Goddard vs Montessori: Understanding the Main Differences

goddard vs montessori

When I decided to become a teacher and started graduate school, I knew I wanted to study early childhood education. I heard about Montessori and looked into it. I appreciated the methodology and the more I learned, the more I liked it.

I graduated just over a year later with a Master’s in Montessori and Elementary Education. I taught in a multiage Montessori classroom, spanning grades one through three for several years before having children of my own.

Our older daughter went to a Montessori school through first grade, but when we moved into a new neighborhood with excellent public schools and the taxes to prove it, paying for private school became too much. The hefty tuition costs associated with most Montessori schools is, in fact, one of the cons I’ll discuss later.

While I still love the Montessori philosophy and it has guided much of how I’ve parented, I deeply appreciate the wide selection of schools and daycares that are at our disposal. When selecting a preschool, having choices can be a tremendous asset. It can also be overwhelming.

Two of the most popular options are The Goddard School and Montessori. When making this decision, there are many factors to consider. Let’s take a look at both.


Goddard School Overview

Goddard school

Established in 1988 as a way to offer a better option for childcare, The Goddard School is a system of franchised schools that offer daycare and education for children from six weeks to six years.

While it’s not necessarily an education methodology, the primary philosophy of Goddard Schools is their FLEX framework. FLEX refers to Fun Learning Experience and supports their belief that children learn through imaginative play and experiences as they explore and discover their interests.

The curriculum is designed by trained, early childhood educators with a focus on STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Using a play-based approach, teachers create activities in which children have fun while learning skills that will lead to long-term success in school. Teachers have flexibility with lesson plans and are encouraged to incorporate organic, teachable moments.

When one thinks of a traditional preschool classroom, that is very much the setup of a Goddard school. Cheery posters and artwork on the walls, bright colors, and stations set up throughout the classroom, including an area for circle time, an arts & crafts area, and tables or desks for group learning.

There are 560 Goddard Schools that can be found in 38 states, serving 70,000 kids. They offer a full-day program for all children, including infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, as well as before and after school care for elementary school children.


Full-time, monthly tuition ranges vary, depending on age of the child and location of the school. Due to the franchise model, each school is owned and operated individually and tuition isn’t the same across the board. To get an exact quote, contact a Goddard School in your area by searching here.

To get a general idea, Goddard School representatives have quoted the following rates:

  • Infants: $1,500 – $1,650
  • Toddlers: $1,300 – $1,600
  • Preschool/Kindergarten: $1,200 – $1,500


  • The Goddard School educational approach emphasizes learning through play, treating each child as an individual, and respects the child’s natural inclination to explore and investigate.
  • Teachers are highly trained and educated in early education and receive mandatory continued education and accreditation through Goddard Systems University.
  • Since it’s a more traditional classroom, children who attend Goddard Schools will likely have an easy time transitioning to a traditional elementary classroom.


  • Tuition for The Goddard School can be cost prohibitive for some parents. In addition to the regular school fees, there are often other costs for things like food programs and class outings that come along throughout the year.
  • Since Goddard Schools are run as a franchise, owners or school directors can look at ownership more as a business than as an educational institution. To that end, an individual’s experience can vary greatly depending on the owner.


Montessori School Overview

Montessori school

Montessori schools are based on the Montessori Method, an educational philosophy devised by the first female, Italian physician, Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) was founded in 1929 with the distinct purpose of making Montessori available to children worldwide.

The Montessori Method is a self-paced educational system within a multiage classroom, guided by a Montessori trained teacher where children learn at their own pace. Specific Montessori materials as well as real life and multisensory elements are incorporated into classroom learning in order to foster independence, citizenship, and personal responsibility.

Most Montessori schools offer preschool and elementary school education from age three to grade six. Some continue through middle school and even into high school. The Montessori classroom is a child-led, nurturing environment where teachers act as a guide, giving lessons and allowing for self-discovery.

The surroundings are beautifully crafted environments, often minimalist, with live plants and framed artwork the only things outside of books and Montessori materials. With a keen focus on practical life skills, the Montessori preschool puts a strong emphasis on child-led learning and hands-on activities. Children could be washing tables, practicing buttons, or counting beans.


There are around 20,000 Montessori schools worldwide, 3,000 of which are in the U.S. Of those, only 570 are public or magnet schools. Since the majority are private schools, with tuition ranging from $12,000 to $15,000 per year, it can make attending a Montessori school a difficult proposition for many.


  • Montessori often builds a deep sense of self-confidence, independence, and personal responsibility in children through its child-led classrooms.
  • The Montessori Materials offer hands-on learning opportunities at every stage, in every subject, during every lesson.
  • In every classroom, there is a deep focus on learning in the areas of language, math, cultural, and practical life. Children are often inspired and encouraged to go above and beyond, following their own curiosity, deepening their understanding of the world around them.


  • The cost of most Montessori schools are similar to a private school, making them difficult for many families to afford.
  • Due to the need for Montessori trained teachers, there may not be a Montessori school in your area.
  • Some critics believe that because of Montessori’s individualized approach, students may have a difficult time adjusting to traditional education, both in terms of social skills and the classroom expectations.


The Differences Between Goddard and Montessori

The key difference between these two philosophies is franchise vs methodology. The Goddard School is a franchise, and each one is operated a little differently. The Montessori Method, however, can be adapted at any school.

The Goddard School offers more structure, a specific curriculum, and more teacher-led activities in groups. The Montessori classroom allows for more imaginative role-playing, is truly child-led, and while there are a tremendous amount of lessons across age and subject, there is no curriculum in the traditional sense.

Goddard Schools take a more traditional approach to learning, incorporating toys, puzzles, and games into their early learning environments. Montessori incorporates specific Montessori and practical life materials into classrooms where children will do small group or independent, self-guided work on rugs or small tables.


Which Students Typically Do Better Between These 2 Types of Philosophies

Since The Goddard school offers a traditional, well-balanced education across the subjects and follows a particular curriculum, it’s an ideal option for children who enjoy learning in groups, being exposed to a wide variety of stimuli, and learning through play.

Children are free to move on their own throughout the Montessori environment, therefore it can be a great option for children who require a lot of physical activity. Montessori can also be a place where children with special needs can thrive, since Maria Montessori based the Montessori Method on her first classroom of children, all of whom had physical and learning disabilities.


How to Choose the Right Type of School for Your Child

You know your child best. So when you’re ready to look at preschool, be sure to follow your instincts as you research your options.

The path before you might be clear and you know exactly where you want to send your little one. Or you could still be deciding. We hope this guide has helped you on your journey.

The best way to find out which school is best for your child, is to schedule a tour. The American Montessori Society offers a handy search option to find Montessori schools in your area. Find a Goddard School near you here.

Understanding the basics about each philosophy will go a long way in helping you decide and is an excellent start. Seeing a classroom in action, meeting the director, watching the teachers interact with the children is the only way to truly know if it’s the place for your child.


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