Child-centered education vs. academic education for the developing child

Montessori education is a child-centered approach focusing on a child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. It is a method that respects the individual’s inner self and the development of the total child physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively. The Montessori approach is that children learn through activity. The objective of a Montessori education is to promote a child’s instinctive preference to learn. Montessori teachers assist the child in learning instead of directing the learning course, providing assistance only when requested, connecting the child with activities of their interests, needs, and developmental levels. The Montessori classroom is constructed of a learning environment accommodating choice of the child’s exploration rather than the traditional structured classroom environment. The Montessori classroom is a nurturing atmosphere, well organized, and welcoming to help children feel more like that of a home environment. Children teach themselves through creative activity and their own exploring. The children are given choices in activities and not limited from shifting from one activity to another.

An example of typical public education is a curriculum based on the state standards education initiative known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is not a curriculum, rather a set of standards that define the knowledge and skills students are to master each year beginning in pre-kindergarten through graduation from high school. The standards focus on the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to analyze situations appropriately. CCSS provides teachers a method of measuring student progress during the year, the purpose of which to ensure students will be successful in their academic career. CCSS is divided into two categories. First, the college and career readiness standards which address what students should know and comprehend by the time they graduate from high school, and secondly, the K-12 standards which address expectations for elementary school through high school. These standards are designed to ensure students are prepared for entry-level careers, first-year college courses, and workforce training programs. The reason CCSS was initiated was to address the lack of standardization among the states’ educational standards.

Montessori Education


  • Students learn at their own pace advancing as they are ready, more eager to learn because they are learning about what interests them
  • Students learn independence, order, coordination, and concentration
  • Recreates a family structure


  • Students may have a hard time adjusting to a typical school setting later
  • Students may struggle with not having the conventional classroom structure
  • Teachers may have a hard time allowing students to choose their own activities

Common Core State Standards


  • Allows states to measure standardized test scores more precisely
  • Increases classroom rigor which prepares the student more for college and work success
  • Teachers are able to monitor a student’s progress throughout the year


  • A difficult adjustment initially for students and teachers
  • May cause teachers and administrators to seek other career options rather than alter the way they teach
  • Places increased value on standardized test scores rather than ensuring the student has a proper understanding of the subject matter

Research shows that children who attend child-centered education preschools such as the Montessori style of instruction have better-developed math and reading skills. These children also demonstrate higher levels of motor skills and healthier social skills than students who attend traditional academic centered preschools. Evidence shows children of child-centered education demonstrate less stress which affords a better physical and mental developmental outcome, and they are more connected in learning, because they choose their own activities. This style of education appears to be more successful in a child’s overall development, because it acknowledges that children learn at different levels, allowing the children to work at a developmentally appropriate level. Academic programs focus more on a scheduled and planned structure where each student is treated as if they are on the same developmental level as the other. This creates an environment where children may not be performing tasks equal to their appropriate developmental level.

The educational needs of children and teens change as they age. Preschoolers ranging from two to five years old are very inquisitive and ask many questions. They learn through play, imagination, and exploration. School-age children ages six through 12 also ask a lot of questions. They are willing to learn new things, including social skills. Learning is rapid as they are able to begin accomplishing difficult tasks. They are more cooperative, and are developing a sense of responsibility. Adolescents ages 13 to 18 are able to think abstractly, and able to develop theories regarding how the world works. They are more creative, energetic, compassionate, and engaging. Sometimes teenagers deal with mood swings and anxiety as they face the various changes they encounter socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Based on research it appears that the Montessori style education would be appropriate for preschool and school age children, while Common Core would tend to be more appropriate for teenagers.



Bloodworth, A. (2011, November 16). What is the Common Core? Retrieved November 22, 2015, from’s-the-common-core??tmpl=component&print=1

Developmental Characteristics of Youth. (2004, August 1). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from

Developmental Tasks. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2015, from

Habash, G. (2013, April 10). What Is Common Core? Retrieved November 22, 2015, from

Introduction to Montessori Method. (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2015, from

Meador, D. (n.d.). What are some Pros and Cons of the Common Core Standards? Retrieved November 22, 2015, from

Meador, D. (n.d.). What are the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from

Mossler, R. (2014). Child and Adolescent Development (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.

Xu, E. (2014, November 18). The Pros & Cons of Montessori Education. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from




Leave a Reply