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The curriculum of Montessori is based on practical, sensory and formal skills and studies. Practical activities include setting the table, washing dishes, tying and buttoning clothing and manners and etiquette. For sensory development, repetitive exercises are used.

Since the 1950's, Montessori schools have become more and more popular, replacing many traditional schools for early childhood education. Some critics believe that the deficits of the Montessori approach to learning outweigh the benefits.

The Montessori curriculum helps the child develop in 3 important areas: motor skills, aesthetic appreciation and intellectual strength. Special exercises enhance muscular coordination and sensory awareness. Early exposure to the alphabet and math concepts gives the child a head start in academics. But rather than emphasizing particular exercises and skills, preschool programs should cultivate a general readiness for later learning.

Children in a Montessori preschool are allowed to work at their own pace. They move from one exercise to the next when they feel they are ready for it without being forced by the teacher. This method is believed to encourage self-reliance. Although self-pacing and independence is valuable, Montessori education focuses too much on the individual instead of group involvement. Children may be slow to develop social skills because of the lack of interaction.

The program and teaching materials in a Montessori school are extremely structured. No matter how the child learns, he or she will master important skills. But because the emphasis is on structure, the child's development may be restricted. Experiences are limited due to the structure of toys and play time. Children do not simply choose what they want to do, they are guided to specific tasks.

Since the Montessori approach was developed in the 1900's, many believe it is outdated. It has been refined throughout the world. Although it may benefit some children, most traditional schools today focus on social skills rather than practical skills.

Also, because the children in a Montessori preschool are used to working alone and at their own pace, some are at a disadvantage when they enter the primary grades. They may not adapt well to the group instruction and interaction that occurs in a typical primary school.