On this page:
- Main similarities between Montessori and Waldorf schools
- Main differences between Montessori and Waldorf schools
The Montessori approach is a unique alternative to mainstream education. It’s characterized by, among other things, a student-centered approach. In Poland, Montessori schools are much more popular than Waldorf/Steiner schools. Both are mostly at the preschool level, but some offer a primary school education.
In Montessori schools, unlike traditional schools, classes are made up of students of different ages. In preschools and primary schools, there are often age groups covering children from three different years, e.g., classes for toddlers from newborns to three year-olds, preschool classes for children aged 3 to 6, and primary classes for children aged 6 to 9 and 9 to 12.
Decentralization of teaching
In a Montessori school, students move around the classroom, work on their own tasks, communicate, and cooperate with each other. Teachers almost never deliver lectures to the whole class. Instead, they observe, provide help, and sometimes give students short lessons (individual or in small groups).
Freedom and flexibility
Students have a lot of freedom to choose tasks, projects, and learning materials. While teachers provide guidance, students often choose activities that interest them the most. This develops their interests and satisfies their curiosity.
Children work with many concrete materials, such as blocks, cylinders, beams, and towers. Practical and concrete learning is a major focus, especially in preschool and elementary school. In high school, there’s a transition to more abstract learning.
A minimum of pretend play
Task-oriented work is more important than imaginative play. Maria Montessori preferred to call children's play "work." There are no dolls, mascots, dollhouses, children's kitchens, etc. Instead, there are real kitchens, real (children's) furniture, work tools, food products, kitchen utensils, and other practical items with which children can work.
Uninterrupted working time
Students usually have at least one full uninterrupted period of work, for as much as three hours a day. An uninterrupted cycle of work allows children to carry out their chosen tasks for a long time, without distraction.
Although learning is important, the goal of Montessori schools is to educate the whole child: their character, self-esteem, and values. For example, students learn to take care of themselves, each other, and look after their surroundings.
Most Montessori schools make little, if any, use of modern technology. This is especially evident in the early years. Computers, tablets, interactive whiteboards, televisions, and similar devices are rarely used.
The philosophy of the Waldorf school is focused on students. Like Montessori schools, Waldorf (Steiner) schools have many features that distinguish them from traditional schools.
In Waldorf schools, students are not forced to adopt a uniform curriculum. They have the freedom to work in many areas and pursue their own interests.
Educating the whole child
The Waldorf approach is not just focused on the core curriculum. The goal is to educate the whole child: "head, heart, and hands." Waldorf teachers develop a child's ability to think, feel, and act.
Delay of formal education
Formal learning starts later than at most traditional schools. Children don’t learn subjects such as math and reading until at least Grade 1.
Focus on creativity and art
Art and music are very important in the curriculum. It’s saturated with them. Many subjects are taught through artistic media, such as through visual arts, dance, and music.
Learning through imagination
In preschool, children are encouraged to engage in pretend play and imaginative games. There are a lot of toys, art materials, and games in the class. Children spend a lot of time playing outdoors. It’s believed that this develops their imagination and social skills.
Learning through practical tasks
Up to Grade 3, students engage in many practical and concrete activities, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, carpentry, handwork, and sewing.
Focus on nature
Students are given many natural materials to work with. Environmental education and outdoor learning are a major focus. Children learn to appreciate nature and its value.
Most Waldorf schools don’t use modern technology, such as televisions, computers, and tablets. It’s believed that too much time spent in front of all kinds of screens, which can inhibit physical growth and limit children's social interactions. This can disrupt their social and cognitive development.
Main similarities between Montessori and Waldorf schools
- Flexible curriculum: Neither Montessori schools nor Waldorf schools have a rigid curriculum. Students can choose some of their own activities and tasks, with guidance from the teacher. They can also mostly work at their own pace.
- Decentralized teaching: Teachers in Montessori and Waldorf institutions rarely give lectures to the entire class. Students are free to move around the class, work alone or in groups, and pursue their interests.
- Holistic education: Both Montessori and Waldorf schools are aimed at educating and developing the entire child. They place great emphasis on acquiring practical skills, developing the right character traits, and learning important values.
- Concrete learning: Both the Montessori and Waldorf approaches emphasize concrete learning. Children work with lots of concrete materials and learn important practical skills.
- Technology limitation: Both Montessori and Waldorf schools limit the use of modern technology. However, Waldorf schools are more strict about this.
Main differences between Montessori and Waldorf schools
- Teaching: Montessori schools focus more on basic education, at least in preschool. Waldorf schools usually don’t introduce formal education until the first or second grade.
- Work and play: Montessori schools prefer work over play. Even in preschool, pretend play is often discouraged (or at least not encouraged). Waldorf schools focus primarily on fun and play—this is most important, especially in preschool.
- Art and creativity: Waldorf schools place great emphasis on art and music throughout the entire curriculum. Music, theater, dance, visual arts, and other artistic forms are woven into many activities. Montessori schools focus less on art and music.
- Nature: Both Waldorf and Montessori schools educate children about nature and have outdoor activities. However, Waldorf schools focus more on this.
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