These programs are based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, PhD, from the early 1900s, who believed that children learn by accomplishing different tasks, or using toys as tools to accomplish these tasks.
A Montessori classroom is very structured, with children moving from activity to activity but at the child's own pace. This is a very individualized program and children are encouraged to work without other children. The classroom is very orderly and children learn to use a toy or tool in one way only and are discouraged from dramatic play.
In a Montessori classroom teachers are there to control the environment, not the child. Dr. Montessori found that children in this type of setting developed strong self-discipline and lengthened attention spans. Some parents find this approach anti-creative, too restrictive, or not playful enough, while others feel it is the right place for a child who may thrive in a calm and orderly setting.
If you choose a Montessori preschool program and plan to transition your child to a developmental kindergarten, your child may find this a challenge. The structure found in most public kindergartens is very different from Montessori-style teaching, and the absence of any Montessori tools can be a shock to a child. Keep this in mind if your child has difficulty with transitions.