Montessori vs. Waldorf: What's the difference? This is a question that many parents ask themselves. Although both Montessori and Waldorf schools of thought have some overlap, there are some key differences between them that you should be aware of!
The Montessori method is a child-centered approach to education that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. It's based on the idea that children learn best when they're allowed to explore their environment and discover things for themselves. The curriculum is designed to meet the individual needs of each child, and lessons are taught in a way that encourages creativity and independence.
The Waldorf education movement originated in Germany, and was designed by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. His belief was that giving children freedom in their learning environments would allow them to develop creativity and independence at their own pace. This method of teaching is based on the idea that children are naturally curious, creative, and imaginative.
The difference between Montessori and Waldorf is rooted in the philosophy of each approach to education. Montessori focuses on hands-on exploration, whereas Waldorf focuses more on personalized learning based on the idea that children learn best when they're given freedom to self-discover things.
While both Montessori and Waldorf methods believe children need a connection to the environment, they are different in that Montessori focuses on real-life experiences and Waldorf emphasizes the child's imagination and fantasy.
Flexible curriculum: There is no such thing as an off the shelf Montessori or Waldorf curriculum. Students can pursue their own interests and activities, with assistance from the instructor. They have the option to work at their own speed most of the time.
Concrete learning: Both the Montessori and Waldorf schools emphasize concrete learning. Children study with a wide range of hands-on materials and acquire essential practical abilities.
Holistic education: The objective of both Montessori and Waldorf schools is to educate the whole child. They place a great deal of emphasis on acquiring hands-on skills, cultivating appropriate character qualities, and learning essential values.
Limited technology: The use of modern technology is restricted at both Montessori and Waldorf schools. You won't see battery operated toys or materials and screen time is non-existent.
Work and play: The emphasis of Montessori schools is on work rather than the pleasure of play. Even in early childhood, Montessori instructors steer away from pretend play. Meanwhile, Waldorf schools focus on make-believe and creative activities, especially in pre-kindergarten.
The arts: A Waldorf curriculum is full of art and music. Music, drama, dance, the visual arts, and other aesthetic media are incorporated into many lessons. In contrast, many Montessori schools devote less time to the arts, music, and creative activities.
As you can see, while there are some differences, there's a a lot in common, or at least some similar themes between them. If your intent is to take inspiration from either for enriching your children's free time at home you can't go wrong. Just be sure to consider what you value most as a parent and find an approach that meshes well with your family's individual needs.