How the IB Primary Years Program Differs from Montessori

IB PYP vs. MontessoriMany people ask about the difference between Seneca Academy’s International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program and a Montessori program*. There is an understanding that both programs are different than “traditional” classrooms, but they are unclear how they are distinct from one another.

Seneca Academy has always held an educational philosophy that is similar to the Montessori’s. Philosophically, both believe that children need to be actively engaged in the learning process rather than being passive recipients of instruction. In both there is a focus on developmentally appropriate expectations and learning activities, where children are allowed to play, explore, and investigate rather than “push ahead” in work that is not aligned with cognitive, emotional, social, or physical development. Both Seneca Academy and Montessori programs facilitate daily opportunities for children to engage in self-directed activities that allow them to explore topics or projects.

There are also some significant differences in the way Seneca Academy and Montessori programs implement instruction.

A signature element of Montessori programs is the 3-hour open block of time for children to explore the classroom on their own, with only guidance from their teachers. Seneca Academy’s practice is to have some child-directed time, but also to have teacher-led instruction and guided inquiry. We believe that many students benefit from the structure, boundaries, and support to achieve goals that our teachers provide. In addition, Montessori schools have multi-age classrooms with 20 or more students. Seneca Academy has smaller classes (12-16) of similarly aged students. We have heard from many parents that they prefer their children to be in more like-aged groups. Our small class sizes also provide teachers the opportunity to work closely with individuals, to help them achieve to their potential.

No one educational program is perfect for all families. At Seneca Academy, we encourage parents to find the best match for their child’s personality, temperament, and learning style and the family’s preferences.


*Each Montessori program is different, based on the setting in which it is presented. However, there are basic tenets and requirements of a Montessori program and it is these generalizations to which we refer.


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