When the time comes to pick a school for your child, it might not be as simple as the option nearest to your home. There are many aspects to consider, such as cost, curriculum, and what your child will actually learn.
Discerning everything you need to know to pick the right school for your child can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help! So, grab a cup of tea, settle in, and let us explain the difference between Waldorf vs Montessori schools.
In this article:
Waldorf vs Montessori: What to Know About These Two School Styles
While some people might think that Waldorf and Montessori schools are pretty similar, there actually isn’t much that these schools have in common.
Both education styles aim to educate holistically, in a way that encourages healthy development in all aspects of the student. How they accomplish this, however, can be very different.
There are main differences between Waldorf and Montessori schools:
- Who leads the learning. In Waldorf education the teacher is very much in charge of what will be presented to the child. Montessori, however, is a child-led education.
- Curriculum. Waldorf schools have a fairly rigid curriculum, which was created based on what was believed to be developmentally appropriate for each class, or grade. Montessori schools have a curriculum, but students are encouraged to guide their daily learning using the resources provided to them in the classroom.
- What they learn. Montessori heavily emphasizes practical skills, or “work,” and a connection to the real world and facts from a very young age. Comparatively, the Waldorf philosophy asserts young students benefit greatly from fantasy and imaginary play. Because of this, the younger years emphasize play, stories, music, and art and leave facts for older students.
“While some people might think that Waldorf and Montessori schools are pretty similar, there actually isn’t much that these schools have in common."
What Makes Waldorf Education so Unique?
The first Waldorf school was founded in Germany in 1919 by Rudolph Steiner, a scientist who researched science and spirituality, and the intersections between the two. Steiner died shortly after this school was founded in 1925. However, this single school became the beginning of a small, but growing movement for an education style that hopes to speak to the whole child.
In this philosophy of education, you will often hear phrases like, “thinking, feeling, willing,” or “head, heart, and hands.”
The idea is that education should speak to these three parts of a child to be effective. This is accomplished through exposure to the arts from a young age, a lot of time spent outdoors, and storytelling during each lesson.
Pros & Cons
Heavy emphasis on nature and time outdoors
Hands-on projects and physical movement
Low to no tech in most Waldorf schools
Most are private, tuition-based schools
Atypical scope of education
Getting to Know Montessori Education
Maria Montessori founded the first Montessori school over 100 years ago. Among her goals for the unique educational style was encouraging children to be motivated to lead their own learning.
Most parents are familiar with the unique way that Montessori classrooms are set up, with trays and trays of work and manipulatives filling wooden shelves. This arrangement is intentional, providing students with easy access to the resources they need to guide their own education.
A child-led class room doesn’t mean there aren’t goals or a curriculum, however. Teachers create the classroom environment based on the curriculum framework, which includes practical life skills, language arts, mathematics, science, sensorial learning, and culture.
Pros & Cons
Accommodates all learners
Mixed age classrooms for socialization
Access to Montessori is limited
Self-directed environment not right for all
How to Choose Between Waldorf and Montessori
As the parent, you are more than equipped to make the best school choice for your kiddo! Whether you’re looking for an early childhood center when you return to work after giving birth or you’re ready to enroll your child in elementary school, you can trust yourself to make the right choice.
Both Waldorf and Montessori schools have their fair share of benefits, and drawbacks, so there really isn’t a best choice. Take your time considering your child, their unique needs and personality, and thinking about how they might do in a Waldorf vs Montessori classroom.
Ask yourself some questions to help you decide:
- Would your child benefit from being able to direct their own activities each day, including practical work and hands-on learning?
- Does your family value time spent outdoors, from bike rides to nature hikes, and want your child’s education to mirror that value?
- Do you think your child would better be served by a structured curriculum with pre-planned learning and hands-on activities?
In the end, there is no wrong or right school to choose for your child, especially for preschool. And keep in mind that you can evaluate what works for your family as time goes on–what works one month might not work the next, so keep an open mind as you move through your educational journey together.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is Waldorf different than Montessori?
Waldorf schools follow a fairly rigid curriculum with lessons presented by a teacher, while Montessori is more flexible and encourages children to guide their own education. Additionally, Montessori puts a strong emphasis on connecting children with the real world and Waldorf schools value imagination and fantasy during the younger years.
What is the Waldorf method of teaching?
Waldorf schools use stories and hands-on activities to engage with children during lessons. Academics are delayed in Waldorf school and slowly ramp up to become more challenging as children grow older.
Is Waldorf education better?
Choosing between Waldorf vs Montessori can come down to knowing your child, and their needs, and doing your best to choose a school that suits them well.
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