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Comparing Montessori to Waldorf Schools in the Preschool Years
The million dollar question – Montessori vs Waldorf? As you start to think about sending your little learners into early childhood education, it only makes sense that you would want to think about the different teaching methods. With this in mind, we’ll walk you through the Montessori method and the Waldorf philosophy in order to determine the best learning environment for your child. So, keep reading for more information on these educational philosophies!
What is the Montessori Education?
Look at that smile on her face! To begin, Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician developed the Montessori classroom in the early 1900’s. Maria saw that young children needed more stimulation and interaction in school. Therefore, in 1907 she opened her first classroom – Casa dei Bambini in Rome, Italy. She called her work “scientific pedagogy”. Here, she focused on always observing and experimenting with the children.
Today, the Montessori philosophy focuses on the real-life experiences of human development. It focuses on providing a learning environment for children that is clean and pristine. In other words, the educational system focuses on hands-on learning, collaborative play and self-directed activity. In a Montessori preschool, children are making educational decisions at their own pace, with teachers nearby to fully support them. According to the Association of Montessori International, the classroom community is child centered vs adult centered.
What is the Waldorf Education?
First known as the Steiner education, the Waldorf classroom came from the work of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, strived to create an environment that focused on the child’s intellectual, artistic and practical skills.
Therefore, the first Waldorf school opened out of Germany in 1919. It is now the largest independent school movement in the world. The Waldorf method focuses on the stages of child development. Moreover, the Waldorf classroom emphasizes the importance of the arts and imagination – often through natural materials.
What are the similarities of Montessori vs Waldorf Schools?
Curious about how the schools are the same? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
- Firstly, both methods are the fastest growing early childhood educational systems.
- Secondly, both methods are rooted in history and a rich cultivation of methodology. Since both learning environments have been around for over a century, they are well founded and have decades of success.
- Thirdly, they both believe that children need a specific connection to their environment. While they differ in the ways they reach this connection, the foundation remains similar.
- Fourthly, they both base their methods into stages of development. While Waldorf calls these “stages”, Montessori refers to them as “planes”.
- Both refute using an excessive amount of technology in the classroom, especially in the early years of a child’s education.
- Lastly, both value the whole child – mind, body and spirit – over the any academic curriculum. Additionally, both methods focus on the particular needs of a child, in order to cultivate their love of learning.
What are the differences of Montessori vs Waldorf Schools?
We get it, you’re wanting to know the differences. Luckily, we’ve got them for you right here!
Firstly, Montessori focuses on the real-life experiences while Waldorf focuses on imaginative play and fantasy play. For example, in a Montessori environment you would typically see children learning how to cook and learn self-care. They would also be learning skills through play. However, in a Waldorf environment you would see much more attention on play and the arts – all with natural materials.
Secondly, the age grouping is different between the two. Often times in Waldorf, children are grouped by their specific age and advance together each year. Usually in Montessori, children are grouped together by three-year spans. Usually it looks like infant, toddler and preschool groups.
Thirdly, the methodology differs. In Waldorf, teacher-led activities are extremely crucial from an early age. Because children are moving up together each year (as mentioned above), it’s easier to incorporate learning materials and lesson plans that are taught in a more traditional way. Children are also able to learn and grow with primarily the same classmates as they make their way up in school.
Because in Montessori children are grouped in three-year spans, the social development of said groups are different. Often times, the Montessori teacher will give independent lessons to the children one-on-one. Students often even give lessons to each other. Additionally, children are free to work on whatever they see fit, whenever they want. If the teacher sees an issue with how they’re spending their time, they will step in and gently redirect.
How they Play
Fourthly, in Waldorf, fantasy and imaginative play are crucial to the everyday structure of the classroom. Often times you’ll see children incorporating various toys for make-believe play. Traditionally, Waldorf teachers do not formally introduce core academics until the first or second grade. Additionally, the arts and music are extremely important to the curriculum. Music, dancing and visual media are incorporated into everyday lessons. So, if your child loves the arts – this may be for you!
Likewise, in Montessori, fantasy and imaginative play are also extremely important. However, the main focus is on the real-world and introduction to various activities that you do in our world are introduced. From this, children have the opportunity to build their imagination and play time based off the foundation of the real-world. Additionally, Montessori schools focus more on core academics and can feel a bit more structured than Waldorf schools.
Lastly, you may want to think about spirituality before making your decision. Montessori schools often do not have a specific “spiritual” routine or any attachment to spirituality at that. However, the Waldorf method is based off of anthroposophy. This philosophy believes that in order to understand the workings of the universe, people must first have an understanding of humanity. This is not to say that Waldorf schools are inherently spiritual, but it is something to consider in the back of your head. So, remember to keep this in mind. For some, it may an important factor when deciding.
Montessori School Pros
Okay, so we’ve visited the similarities and differences of Montessori vs Waldorf Schools. So, still wondering what is so great about this school? Check out these pros below!
- Focus on children learning manners!
- Large range of subjects taught
- Personal experiences are valued more over homework/assignments
- Social emotional development is very important
- Independent learning is a core value
- LOTS of social interaction with other children!
- Inclusion of special needs education
Montessori School Cons
Every school has a downside. And here are some cons! Read on…
- Small class sizes = not as many friendships
- After leaving Montessori, it can be harder for kids to get used to traditional schools
- It’s not accessible in all areas/to everyone
- It can be pricey
- Lack of structure and routine can be hard for some kids
Waldorf School Pros
Wanting to hear what is so great about the Waldorf method? Don’t worry, keep reading. We’ve got you covered!
- Kids learn a lot about art and music
- Kids can learn at their own pace
- Often, it’s the same teachers over the years
- Children discover and learn about themselves
- Creativity is very important
Waldorf School Cons
And the flip side? We’ve got the cons below for you.
- Core subjects are not always a focus
- Not as much interaction with peers
- Not a lot of structure
- Lack of technology
Is Waldorf or Montessori Better?
So, it only makes sense that you want a simple answer. Montessori or Waldorf?! Well, to be completely honest, one school of thought is not “better” than the other. If only it was that simple. It really depends on what your child is needing in their specific learning environment. Therefore, you need to think about your child and decipher what they are really needing through their curriculum.
The Montessori approach is probably best if you have a child who enjoys constant stimulation and critical thinking.
However, if you have a child who needs a bit more structure from adults to reinforce their attention towards learning, then the Waldorf style may be better. Additionally, if your child has a true love for the arts then Waldorf be the best option. I love the arts! Don’t you!? Well, I guess some don’t, haha.
Certification of a “Waldorf” and “Montessori” School
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding on where to send your child. Schools can use the words “Waldorf” and “Montessori” without having to show any special training. A school can call itself a “Montessori” school even if a director has just read a book on the topic. So, it’s important you research! Point is – both of these schools have pros and cons. If you look into it more, you’ll be better off! Trust us!
Therefore, on Montessori vs Waldorf Schools
Well, hopefully this article was able to give you some insight on both of the very meaningful schools of thought. Keep researching what you think is best for your child. It’s always helpful to go and shadow at schools in your area. Preschool or high-school, it doesn’t matter. It’s great to shadow at all ages. Do you agree?
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