The process of finding the right school for your child is something worth dedicating a significant amount of your time and effort. The school that your child attends can impact a number of factors in his or her life now and in the future. Beyond that, the school your child, attends can also affect your family as a whole. A common debate that parents have is whether to choose a Montessori or a public school. Learning about the differences between the two will help you determine which is right for your family.
The overarching goal of the Montessori Philosophy is to prepare students for success in life. That overarching goal informs everything in Montessori programs, from the layout of the classroom to the role of the teacher. For example, the youngest students in Montessori school spend time working on practical life activities related to caring for themselves, caring for the space around them, and interacting with others. Skills like washing hands, putting on a coat, setting the table, cleaning up, and being courteous to others are all practiced in the classroom. These skills are practiced because they are important elements of success in life outside of the classroom. The design of the Montessori classroom and curriculum allows older students to practice working independently, working with others, and taking responsibility for their own learning and actions. As students move through upper elementary, they develop into self-directed and independent learners, both important for a life of continued learning beyond the classroom. The child-centered design of the Montessori classroom and curriculum ensures that each student gets individualized instruction based on his or her unique needs.
Public school was originally designed to ensure that every child has access to education. Public education has played an important role in making it a common and expected thing to get an education. The state heavily regulates the public school system to make sure that everyone is getting the same standard of education. This can become a problem for students who are below or above the average expectations set forth by the state. A student who is advanced and quickly masters the concepts that will be on standardized tests may spend most of the time feeling bored in the public school classroom. A student who is struggling may be able to do well enough to pass the minimum standard on tests but not get the opportunity to spend the extra time required for true mastery. Providing access to a basic education is a noble goal and an important role for the public school system. However, there is not space within the existing system to ensure that each child gets individualized instruction.
So, which option is right for your family? In the vast majority of situations, getting individualized instruction in the Montessori classroom is a better choice than being part of the average in public school. If you want to see some of the many differences between the two options with your own eyes, schedule a time to tour a Montessori school and observe a class in person.