The Montessori Difference
Who was Dr. Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was the first female Doctor of Medicine in Italy in 1896. From observing young, underprivileged patients, Dr. Montessori determined that environment was a more important factor in their behavior than previously believed. She set about designing a learning materials and studying children as they used them. These materials, combined with a specially prepared environment and trained teachers, directresses, led to the Montessori Method of education we know today.

What is different about a Montessori classroom?
An TSS classroom is a very busy place. It is also quieter than a traditional classroom. Because children choose their own activities, based on the lessons the directress has presented to them, they remain interested and engaged in what they are learning and doing. A Montessori certified teacher is always close by, observing and preparing to help with the next lesson or question. Children treat their materials with care and put them in their proper place once they have completed their work.
What is different about a Montessori teacher?
A Montessori education means that a child has a very special guide for his or her self-led journey. Montessori teachers are called Directresses or Directors and are certified after hundreds of hours of specialized training. They are skilled at asking questions rather than providing answers. They know how to help a child build self-confidence and self-esteem. The environment and method provide discipline. The Montessori teacher provides guidance.
What happens when a child goes from a Montessori school to a traditional school?
When children leave TSS, they leave with inner self-discipline, a positive attitude toward school and learning, self-esteem and a habit of concentration on tasks.
Often, but not always, they are ahead of their peers. The skills and attitudes developed at TSS lead to a lifetime of curiosity and learning - a benefit for children who move from TSS to private, parochial or public schools.
What is the main difference between a traditional classroom and a Montessori classroom?
In Montessori classrooms, teachers address the needs of individual children who are learning through practice with hands-on materials. The teacher introduces a child to materials systematically, depending on developmental needs. The Montessori classroom is designed to promote self-discipline, independence and responsibility. Academically, children develop a foundation in language and math skills, physical and cultural geography, zoology, botany, physical science, history, music, movement and art. They also learn practical life skills such as cooking, carpentry, sewing and cleaning. One of the most important aspects of a Montessori classroom is the teacher's respect for the dignity of the child, no matter how young.
What is the Montessori Method?
Dr. Maria Montessori recognized that the very young child goes through periods of great sensitivity in particular areas during which he learns more easily than at any time in his life. Montessori is a personalized approach in which each child, respected as an individual, discovers the joy of learning. A totally prepared environment awaits the absorbent mind of the child. Each piece of material is designed to give the child a new experience and to develop a specific concept. The directress acts as a catalyst. The prepared environment's aim is to aid the child to help himself by developing an awareness of reality as he experiences it in himself, in others and in the world around him. The child works in an atmosphere of freedom and responsibility. Different areas of interest are prepared to introduce to him the total reality - Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Geography, History, Natural Science, Social Science, Art and Music.
Is a Montessori education for everyone?
Most children benefit from the Montessori Method. It is used around the world to educate children from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Maria Montessori's approach to education has been so successful that many private and public schools, as well as early childhood education centers, have adopted Montessori practices and philosophies.


Views the whole child's development. Views the child in terms of achievement with an emphasis on the same curriculum for all students in the same grade level.
Child is an active participant in learning. Child is a passive participant in learning.
Child can move freely and explore the classroom environment to encourage internal discipline. Teacher is a facilitator and guide. Child is usually confined in their chair. Teacher has a more dominant and central role in classroom activity.
Carefully planned learning environment. Teacher acts as a primary enforcer of external discipline.
Individual and group learning that adapts to student's learning styles and developmental levels. Individual and group learning that adapts to the same curriculum for all students in the same grade level.
3 year span of mixed age groups that allows teachers, students and parents to develop collaborative relationships. Same age grouping. One year cycles can limit development of strong teacher, student and parent collaboration.
Courtesy and conflict resolution are integral parts of the curriculum. Conflict resolution taught separate from classroom dynamics.
Values concentration and uninterrupted time for focused work cycle to develop. Values completion of assignments; time is tightly scheduled.
Child's learning pace is determined by him or her. Instructional pace determined by curriculum for all group norm.
Child allowed to see their own errors through feedback from the materials; errors are viewed as part of the learning process. Work is usually corrected by the teacher; errors are viewed as mistakes.
Learning reinforced internally through the child's reinforcement of repeating lessons. Learning is reinforced externally by grades and rewards.
Care of self and environment are emphasized. Less emphasis on self care and care of the environment.
Child can work where he/ she is comfortable, alone or in a group. Child is usually assigned a specific work space; talking among peers is discouraged.
Multi-disciplinary, interwoven curriculum. Curriculum areas taught separately.
Child learns to share leadership. Hierarchical classroom structure is more prominent.
Progress is reported through multiple formats: portfolio of student's work, progress reports and conferences. Progress is usually reported through report cards and grades.
Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate and help each other. Most teaching is done by the teacher and collaboration is secondary.
Child is provided opportunities to choose their own work from interests and abilities. Curriculum organized and structured for child based on care curriculum standards.
Goal is to foster a love of learning. Goal is to master core curriculum objectives.


"This system in which a child is constantly moving objects with his hands and actively exercising his senses, also takes into account a child's special aptitude for mathematics. When they leave the material, the children very easily reach the point where they wish to write out the operation. They can thus carry out an abstract mental operation and acquire a kind of natural and spontaneous inclination for mental calculations."

Dr. Maria Montessori

“Montessori’s educational vision has not only survived into a new century, it is thriving as never before. Many of her once radical ideas — including the notions that children learn through hands on activity, that the preschool years are a time of critical brain development and that parents should be partners in their children’s education – are now accepted wisdom.”

Smithsonian Magazine (Sept 2002)