What Makes the Best Preschool: the Pros and Cons of a Montessori Education

Are you struggling to decide whether a Montessori school is right for your family and your child? There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the type of preschool to which to send your child. When you’re making your list of pros and cons, it’s important to consider everything from cost, hours of operation and staffing ratios to philosophy, structure and environment. Even then, however, how you rank each of those factors is fairly subjective, based on your family’s needs and value. Some people place a very high value on low teacher-to-student ratios. Others, like those of us here at WBMS, are more interested in seeing a classroom with a mix of kids of different ages and skill levels working together to teach and learn. 

In my reading and my conversations with other parents at WBMS, several “themes” seem to appear consistently in the “pro” category for parents who have chosen a Montessori education for their child. Those include:

  • Children learn through play, at their own pace

  • Children are encouraged to explore what interests them, rather than be forced to participate in activities throughout a school day

  • Montessori is flexible – by design, it caters to the child rather than expecting the child to cater to the lesson

  • Montessori is hands-on learning in all subjects

  • Real world skills are taught, rather than focusing solely on academics

  • Montessori education is not “rewards based” (ie) grades or awards – rather, children learn intrinsic reinforcement through success in learning at their own pace

  • Montessori students have a high level of academic achievement 

  • Learning through all five senses is a core standard in Montessori

  • AMI accredited schools (such as WBMS) require that teachers are specially trained in the Montessori Method

  • There is no testing – rather, students are assessed via a portfolio, as well as teacher observations and record keeping

  • Character education – respect for self, others and the environment, is a core standard

  • Classrooms include mixed age groups, allowing children to interact with a more diverse social circle and giving older students a chance to practice leadership and role modeling skills

  • Montessori programs are typically five days even at the “preschool” age – this creates consistency and allows your child more time to learn and grow

  • A Montessori education focuses on the whole child, including various ways of learning, interests and social interactions

  • Homework at the elementary level is never “busy work” such as worksheets.  Instead, assignments given outside of class expand on topics addressed in school and often ask for parent and child to work together.

There are also some themes that come up time and time again as challenges to choosing a Montessori education, but most of them are about choosing Montessori for elementary school, not for preschool. Those include:

  • Not all public school districts offer a Montessori option – you may need to choose a private Montessori school which comes with a tuition payment

  • If you choose a private Montessori school, you may not get busing/transportation as you would with your neighborhood public school

  • Many Montessori schools only teach students up to a certain age – although there are Montessori schools that last through 12th grade, you may need to change schools part way through your child’s educational career

  • Authentic Montessori schools do not participate annually in traditional “standardized testing”.  If this is information you value, you may feel disappointed with the concrete information available to evaluate your child’s progress (Coming Soon: "How Montessori Measures Student Progress")

When it comes to choosing a preschool for your child, start by thinking about what qualities and outcomes are most important to you. Visit different types of settings, ask questions about why things are done the way they are done, and then try to visualize your child in those environments. Make your list of pros and cons – but don’t forget to let your heart weigh in as well.

Danielle Cloe