What’s the Difference Between Montessori and Primrose Schools?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to early learning, and all of the different options for your little one may seem overwhelming. Early education and care providers must create a learning approach that sparks a sense of curiosity while supporting children as they grow, but what sets different methods apart? Let’s take a look at the well-known Montessori Method as well as the Primrose Schools Balanced Learning® approach.   

What is the Montessori Method?

Many of today’s Montessori schools combine the original system with more modern components, but the Montessori Method refers to a teaching philosophy developed by Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori. This philosophy inspired much of what we know about early childhood education today, and it has been a popular approach for more than 100 years. It focuses on independence, hands-on learning and a thoughtfully designed environment which, together, help build a foundation that prepares children for the real world.   

What is the Primrose Balanced Learning® Approach?

The Primrose Balanced Learning® approach uses a proven, research-informed early childhood curriculum that balances insights from a variety of leading early education experts, including Dr. Montessori, with modern wisdom from the latest child development research. This approach focuses on helping children develop intellectual, creative, physical, social-emotional and life skills in authentic, age-appropriate ways tailored to each child.   

The Importance of Early Education

When it comes to early learning, both Primrose and the Montessori Method share the belief that education should go far beyond academics. This means focusing on social-emotional development, creative thinking and problem solving as much as academic work, since these are the skills that will help children excel in learning and life. According to the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), there are certain elements Montessori classrooms use to foster these skills, and they differ from the Primrose Balanced Learning approach in a couple of key ways.  

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Key Difference: The Role of Teachers

Both Primrose and Montessori believe children are born curious and eager to learn, but these approaches differ when it comes to the teacher’s role in a classroom.  


In Montessori classrooms, teachers primarily take on the role of an observer, carefully monitoring the development of each child to understand their needs. And when there is an opportunity to introduce a new piece of learning equipment or a child needs support, Montessori teachers provide guidance. This freedom lets a child focus on a single activity of interest for longer than a scheduled lesson may allow.  


In Primrose classrooms, teachers balance purposeful play with nurturing guidance. They introduce new ideas, ask questions and teach lessons in both individual and group settings. Based on modern research, Primrose believes young children learn best through integrated learning experiences, so instead of focusing on one subject at a time, teachers integrate multiple subjects into a single lesson. For example, teaching social studies or science concepts during literacy instruction helps children learn important concepts about their world while also learning how to read.  

Key Difference: The Learning Environment

Primrose and Montessori classrooms overlap with a variety of books, equipment and resources available to children, but the classroom experiences are very different.  


  • Mixed-Age Grouping: Mixed-age grouping is an important aspect of the Montessori Method. This environment encourages children to learn from and help other children. Seeing others at different stages and with varied abilities helps children appreciate their own achievements and lets them learn at their own pace without feeling the need to keep up with the class. Also, staying in a classroom for a longer period of time, often 0 to 18 months, 18 months to 3 years, and 3 to 6 years, means teachers have a greater familiarity with each child and better understand their strengths and needs.
  • Workspaces: Montessori classrooms offer a variety of workspaces with purposefully designed materials. Children are free to explore the activity of their choosing as they gain practical skills and abstract knowledge. Teachers introduce new items and support when needed, but children mainly follow hands-on, self-directed learning individually or with others.
  • No Daily Schedule: In these classrooms, there is no daily schedule. This approach fosters independence, confidence, self-discipline, social interaction and more, and the environment it creates promotes behavioral and emotional development as much as academic learning.


  • Age-Specific Grouping: While Montessori classrooms combine various ages, Primrose children are grouped into age-specific classrooms with a curriculum that caters to different developmental stages. The Primrose Balanced Learning® approach incorporates various forms of instruction to help each child reach his or her full learning potential.
  • Workspaces: Like Montessori, Primrose classrooms offer a variety of workspaces called Children’s Choice Learning Centers. At certain times throughout the day, children are free to explore these stations, which contain developmentally appropriate materials such as art supplies, books, blocks/math manipulatives, science/sensory experiences and dramatic play. These stations allow children to satisfy their natural desire to explore and discover while practicing social-emotional skills like interacting with peers and taking turns. Along with teacher-guided lessons, these stations encourage children to practice a simplified version of the design thinking process as they overcome challenges in both individual and small-group experiences. In doing so, they learn problem-solving and collaboration skills that will benefit them for life.
  • Daily Schedule: In Primrose classrooms, a daily schedule creates structure and routine, which helps young children in a number of ways including giving them a sense of control over their environment, helping them feel safe and secure, and letting them know what comes next. As children engage in the repetition that comes from these routines, they learn how to develop competence and confidence in their skills.

Every child is unique, and a teaching style that works well for one child may not suit another. At their core, Primrose and Montessori share many of the same beliefs about the importance of early education and the need to prepare children for an ever-evolving future, but each approach takes a different path to get there. 


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