The choice you make for your child’s preschool is important because it is the first experience your child will have with school. Preschool can also help lay the foundation for future learning. Take your time to choose a preschool program that aligns with your beliefs about education and will provide a positive first experience for your child. You may already understand the basics of what a traditional preschool offers. If you are not quite comfortable with the traditional preschool model, there is another option available – Montessori preschool. There are some significant differences between Montessori preschool and traditional preschool. Three differences that make Montessori preschool stand out include the prepared environment, the multi-age classroom design, and the focus placed on building independence and self-confidence.
In Montessori preschool, the classroom is a prepared environment. This means that the teacher takes time to set up learning stations throughout the room. The hands-on learning stations are intentionally designed to meet the learning and developmental needs of students in the classroom. The learning stations in the preschool classroom will include practical life activities that students can practice and master. For example, organizing is a practical life activity that your child will use throughout childhood and adulthood. In the prepared environment, your child will have opportunities to organize in a variety of hands-on situations. As an example, there may be a station with various items that need to be organized by shape, color, texture, size, or any number of categories. Students can practice organizing as well as identifying characteristics of items and counting. The prepared environment is the ideal setup for preschool aged children who learn by doing.
Montessori preschool also has a multi-age classroom design. If your child is four and goes to a traditional preschool, his or her classmates will also be four or close to it. In Montessori preschool, the ages can range from 18 months – 3 years and 3 years – 5 years. This design makes it possible for younger students to learn from older students and for the older students to practice leadership skills. In addition, the children in the classroom get the opportunity to interact with other kids who are at different stages and learning levels. This is good practice for real life where everyone is not always organized by age.
Focus on building independence and self-confidence
Two important goals for children in Montessori preschool are to develop independence and self-confidence. Independence is fostered by giving the children choices within the prepared environment as well as responsibilities. Self-confidence is developed as students are provided with the time and resources they need to truly master a task or topic. There is no rush to catch up or pressure to wait for other students in the Montessori classroom. Each student has the ability to move at his or her own pace.
The differences between Montessori preschool and traditional preschool do not end with the topics outlined above. The best way to experience the things that are different in a Montessori preschool is to observe a class. The differences and benefits of Montessori preschool will be clear once you are able to see it for yourself through a class observation.