Montessori education differs from the traditional paradigm of schooling in several ways. Most notably, the Montessori Method aids the inner construction of discipline, organization, independence and self-esteem through individual choice in a thoughtfully prepared environment. The independence and self-discipline a Montessori education provides enables students the freedom for their own development and has a positive impact on cognition. The environment is rich with math, language, science, and geography materials and does not look or function like a traditional classroom. Montessori schools are well known for producing students who are innovative and emotionally intelligent with high self-esteem.
Students in the Montessori classroom have the freedom to select their area of work. To Maria Montessori, work meant a physical and mental activity freely chosen by the individual. This promotes his own growth or contributes to society. The student is allowed the opportunity to self select a work of interest or to revisit a previously chosen work until there is a sense of mastery. The student remains highly engaged in the learning and truly completes a
stage of development before moving on to the next level of learning. The relationship between the student, teacher and environment is one in which the teacher is more of a facilitator or guide. Montessori students develop a sense of self-control and decision-making skills, both important contributions to confidence. The extended working time in Montessori classrooms makes it possible for a child to truly honor their natural curiosity and drive to solve a problem or master a new skill. The student learns to respect this intrinsic motivation to learn something new, rather than to respond to external rewards or controls over their use of time
Maria Montessori believed that character education was just as important as academic education, and many aspects of the Montessori Method foster moral traits of respect, independence, responsibility and self-initiative. The Method is based on the process of human development, and is designed to help children succeed according to their own development pace. The freedom and responsibility children have in Montessori environments respects a child's inner guide and creates real life opportunities for moral action.
Discipline in the modern Montessori classroom is addressed through mutual respect and the peace curriculum. Non-violent language and a demonstrated respect for other students, people and cultures are part of the Montessori teacher's everyday speech and actions. Group problem solving and the teaching of empathy and emotional literacy enable children to be responsible citizens of the classroom community.