Goddard vs Montessori: Preschool Philosophies Compared

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Having trouble choosing a daycare or preschool for your toddler?

I don’t blame you. The choices can be completely overwhelming.

Not only do you have to figure out location and monthly budget, but you also have to choose between many different educational philosophies that sometimes differ drastically from one another!

It’s a big decision to make. That’s why I started this Curriculum Comparison series, where I’ll break down the similarities and differences between some of the biggest schools and approaches out there.

In this article, we’ll dive into Goddard vs Montessori.

Overall, expect a more traditional and well-balanced educational approach at Goddard schools, with a mixture of arts, sciences, reading, math, and some limited use of technology.

At Montessori, child-independence is king, with a heavier emphasis on imagination, role-playing, and use of real-life objects.

(And if you’re looking for an awesome way to prepare your child for sensory-heavy preschool curriculums, check out the age-based play kits from Lovevery. They’re designed by experts to stimulate wonder and learning in young kids of every age.)


What is the Goddard educational philosophy?

Goddard isn’t a complete educational philosophy (like Montessori and Waldorf, for example). Rather, it’s a franchise chain of preschools with over 400 locations across the United States.

And while the educational approach at Goddard isn’t quite as unified and standardized as, say, a Montessori school, the organization still has some key guiding principles.

Goddard utilizes a learning system called F.L.EX. – or fun learning experience. Schools use lots of play, exploration, and hands-on activities to promote a balanced learning experience, with plenty of exposure to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).

You could say that in comparison to Montessori, Waldorf, and other systems, Goddard more closely resembles a traditional preschool.


What does a Goddard classroom look like?

A classroom in a Goddard toddler room or preschool should look pretty much how you’d expect one to look.

Inside, you’ll find bright colors, walls adorned with art and learning materials, fun play and activity rugs, and group tables.

A few more things you’ll find inside most Goddard classrooms:

  • Group tables
  • Rugs for play and circle time
  • Walls with art, maps, and posters
  • Cubbies
  • Toy shelves
  • Mock kitchens
  • Age-appropriate technology
  • Whiteboards

What do kids do in Goddard preschool?

Education at Goddard is extremely well-balanced and probably pretty familiar to what you’d expect in a toddler daycare room or preschool.

Young kids at toddler spend their days doing:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Singing and musical games
  • Verbal counting practice
  • Item grouping and counting
  • Vocabulary learning
  • Imaginative play using props and pretend
  • Free play
  • Technology learning (where age appropriate)
  • Outside time

One important thing to note is that, since Goddard is a franchise more than a philosophy, each individual school may differ slightly in its execution of the F.L.EX system.

I’d encourage you to tour your local Goddard school and get a better feel for the day to day there to know for sure what it’s like.


What is the Montessori educational philosophy?

Montessori is an educational curriculum and approach first put into practice in the early 1900s. The first school was founded in 1907 by Maria Montessori, the first Italian female physician.

Montessori schools place a heavy emphasis on learning through play, imagination, and role-playing. The hallmark of Montessori schools, however, is the high level of independence children in these classes receive.

Children in Montessori have a lot of freedom to decide what they work on and when throughout the day, with the teacher acting more as a guide or consultant on the side as they go along.


What does a Montessori classroom look like?

Classroom design in Montessori is a big deal.

These classrooms are often spacious with lots of natural light. While colorful, the walls will usually not be heavily adorned as that can be distracting for young kids.

Children at Montessori will usually move between stations or areas with different activities, like:

  • A reading area with small chairs or cushions
  • An area with interesting props for quiet reflection
  • Interactive, hands-on activities
  • Mats that roll out on the floor for individual work and space

Kids in Montessori spend a lot of time using, playing, or learning with real-world items like:

  • Kitchen tools & utensils
  • Zippers, buttons & strings
  • Self-correcting toys and puzzles

What do kids do in a Montessori preschool?

Kids in a Montessori preschool classroom spend a lot of time with self-guided activities and learning.

The teacher will guide and model activities, but the children have a great deal of freedom and choice of what to pursue. The teachers often work with kids one on one or in small groups rather than leading class-wide activities.

