When parents are researching private schools, the myriad of options and different educational philosophies can sometimes be overwhelming. Many of the parents considering Waldorf education also consider Montessori. This is probably because both education methods cater to a student’s individual learning style with reverence and respect for each child and their gifts. But how each method approaches this objective varies greatly.
One might be tempted to summarize the differences in this way: Waldorf puts high value in art, imagination, and creativity and does not pursue academic instruction before the age of seven. Montessori puts high value in real life experience and an orderly environment and pursues early academics at a young age.
But this does not shed much light on the multi-layered and nuanced approaches of each methodology. In an effort to clarify, we have created this chart describing similarities and differences in each educational system. But, for true clarification about these methods and their appropriateness for your child, visit schools in your area and experience in-session classroom visits.
|Early Academics||Play is the work of a young child. Waldorf seeks to nourish and inspire imagination and creative thinking. Academics are delayed until Grade 1 so that the child has more time for make believe, art, music and the building of social skills and class cohesion.||The young child is a sponge. Montessori seeks to expose young minds to a rich array of academic tasks and experiences. Early education focuses on challenging intellectual tasks, which build upon each other for early academic adoption.|
|Curriculum & Later Academics||In a same-aged classroom environment, Waldorf educators encourage a love of lifelong learning through the use of multi-disciplinary methods that incorporate art, music & craftsmanship. Lessons are language rich and focused around all arts and multiple senses. Subject integration and classroom collaboration are key to the holistic academic experience.||In a multi-aged, multi-graded classroom, Montessori educators encourage children to engage in self-disciplined learning. Lessons are focused around real-life and classroom manipulative material. Subjects are approached with step-by-step procedure that guides students, individually, toward learning specific concepts.|
|The Classroom||Waldorf believes the child thrives in a rhythmical and predictable environment. The teacher leads the students and guides them into time of coming together and working or playing individually.||Montessori believes the child thrives in a free and self-led environment. The teacher withholds their will and allows the children to choose their own activities in the classroom, providing guidance when necessary.|
|Teaching Methods||Waldorf believes that young children learn primarily through imitation and that, even in older children, watching and working with a teacher facilitates developing age-appropriate academics and skills.||Montessori believes young children learn best through focused individual learning tasks and are self driven. Teachers strive to stay out of the way, allowing the child’s interests to drive learning.|
|Materials||Waldorf classrooms are filled with all natural materials and children are encouraged to create their own toys, learning materials, and textbooks. No plastic toys/materials, or popular culture references are allowed within the class or school.||All of the learning materials in the Montessori schoolroom were designed by Maria Montessori for a specific academic purpose.The Montessori method is multisensory and uses uniquely designed sensory materials for different subjects.|
|Society||A high goal in Waldorf schools is to give students a sense of ethics and to produce individuals who can impart meaning into their lives and contribute to the greater good of society.||A high goal in Montessori is to nurture the child’s understanding of life processes and awareness of the world and society around them, so they can develop their own values.|
|Social||The development of the young child in the social realm is as important as any other academic learning. The teacher plays a key role in orchestrating how this happens.||The development of self-discipline in the young child is key along with encouraging cooperation and respect with other, varied-age classroom children.|
|Individuality||Waldorf teachers believe children come into the world with unique personalities and gifts. The teacher’s role is to get to know the child, respect their nature, and guide and inspire them to reach their full potential.||Montessori teachers believe children discover their gifts through intellectual and personal freedom.The teacher’s role is to respect the unique individuality of the child and allow their nature and will to freely emerge.|
There is a great quote from the education blog, Education Japan, saying this about each of these educational models: “One thing is clear… Each brings a high level of love and caring and a path through childhood vitally needed by children today. Both of these paths are brilliant, full of compassion, and honoring of the child.”
We agree. But which is right for your child is up to you and your family. We encourage you to tour a Waldorf school while class is in session to experience Waldorf education first hand. Learn More HERE if you’d like to visit Spring Garden Waldorf of Northeast Ohio.
Susan Mayclin Stephenson http://www.michaelolaf.net/MONTESSORI%20and%20WALDORF.html
Home school Reosurce http://alisaterry.blogspot.com/2010/12/montessori-versus-waldorf-education.html
Education Bug http://www.educationbug.org/a/montessori-vs-waldorf.html