children showing the difference of montessori kindergarten

Montessori Kindergarten: The Difference It Makes

As your child blossoms into a five-year-old, you may be considering whether to stay with Montessori Center School for kindergarten or transfer to another school. Perhaps you’re considering moving to the one he or she will attend for first grade and beyond. Is there really that much difference, you may wonder, between the Montessori kindergarten year and a year of traditional kindergarten? In a word, yes. Let’s get into the details.

Why Montessori Kindergarten?

Over the past century-plus, a wealth of research has affirmed Dr. Montessori’s insights, and many of her methods have become standard in the educational mainstream. Phonics, math manipulatives, interdisciplinary learning, and even child-size furniture have found their way into 21st-century kindergartens from their birthplace in the 1907 Montessori Children’s House.

So what is it about authentic Montessori kindergarten that still sets it apart as a highly effective approach to the unique needs of the child who is five going on six? Our previous post, Why Parents Say “Yes” to Montessori Kindergarten, explored the unique benefits of Montessori for five-year-old’s, including individualized instruction, a world-renowned curriculum, and the important opportunity to be a leader in a mixed-age classroom. In this article, we examine the fundamental differences that make Montessori kindergarten the best choice for so many children and families.

Difference #1. The Role of the Child

While conventional kindergarten focuses on building basic skills in literacy and numeracy, Montessori kindergarten children learn how to apply their skills to investigate topics on their own. Instead of pre-printed worksheets and teacher-designed projects, Montessori children plan and carry out their own group or individual work—maybe composing a song based on U.S. states and capitals, or creating a handmade booklet about nocturnal mammals.

Montessori kindergartener at Montessori Ceenter School doing sentence construction
Freedom and Responsibility
“Independence” in the Montessori classroom definitely does not mean your child is free to avoid learning in subjects he or she “doesn’t like.” Over their three years of Montessori Primary (ages 3-6), children internalize the understanding that freedom to choose activities comes with a solemn responsibility to keep order in the classroom and work to one’s greatest ability. Especially in the kindergarten year, Montessori teachers use careful recordkeeping, along with the rapport they have built with each child, to make sure every child meets each benchmark. Rest assured, your Montessori kindergarten graduate will be more than rea for elementary school and beyond!

Difference #2. The Role of the Teacher

Montessori teachers rely not on the latest textbook or program, but on their intensive training in an agile, world-class curriculum that has stood the test of time. They can be confident in their approach because Montessori methods have been proven to work with all types of learners in every corner of the world.

A conventional kindergarten teacher’s job is to move all the children, together, through a curriculum provided by school administration, and to periodically assess their progress in a handful of broad areas, often on a simple scale of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. In contrast, as trained scientific observers, Montessori teachers keep a detailed record of each child’s progress on dozens of specific skills and benchmarks, as well as holistic observations about each child’s development. They use this record to plan the “just-right” next steps for each child, and to provide parents with comprehensive progress reports that foster a strong home-school partnership.

Difference #3. The Rhythm of the Day

At Montessori Center School, full-day kindergarten is the norm, not the exception, with a seamless transition between before- and after-school care if the family needs these services. The result is a day that feels calm, unhurried, and wide open to endless possibilities!

Student at a Montessori kindergarten doing decimal counting work

Instead of time blocks by subject, Montessori kindergarten features an uninterrupted three-hour work period every morning and another 3-hour period every afternoon. By their third year of Montessori, children know how to use this open time purposefully, and they usually arrive at school with a plan in mind. Children have their snack or use the toilet when their body tells them they need to, without spending precious time “lining up” and waiting. Then they resume work independently, all without needing instruction from a teacher.

An Authentic Montessori Kindergarten in Phoenix

Montessori Center School, accredited by the Association Montessori Internationale, is proud to offer an authentic Montessori education for ages 15 months to 6 years. For more information on our Phoenix Montessori kindergarten, please call us at (602) 678-4470.


Montessori Kindergarten or Conventional: What’s the Difference?

Montessori kindergartenConventional kindergarten
Children are active, confidently taking charge of their own learning.Children are mostly passive, expected to sit still and move in unison, told by an adult what to do.
Children have a real feeling of ownership of and responsibility for the classroom environment.The environment is controlled by the teacher.
Motivation comes from within the child.The teacher motivates the children.
Child-driven curriculum.Unit-driven curriculum.
Social-emotional and character development is seen as equal to, and intertwined with, academic development.Main emphasis is on academic skills (reading, math).
Teacher offers lessons individually, based on what is “just right” for a given child.All children get the same lesson, whether ready for it or not.
Two uninterrupted three-hour work periods—morning and afternoon—permit children to delve into their chosen work deeply, with full concentration.Children are led from one activity to another as a group; work periods are typically brief.
Children read fiction, nonfiction, and literary works according to their own interests—even books that stretch their reading skills.Basal readers emphasize mechanics of reading over engaging content.
Children create and solve their own problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.Math starts with basic number sense and counting; addition and subtraction are introduced gradually.
Children compose their own stories, lists, notes, and poems.Writing instruction focuses on forming letters properly.
Montessori methods work for a broad range of learning styles.Pull-outs and “resource rooms” are used for children with learning differences.

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