During the day, kids will:

  • Work on puzzles
  • Do arts and crafts
  • Count and sort real-world items like beans and seeds
  • Use kitchen tools to prepare food
  • Build gardens outside
  • Learn letters with sandpaper cutouts
  • Enjoy free play
  • And more

Goddard School Pros and Cons

Let’s get into a few things that parents, kids, and experts like and dislike about Goddard.

(Note: A lot of this really depends on your perspective! I might have something listed as a Pro that you feel is really a con. That’s totally your call, and I’m just trying to present good information.)

PRO: Well-balanced education

Goddard is pretty much a traditional preschool. Kids here will do a little bit of everything, from singing and music and art, to learning math, science, and reading. They’ll be very well-prepared compared to their peers and shouldn’t be underserved in any major areas.

CON: Franchise inconsistency

Your experience with Goddard will really depend heavily on which school you work with (similar to other chains like Primrose). While there are some guiding principles behind the Goddard curriculum, there’s far less consistency than there would be at a Montessori or Waldorf school.

PRO / CON: Technology & screen time

This will really depend on your own opinion of how children interact with technology. But kids in Goddard preschool will have an opportunity to learn on technology like tablets and interactive whiteboards


Montessori Pros and Cons

Montessori has a lot of supporters and a lot of critics, as well. Here are a few major pros and cons of the approach.

PRO: Confidence and independence

Kids in Montessori have a lot more freedom than the majority of their peers from a young age. They’ll often have the ability to choose what activities they do and when throughout the day, rather than participating almost exclusively in large group projects. This can build an amazing sense of confidence and independence in preschoolers.

CON: Cost & diversity

Montessori is notoriously more expensive than most traditional preschools and daycares, which is prohibitive for many parents who might find the philosophy appealing. The high cost also, unfortunately, can sometimes impact diversity in the classroom.

PRO: Hands-on learning

Montessori introduces academic topics early on, compared to some other philosophies, but almost always does it using hands-on learning methods (counting beans, sandpaper letters, etc.) Kids in Montessori can be extremely engaged by this method of learning.

CON: Socialization an afterthought

Some people believe that the lack of “forced” large group activities and always allowing a child to choose what they do and with who can take away opportunities for them to learn how to operate in a bigger group.


Key Differences between Goddard and Montessori

These two philosophies and teaching styles are pretty different. A child’s experience in Montessori will be quite unique compared to what they’d experience at a traditional preschool like Goddard.

Here are a few key things to note:

Child independence

This is the biggest thing to keep in mind, because it’s the primary hallmark of Montessori education. Kids in traditional preschools like Goddard will spent a lot more time in large and small groups, doing the same activities everyone else is doing.

Kids in Montessori will have more freedom to choose what they do and whom they do it with.

Technology & screen time

Goddard schools embrace the limited use of technology to enhance learning, using tablets, digital games, and interactive whiteboards to make lessons fun and engaging.

Montessori schools, while slowly opening up more and more to technology, do not include much screen time in their curriculum for younger children.

Franchise vs philosophy

This is a key difference between Goddard and Montessori.

Montessori is a philosophy that can be implemented almost anywhere. There are some public schools that consider themselves Montessori schools, in fact. This is a good fit for people who identiy strongly with the Montessori theory of learning and think the high-level of independence will be good for their child.

Goddard is a franchise. Its approach to learning is well-founded and researched, but that’s not what makes it unique. If you fall in love with a Goddard school, it’s because of the brand’s high standards and quality assurance, and the local owners who make it great.


Wrapping Up

Goddard and Montessori are pretty different in their approach to early childhood education.

Most Goddard schools are what you could call traditional preschools and daycares. Montessori takes a markedly unique approach.

The key is figuring out what will work best for your child, and finding a nearby school that feels comfortable for you and your family.

No two Goddard schools are exactly alike, and neither are Montessori schools. You’ll have to look around at your local options carefully before you make a decision.

But I hope this starter guide has helped. Best of luck, parents!

(And don’t forget to check out the age-based play kits from Lovevery. They’re packed with sensory-rich play and learning toys for preschool kids, and they’re a great way to prep for school!)

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