What’s the difference between Montessori and Waldorf?

You may find yourself asking that question as you explore countless preschool options for your child. Although the two educational philosophies do share some similarities, there are many differences that set them apart. Below you will find a list of the similarities and differences that distinguish the Montessori and Waldorf educational philosophies.

Similarities

  • Both Montessori and Waldorf have a longstanding and reputable history with years of experience with all kinds of children all over the world.
  • The core of both philosophies is respect for the child as an individual.
  • The belief of educating the “whole child,” meaning physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development, is central to both philosophies.
  • Both approaches emphasize the importance of the natural environment and connecting with nature.
  • The goal of both philosophies is to develop the children to become socially responsible, self-directed citizens of the world.

Differences

Origins

Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, educator and scientist opened the first Montessori school called “Casa dei Bambini” in 1907 to provide high-quality education for disadvantaged children whom many had thought were unable to learn. Using scientific observation and experience, Dr. Montessori developed her own pedagogy and created purposeful learning materials designed to foster the child’s natural desire to learn. This is how the Montessori philosophy was born.

The Waldorf method was developed in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and social reformer. During the midst of a post-war climate of political and social unrest in Germany, Steiner visited the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany and was asked by the owner to develop a school for the children of the company’s employees. The birth of the Waldorf philosophy came about as a need for social and cultural renewal.

Academics

In a Montessori school, academic subjects such as math, science, writing and language are introduced when the child shows developmental readiness, usually this is around the age of 3 or 4. In a Waldorf school, on the other hand, academic lessons in math, language, and writing typically don’t begin until the age of 7, as academics subjects are viewed as something necessary but not exactly enjoyable. Instead, young children will spend their days engaging in make-believe and play.

Curriculum

In a Waldorf school, play is considered the child’s work and fantasy is an integral part of the curriculum. For instance, a Waldorf teacher may incorporate fantasy about fairies into storytelling and art. In contrast to the make-believe and fantasy aspects of the Waldorf curriculum, a Montessori curriculum encourages children to do real work in order to created self-sufficient and self-directed individuals. One aspect of this work is called practical life and includes activities like cleaning, cooking, and self-care.

Materials

The children in a Waldorf environment are free to use any of the classroom materials in any way they want and are encouraged to use their imagination. A Montessori school provides children with purposeful learning materials that are scientific and didactical. The children are free to choose whichever materials they want to work on throughout the day, but all of the materials serve a unique developmental and academic purpose and the work environment is carefully prepared to foster independence and concentration.

Classroom Structure

In a Waldorf classroom, all of the children are the same age and remain with the same teacher for 8 years so that the teacher and child can get to know each other well. This also allows the teacher to find the best ways of helping each child learn.

In a Montessori classroom, however, you will find children of differing ages all together, grouped according to 3-year cycles, or planes of development. These multi-age groupings promote social interactions and peer collaboration, as older students act as mentors helping their younger peers while the younger students learn from their older peers. Montessori students will remain with the same teacher for 3 years, or until they are developmentally ready to enter the next level.

Our Approach at Endeavor Montessori

At Endeavor Montessori, we implement a modernized, holistic Montessori curriculum that helps each child reach their full potential. With outdoor learning, appropriate levels of technology, mindfulness, global language and STEAM, our rigorous yet celebratory approach instills in each child a lifelong love of learning.