a pretty fun, playful environment – like Google.’’


Montessori, Now 100, Goes MainstreamThe Washington Post article by Jay Mathews.

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child,” Montessori said. She also declared: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say: ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ ”


Maria Montessori and 10 famous graduates from her schools” The Christian Science Monitor article by Chris Gaylord.

“I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”

Famous Montessori Graduates

The teaching style of Dr. Maria Montessori is meant to spark creativity, initiative, and self-confidence in children.  With that in mind, it is no wonder that there are so many notable former Montessori students.  Below is a list of just a few Montessori students you may have heard of.

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google
  • Jeff Bezos, founder of
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former First Lady
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize-winning novelist
  • Anne Frank, famous child diarist from World War II
  • Prince William and Prince Harry, sons of Charles, Prince of Wales
  • Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actresses
  • Sean Combs, famous rapper
  • Julia Child, first TV chef
  • Helen Hunt, Academy Award-winning actress
  • George Clooney, Academy Award-winning actor
  • David Blaine, magician (also sent his children to a Montessori school)
  • Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill & Hillary Clinton
  • Dakota Fanning, Academy Award-nominated actress