Daycare, Montessori, Reggio Emilia or CEFA

What are the differences?

Choosing a daycare is a difficult task for any parent, and for those who have no experience in ECE (Early Childhood Education), it can seem as if one is the same as any other. What makes CEFA Early Learning so special? We're not just a daycare. We are a private school for children under the age of 5.

The table below helps identify the differences in our approach from commonly seen Montessori and Reggio Emilia daycares.


Reggio Emilia

CEFA Early Learning

Teacher Training

AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) or AMS (American Montessori Society) are the preferred teacher training methods.

The traditional Montessori method is over a hundred years old and has not been revised since.

The Reggio Emilia schools provide no training for their child care workers. They believe teachers learn with practice.

Therefore, there currently is no certifying organization or course.

The Reggio centres do, however, play an active role in communicating their beliefs about children and learning by holding seminars for teachers from all over the world who come and visit the schools.

CEFA Certified Teachers have special training to teach in CEFA schools. Taking the official CEFA™ Teacher Certification Training provides our teachers not only with the tools to be successful with our curriculum, but to be inspired and inspire others with our unique program.

Training content includes:

  • CEFA™ philosophy, working with children and families
  • CEFA™ curriculum, games, and materials
  • Teaching reading, writing, math, and science the CEFA™ way
  • Teaching social skills and the habit of contribution
  • Planning and organizing the CEFA™ curriculum


In the traditional Montessori method children are introduced to a wide variety of concepts and skills through hands-on opportunities and pre-set materials. However, this is very structured and does not allow for creative exploration of the materials.

In the Montessori curriculum teachers will show children how to “correctly” use the work as each material has a specific way of being used.

In the Reggio Emilia method, it is the duty of the teacher to follow the child’s lead through emerging curriculum, and base lesson plans on the children’s emerging interests. This is an excellent base, however, not having a solid curriculum of reading, writing and math during a child’s most “sensitive” period, may be detrimental later on.

The CEFA™ method is open to children between the ages of 6 months and five years. It presents them with every possibility to discover and challenge themselves, and their potential, introducing them to reading, writing, math, science, music, physical education, visual and dramatic arts, yoga and relaxation and culture immersion.

Our teachers have the dual role of presenting activities to the children (as they would in Montessori) and also keenly observing children and their interests, documenting those, and following the child’s lead (as they would in Reggio schools). CEFA schools also focus on teaching children to learn from any and all circumstances, and to question their learning. By teaching children to learn, CEFA hopes to build the habit of lifelong learning and curiosity.

Lesson planning

Montessori teachers choose the “work” they will show the child through careful observation of the child’s interests and developmental level.

Due to a very structured curriculum, with little flexibility for change, the child does not continue on to the next task until they have gained mastery over their current work.

The Reggio Emilia method places higher value on the search for constructive strategies of thoughts and action than on the direct transmission of knowledge and skills.

There is therefore no curriculum in place, and children are not taught reading, writing or mathematical skills, other than what may emerge from the children’s interests.

The CEFA™ curriculum has a set of pre-determined learning objectives it presents to children for some of its subjects, like reading, writing and mathematics.

All teachers have to present planning sheets, which show the benefits of teaching each activity to a child. Progress on each student is followed individually throughout the year, and activities are presented in accordance to the level of each student, and respecting that student’s learning preferences.

Co-curriculars are also presented to the children and prepared with defined objectives.

Even with specific goals in mind, CEFA™ teachers are taught to respect children’s interests and initiatives, and present students with learning opportunities that meet their interests. CEFA™ children have the freedom to explore games, materials and/or lessons of their choice.

School environment

Montessori children are often asked to work quietly, and to only address a teacher by gently placing their hand on their teacher’s shoulder and waiting for a response.

Children are taught to use a respectful quiet voice in the classroom, and to only explore the “works” after they have been “shown” how to use them.

In the Reggio Emilia method children are given the opportunity to freely explore their classrooms and have some control over the direction of their learning. However, its guidance methods are hard to quantify, as there is no regulating board to define these methods.

CEFA™ is based on a more contemporary approach to early childhood development, which reflects the needs of children worldwide in today’s society, and aims at ensuring that children have a voice in our society, and that they understand their social responsibilities. In our CEFA™ schools, every child’s special, unique individuality is encouraged, and children may express themselves with joy and exuberance, and move about the classroom with ease and freedom.

Teaching method

Montessori teachers choose their materials through careful observation of the child and their developmental stages and interests. Children may work on their own, with a teacher, or with an older child who may guide them.

Reggio Emilia teachers encourage “natural development” in their children, with an emphasis on having close relationships with other children and in the classroom environment. Children may work one on one with a teacher, or in a large group while engaging in a project.

CEFA™ Certified Teachers allow for every unique child’s needs to be taken into consideration. Our philosophy incorporates autonomous exploration, learning in a social atmosphere, as well as teacher led activities.

Fine Arts

In the Montessori method, the Visual Arts program is explored through the use of art materials such as pencils, crayons, felt pens, paper, stencils and brushes. An art easel, clay, and art appreciation is also offered in the Montessori classroom, however programming is very structured.

Reggio Emilia’s curriculum is focused primarily on the Visual Arts. Children use art as a language, and atelieristas come in to work with children on their art development. The art skills of the children are highly developed.

Although Reggio offers a diverse range of natural materials for free creative exploration, there is no pre-set curriculum or educational objectives.

We have a strong emphasis on the arts in our program. In our Visual Arts activities we take a holistic look at Art from a historical perspective including Roman Art to present day inclusively. We explore in depth, different mediums such as clay, 3-D, painting styles (e.g. acrylic, watercolor, fresco creation etc), as well as discovering master artists of our times.

Activity extensions include field trips to art galleries, visiting an artist’s atelier in our community, and inviting inspiring artists from our community to give workshops in our schools.

In the community

In the Montessori method the “flower of peace model” expresses the importance of self, community, environment and cultural awareness.

In some schools, families are encouraged to volunteer and play an important role in the lives of students. However, since the Montessori method is precise and requires extensive training, it may be difficult for families to understand the philosophy and how they may best serve the Montessori school.

The three-hour uninterrupted work schedule is fundamental to the Montessori philosophy. If families have questions they cannot interrupt the flow of the classroom.

In the Reggio Emilia method, the children are considered the “collective responsibility” of the community.

Parents are considered a vital component of the philosophy and are viewed as partners. Teachers respect parents as the child’s first teacher. Although volunteering is encouraged, there is no “concrete” administration or principal, to address the specific individual needs of the families.

At CEFA™, the children and families come first. The principal and administration team are always available to discuss any matter, large and small, with our families.

We also have additional activities such as the “I contribute” initiative, designed to encourage each child to contribute to their community.

Parents are encouraged to be active volunteers and participate in all areas of their child’s school life.