If you have a preschool child and you are exploring your educational options, you may be wondering what the differences between Montessori and Waldorf are. At first glance they seem to be quite similar, but in reality they are quite different.
Maria Montessori worked with the children of poor Italian factory workers. She believed that helping children to be very independent was imperative to their success as adults.
The Montessori Method provides children from preschool through early elementary the freedom to decide what he or she wants to learn and then the teacher guides that learning. Rather than being an authority figure in the classroom the teacher is a facilitator to learning.
The activities are explored without time limit or interruption until the child is satiated with the subject and chooses to move on. Other students do not interrupt their peers or interfere in the learning process in any way.
Toys are not just to be played with, in face imaginary play is limited, but Montessori teaches that toys should teach concepts. These toys are specially designed and can only be played with in one way. New materials and concepts are introduced as the individual becomes ready for them.
Montessori is more focused on learning to be an individual.
Rudolph Steiner worked with the children of factory workers as well but he believed that people were created with three separate parts (mind, soul, body) and each part must be engaged in order for real learning to occur.
Early in the program, most of the time is spent in free play and creative activity, and allows the child to decide what to do. The childÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s natural creativity and imagination is nourished and fostered. Observation of adults doing their own work is an important part of the Waldorf method.
Grades are not given, but the child is encouraged to compete with himself to become the best that he can be. There are no textbooks until approximately the junior high level but the children keep journals and sketch books of the things that they learn every day.
Children are also encouraged to create their own toys from materials, especially natural materials, around them. Sparking the imagination is an important part of Waldorf learning. While toys may be purchased as well, they are always made from natural materials like silk, wool, and cotton.
Unlike the Montessori teacher, the Waldorf teacher is an authority. She will lead the class in their studies and schedules so some children will have to learn things they would not have chosen to learn on their own. Students often work in cooperative groups to accomplish a common goal.
Children learn to work through differences and be more comfortable in group activities.
Which One Is Better?
One is not necessarily better than the other, overall. Which you choose should depend on your goals, the personality of your child, and his learning style.
A very introverted child may feel more comfortable in a Montessori environment while benefiting more from a Waldorf environment. A very outgoing child may benefit from having to explore the world by himself, learning to express individuality rather than basing his opinions on those of his peers.
Have you used either method? What advice would you give to parents contemplating that method?
photo credit: Will Merydith