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Montessori vs Waldorf Overview

Montessori vs Waldorf Overview

montessori vs waldorf

Do you know the differences between Montessori vs Waldorf?

Today, alternative early childhood educational approaches like Montessori and Waldorf are gaining in popularity and prominence. Montessori and Waldorf are the fastest growing educational systems in the world. So how are they similar? How are they different? In this article I am going to give you an in depth overview of Montessori vs Waldorf to help you decide which, if either, is a good fit for your child.

montessori vs waldorf
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Montessori vs Waldorf Similarities

  1. Both Montessori and Waldorf have a “whole child” approach. Their focuses are not exclusive to academics but also in developing a strong, curious and independent mind.
  2. Non-traditional classroom design (very little plastic, more natural materials)
  3. Counterculture to modern educational approach: (no technology, a lot of time spent outdoors)


The Montessori Approach

  • ¬†Founded in 1907 by Maria Montessori. Today Montessori schools are mostly seen in affluent areas ironically though it was created for poor children in Rome.

Here are some basic attributes of the Montessori philosophy:

  1. Mixed-age groups
  2. Children are moved to the next class based on their individual growth rather than everyone moving up as a group.
  3. Emphasis on classroom order / organization
  4. Strong emphasis on self-lead learning and exploration
  5. Emphasis on mastering real world skills (zipping, tying, lacing, pouring, cooking )

*So a common complaint of Montessori is the self-lead learning. Because of the strong emphasis of student independence, some parents believe children in Montessori schools do whatever they want. While it may look like that on the surface there are still boundaries in place.

The Montessori Classroom

  1. Has little to no posters or “busyness” on the walls.
  2. Usually has a lot of natural sunlight
  3. Each area of study (science, math, practical life) has its own shelf / area
  4. Individual rugs for each child to work with their materials.

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.” –Maria Montessori

The Montessori Teacher

In Montessori the teacher serves as a guide. So they will model how material should be used but will not interfere with the child’s learning.

If you are interested in learning how you can incorporate Montessori at home read my article.

montessori vs waldorf
erika fletcher

The Waldorf Approach

  • Waldorf was founded by Rudolph Steiner in 1919. Because it is grounded in fantasy and imaginative play, some parents describe the Waldorf approach as whimsical.

Here are some basic attributes of the Waldorf philosophy:

  1. Delayed introduction of academics until 6 or 7 years old
  2. Emphasis of exploring through imagination and make believe
  3. Emphasis on the arts and handcrafting: knitting, crafts, music, dancing (eurythmy)

The Waldorf Classroom

  1. Simple toys usually made of wood, simple dolls
  2. Soft pastel, colors, wood furniture, drapery, a lot natural sunlight
  3. Furnished for a “home feel” rocking chairs, soft rugs etc.

The Waldorf Teacher

Compared to Montessori, the Waldorf teacher is much more hands-on. Because of this he or she is a strong presence and lead in the classroom.

Teacher looping is also apart of the Waldorf approach. Looping is when students have the same teacher year after year. At some Waldorf schools looping can last for 5-8 years.

See Also
montessori at home

“The heart of the Waldorf method is the conviction that education is an art– it must speak to the child’s experience. To educate the whole child, the heart and will must be reached as well as the mind.” – Rudolph Steiner


Because every child is different, there is no wrong or right educational approach. Reading about Montessori and Waldorf is one thing but experiencing them will help you decide so much more. So the best way to pick between the two is to visit both and see for yourself.



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