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How is North Star’s curriculum by FinlandWay® different from Montessori?

How is North Star’s curriculum by FinlandWay® different from Montessori?

We often get asked what is the difference between the FinlandWay curriculum used by North Star and Montessori. In this post, we dive deeper into the similarities and differences between these two programmes.

At North Star, through our curriculum partner FinlandWay, we always follow the newest research in the fields of neurobiology, educational science, and developmental psychology. We look at a child through a whole child approach, where children are seen as biological, psychological, and social beings, who develop and learn in all these fields through physical, cognitive, and social learning.

The learning paradigm of FinlandWay follows the socio-cultural understanding of learning, where children are seen as active agents of learning and competent learners. In the FinlandWay programme, they gain learning-to-learn competencies and capabilities to control and guide their learning.

The Montessori programme is based on the constructivist learning paradigm, where children’s learning follows a pre-set path. Children are considered as sensory-motor actors, who explore their environment through their primary senses (touch, smell, and taste) following four developmental periods.

It emphasises personal and individual learning paying less attention to social and shared learning and problem-solving activities.

Curriculum and structures of teaching

When the image of a child is compared with the existing curricula of FinlandWay and Montessori, both similarities and differences can be found. The Montessori system is based on sensory adaptation, which naturally offers toddlers a safe and easy environment to start exploring and learning. These same elements for toddlers are also found in the FinlandWay system, which is based on the Early Education practices and curriculum from Finland.

Montessori has a strong emphasis on fine motoric skills and children becoming independent. FinlandWay shares the view of children as active agents and the importance of empowering children to try and learn to do things by themselves.

Did you know in Finland children receive curriculum-based education from the age of 9 months?

In Montessori, language learning is added on top of the sensory exploration philosophy. Evans (1971) summarized the preschool curriculum in a Montessori programme as consisting “…of three broad phases: exercises for practical life, sensory education, and language activities (reading and writing).” (p. 59). Instead of consequential phases, FinlandWay® is built on a holistic and phenomenon-based curriculum, where the language and communication are part of the image of children as active meaning-makers and learners.

In FinlandWay, the role of language is understood as a tool of communication that evolves and develops constantly through the teaching, teacher-child interaction and peer-to-peer communication within learning structures.

Finally, in FinlandWay the daily and weekly structures are developed to support the holistic development and learning of children in a group, their involvement and participation through accurately-timed scaffolding, noticing their strengths and areas of interest. While in Montessori the structure is more loose, and child-initiated.

North Star’s curriculum by FinlandWay®

FinlandWay’s curriculum ensures learning in different phenomena and development of skills through shared meanings and play, where children shape the curriculum in interaction with teachers


In Montessori the teacher stays more in the background while the children explore the materials divided into different sections.

Teacher’s role and professional development

The teacher’s goal is to help and encourage children, allowing them to develop confidence and inner discipline so that there is less and less need to intervene as the child develops. In both Montessori and FinlandWay® the structure and philosophy of teaching are based on scaffolding and supportive teaching, not frontal instructions.

However, some differences prevail: In Montessori, the teacher education programmes involve a year or more of full-or part-time study before working in a school environment. Courses are organised by private educational organisations. After graduating there are no requirements to mentor younger teachers or up-skill further.

FinlandWay® teacher training is blended with the curriculum and the programme.

FinlandWay® offers teachers an ongoing online learning community and regular on-the-job assignments to ensure continuous learning and upkeep of professional competencies.

Teaching in FinlandWay® is based on three pedagogical methods, developed and constantly updated as per Finland’s national early education system: Playful learning, participatory pedagogy, and Phenomenon-based learning. These offer research-based tools and methods for teachers to enable high-quality learning and development of children in their classes.

Teachers support their own learning by creating experiences of influencing and belonging and focus on building an exploratory, participatory learning culture in and across the classroom, school, and home.

North Star’s curriculum by FinlandWay®

  • Blended teacher training and capacitation programme
  • Ongoing professional development and competence training
  • In-house training programme

  • One year full training programme, no distance study
  • Courses provided by independent organisations


As described above, FinlandWay and Montessori are built on the same principles of seeing children as active learners, respecting their individuality, and understanding the importance of the learning environment.

FinlandWay believes in the power of play and exploration rather than completing tasks under a specific category one by one. The learning environment in FinlandWay is transformable and created with the children, not only for the children. More than Montessori, FinlandWay® emphasizes the social element of learning, both between children and children and teachers.

The FinlandWay method leans heavily on the latest research of early childhood development and supports each individual in their development through joint meaning-making in play- and participation. A school is able to make sustainable choices and teachers benefit from ongoing on-the-job development.


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