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Private School vs. Montessori

You have many options when choosing a school for your child. There are many different types of education philosophies and approaches and you will have to determine which style is the best fit for your child. Parents often wonder if an alternative approach may be better for their kids, particularly if you’ve had a negative experience in public schools.

Not all private schools are created equal

Students Study Group With TeacherWe often hear from parents that they are anxious to find a different learning method because their child is struggling to pass due to rigid expectations and inflexible teaching styles. Are you are looking at a poor report card and wondering “How did we get here”? If so, private school may be a good option for you, but it is important that you identify a learning style that your child will respond to and seek a school that can accommodate their needs.

Private schools have more flexibility in their learning style and curriculum than public schools because they are not held to state mandates. This can allow private schools to provide a more well-rounded education by focusing more on arts, music and other areas of study that have been scaled back in the public school system. That being said, private schools can have drastically different approaches to their approach. A prime example is these differences is the Montessori approach versus the conversational approach.

Montessori mindset

Montessori schools take an approach that is almost opposite of public schools. Rather than strict schedules and lesson plans, the Montessori philosophy believes that students should learn at their own pace and lead their own educational experience. One of the biggest differences in this learning style is that there is very little discipline or structure. Students simply learn what they want to learn and teachers serve as guides, but not leaders of the classroom. Lessons are taught through hands-on activities and students have an unlimited amount of time to focus on any particular subject. Children tend to be grouped into age ranges, rather than assigned a specific grade level. For example, one class may have kids from 9 to 12 years old.

Promising results have been displayed in students who actively participate, but Montessori might not be a good fit for kids that require more structure. As mentioned earlier, teachers act more as educational guides than enforcers, so they wait for students to show an interest before learning takes place. If a child chooses not to participate they are not usually forced, or even encouraged, to read, explore or do any other activity available to them.

Conversational approach

At Brook Road Academy, we take the conversational approach to learning. We do not dictate to students or require a large amount of memorization. Instead, our teachers lead thought provoking discussions where students are free to voice their opinions and explore alternative thought processes. Participation is greatly encouraged and each opinion is valued, which helps to build confidence in both the academic and social arenas.

We have had great success using the conversational approach, in combination with small class sizes, to reach students who were struggling in “regular” school, as well as those dealing with school phobia, depression, ADHD and Asperer’s.

Transitions between private schools

While you are researching private school options vs. Montessori schools, you may want to keep school transitions in mind. Montessori schools are more prevalent at the elementary level. There are some Montessori schools in Richmond that continue through 8th grade, however there are not many high school options available for Montessori school.

Some students report difficulty transitioning between Montessori and other educational approaches. The sudden switch between lack of structure and academic freedom to strict schedules and lesson plans can be troubling for some. The other side of the same coin is that kids who started in Montessori have developed a strong thirst for knowledge by the time they reach the upper grades, which can make them more interested in the advanced concepts introduced in the traditional private school setting.

Interested in finding out more about the conversational approach and learning style best relates to your child? Contact us here.