Decisions, decisions, decisions — parenting is full of so many important choices. One day, you’re trying to decide on the best stroller for your baby, and the next you’re choosing where you will send your child for early childhood and the rest of their primary education.
If you’re finding yourself slogging through school choice research, allow us to help by comparing Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori schools.
In this article:
Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori: Get to Know These Two Schooling Styles
Knowing your child is in good hands can help balance the stress of being a mom. Montessori and Reggio Emilia schools are strong educational models that share a lot of common ground, beginning with their shared founding country of Italy. Both Reggio Emilia and Montessori schools encourage child-led learning.
However, Montessori schools do have a curriculum framework with specific goals in the subjects of mathematics, science, culture, language arts, and practical life skills. Comparatively, the teachers and students in Reggio Emilia schools work together to create a curriculum based on student interests.
Additionally, one of the biggest advantages Montessori has over Reggio Emilia is that it is more widely researched and adopted in schools throughout the United States. More research needs to be done to clarify the benefits of a Reggio Emilia approach. That being said, both models of education have their advantages and disadvantages and knowing what your child needs most can help you decide between the two.
Both of these styles of schooling embrace the idea that children have an incredible potential for learning in a variety of ways. They believe that when provided with the right resources, children will make connections on their own through work and play.
Here’s a closer look at both types of schools.
Reggio Emilia Schools
While a more traditional school setting will guide students through a curriculum, children in a Reggio Emilia school are encouraged to follow their own interests, according to Goodwin University.
Students are provided with an environment that allows hands-on-learning and their classrooms are filled with supplies for creating and building, costumes and instruments for the arts, and the technology needed for computer-based learning. Teachers are present to create a curriculum with the children, built around their interests, and then document the learning that is taking place in the classroom.
Pros & Cons
Children make connections through hands on learning.
Collaboration is an important value in this model, and children learn important social skills through group projects.
Education is led by the students’ interests and passions.
Teaching students how to research is an important part of Reggio Emilia education.
Some children may not thrive in a flexible learning environment, requiring more guidance from a teacher.
Project-based learning isn’t widely embraced in the United States because of its incompatibility with standardized testing.
Reggio Emilia schools are not widely available in the United States and many schools are private, tuition-pay schools.
Much like Reggio, this education style, founded by Maria Montessori a little over 100 years ago, is meant to encourage students to lead their own learning. This results in the iconic look that Montessori classrooms have come to be known for—things like wooden shelves and toys and various work stations scattered throughout the classroom.
The main difference with Reggio Emilia vs. Montessori education is that while Montessori is child-led, it isn’t necessarily interest based. Instead, children are encouraged to select their work from material presented to them. These materials teach practical life skills, language arts, mathematics, culture, science and sensorial learning.
Pros & Cons
Encourages students to direct their own learning
Traditional Montessori classrooms are mixed age, encouraging social interactions between peers in multiple grades.
Naturally flexible enough to accommodate children of different abilities
This education style is very focused on addressing the needs of the whole child, encouraging cognitive, emotional, physical, and social learning and growth.
Only 500 of the 5000 Montessori schools in the United States are public; the remaining are private schools with high tuition expenses.
The required materials also have a high cost
While many children take to self-directed environments, some children may find this intimidating
Children are encouraged and praised for working independently, but some feel that Montessori lacks the collaborative nature the Reggio Emilia provides.
Which is Right for Your Child?
No one knows your child better than you do and no one is more equipped to decide which education model is best for them. Whether you’re sending your child to grade school or you’re returning to work and looking for early childhood education, you know what your kiddo needs, so follow that instinct.
If both Reggio Emilia and Montessori education are available to your family, there are a few things to consider as you make your decision:
First, keep in mind that some parents are turned off by the lack of “proof” their child is learning in a Reggio Emilia school. There aren’t worksheets or exams. Instead, children learn through projects fueled by their personal interests.
Lack of structure
Next, parents may want to consider how their child will do in a flexible environment. While both of these education models are child-led, Reggio Emilia is certainly much more flexible. If you feel your child needs more structure and guidance, you may find they do well within the framework of the Montessori curriculum.
Lastly, be sure to trust your intuition. If you have questions and concerns about the schools you are considering and how they can meet your child’s needs, don’t be afraid to ask school leadership for answers before making a decision. They can often evaluate you and your child and ask the right questions to help you figure out what type of educational style is right for you.
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