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Different strokes for different folks

Montessori vs. Progressive vs. Traditional: Which is better?


Dear Suzi and Paolo,

Hi. I hope you could give me advice on this. I am looking for a school for my daughter. She’s starting school next year and my friends advised me to look for one now. They had so many suggestions. One said Montessori. Another said Chinese school is better. My goddaughter is studying in a progressive school and is doing well, so that’s another choice. I am so confused!

Cynthia Dela Cruz



Suzi says

Hello there, Cynthia! Thanks for writing in. Choosing a school for our kids was a major discussion between Paolo and me. We both came from opposite ends of the schooling spectrum. I was from a very traditional school, Colegio San Agustin Makati, and Paolo was from Maria Montessori. Back in the day, there weren’t really that many options. So most people I know went with Assumption or Don Bosco or La Salle Zobel.

All three of our girls started out at a preschool near our home. We wanted them to have a feel of the school environment but, at the same time, we didn’t want them to go too far from home. When our eldest was about to turn seven, we knew we had to make a decision. And I was rooting for traditional.

One thing to note though is that, at the very start, Paolo and I had already agreed that we wanted a co-ed school. That narrowed it down. We also wanted a school that wasn’t too far from home because we didn’t want our daughter to get too tired from the daily travel. That left us with a couple of traditional schools and Maria Montessori.

My husband said the best way for me to appreciate the Montessori way was to observe a class. It was indeed different from what I was used to. For younger kids, there were no chalkboards. Tools for teaching included many different materials which I thought were fun to learn from. Also, the kids worked at their own pace and were taking on different lessons all at once. There were different ages, too, within one class.

But I think the best reason why we eventually chose montessori over traditional was the personality of our daughter. At the time, she needed help with her focus. She was also not able to express herself verbally too well so she needed more time and more attention from the teacher. Since the student-teacher ratio in Montessori classes was small, we were sure that she would get the attention she needed. So she and, eventually, all her sisters, ended up studying in a Montessori school. And they seem happy in it.

My advice to you is to list down all the pros and cons of a trad and non-trad school. Include the distance, tuition fees, class size, etc. But most of all, take into consideration the personality of your child. To this day, I believe I would still have done well in a traditional school. But that’s me. And we are all different. Our children are also different. Good luck, Cynthia!


Paolo says

Hi Mommy Cynthia. Thank you for your letter. You’re now at a crossroads that many parents have encountered—what direction to go to in terms of schooling.

I can only speak from my own personal experience and the decision we made that seemed the right one judging from how our kids are thriving at their school now.

First off, there’s no right answer to your question because it all depends on your children’s needs. I suggest you do a lot of research and see what points in each of the approaches you mentioned appeal to you most and what features would benefit your child.

I had the benefit of experience to draw from. I went to a Maria Montessori School all my life. From preschool to elementary and, eventually, my school opened a high school program which I also took. Montessori’s ideas on kids and how they learn have shaped the way many traditional Montessori schools and other “progressive schools” have developed their curricula. In contrast to more traditional schools, Montessori schools tend to be a little smaller, an environment where kids are encouraged to learn at their own pace while at the same time be pushed to learn more by their older classmates. There is less pressure there than in traditional schools.

All our kids study in a Montessori school and I find that it suits them well. They are eager to learn and are happy to be in school. They really look forward to each day in class. And, in my opinion, that is the best takeaway from enrolling them in a Montessori, that eagerness to learn borne out of a child’s own interest rather than a fear of not conforming to standards set for them or competing to one-up each other. The pressure to excel just saps away the joy of learning. I would say my children are well-rounded, polite, and have an open and friendly attitude that people always comment so positively about.

Our decision was based on what we felt would be the best environment for our kids to thrive and learn. I won’t say it’s better than other approaches because it all depends on the child’s personality, but I will say that it is certainly different. And in my opinion, different is a good thing in our children’s case.

Like I said, there’s no right answer to your question. Different strokes for different folks. School approaches and learning environments that may be important to me may not top your list. But I do urge you to look into what you feel will work best for your child. Good luck Mommy Cynthia. I hope with some research, you’ll make the best decision for you and your child.

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