Discovering Waldorf – ‘A Comparison: Waldorf and Montessori’

I am often asked about the differences between Waldorf education and Montessori education. Many mistakenly think of them as having the same basic philosophies. While they have a few similarities, the two are very different indeed. Here is an article that explores the similarities and differences wonderfully, a great comparison between Waldorf and Montessori education.

But, before we jump into this fascinating article, I want to let you know that, at last, I have taken the time to archive all of the incredible Discovering Waldorf articles we have had in the past. I have added this archive as a ‘page’ at the top of this blog. Do you see it next to ‘Home’… it is called ‘Discovering Waldorf Articles’. If you click on this page heading, it will take you to the Discovering Waldorf Archive. Oh my… it is a wealth of everyday Waldorf topics written by everyday Waldorf families. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this fantastic resource… I have learned SO much from you!
Now for our comparison between Waldorf and Montessori Education.

A comparison between WALDORF and MONTESSORI Philosophies on Discovering Waldorf Education with The Magic Onions

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A Look at Waldorf and Montessori Education in the Early Childhood Programs by Barbara Shell

This comparison of Waldorf and Montessori educational philosophies is based on my personal experience as a teacher in both Montessori and Waldorf school systems. I would like to preface my remarks by stressing that there can be much difference from one classroom to another in any philosophy, due to the style and interpretation of the individual teacher.  Continue reading here.

Follow up (12 September 2011):

Valued feedback from some of you have suggested that this article does not portray Montessori in its best light. It was not my intention to criticize one over the other but rather to provide an honest comparison. Melissa, from The New Mommy Files, has written an article that challenges some of the aspects of this article she found wanting with regards to Montessori education and how it works in the classroom. It is a well written article and am thankful to her for giving me a deeper understanding of how Montessori works. Here is a link to her article… Waldorf and Montessori on Play, Fantasy, Toys and the Social Life of the Classroom.
To learn more about Waldorf education, please click here for the Discovering Waldorf Archives.
Blessings and magic to you!



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12 Responses

  1. This article is so clear and fascinating. My parenting has been influenced by both. I read both Montessori From the Start by Lilliard and Jessen (Montessori) and You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Baldwin and Darcy (Waldorf) early on and have incorporated ideas from both into my parenting. I love setting up spaces so that children can function competently and discover things for themselves. We have the children’s bedrooms and playspace set up in a Montessori Yet I decided to not send my kids to the very pure Montessori school in town b/c it seemed unnatural to have the teachers discouraging the kids from playing together (in favor of selecting a station to play at independently). I have had this unsettled feeling that my kids would learn more at the local Montessori school and that perhaps I should provide that opportunity for them. Your article has helped clarify my feeling that while they would learn more intellectually, they would not be learning more socially.

    I will also say that I think so many Montessori ideas are great and that I don’t think parents or teachers have to choose entirely one method of or the other. My eldest son went to a school when I was in school that was a mixture of Montessori and Reggio-Armani (sp?) philosophy that I thought was wonderful. The directors and staff very intentionally decided which teaching methods they were going to adopt and shared their reasoning with parents. The school had begun as a pure Montessori school.

  2. Having been trained in the pure montessori style as well as taught in a montessori classroom, I feel it is important to note some differences.

    The sense of community in a classroom is great. As a montessori teacher I stressed we all worked for the greater good and the by all working together it enabled us to also do our own work. There are criticisms about Montessori that it is too academic. There are pieces of academia but the pace of the lessons go with the child and meet the child not making the child meet the lesson. May of the lessons are very practical and teach important skill for life. At many times during the day the class comes together. In a pure montessori program the class is of mixed ages where the older children help the younger children and the younger children learn from the older children instilling a sense of community and goodwill.

    I belive it is also important to note that the Montessori name was never copyrighted. Anyone can read a book on Montessori and open a school. The ture spirit is lost due to this and I feel that Montessori gets a bad name due to poor interpretation of the philosphy.

    1. Thank you for this post. I am a montessori and work along children ages 2-6. We have a schedule, songs, games, story time, art group, imagination play, tables that seat 4 and they choose where they would like to sit and amazing conflict resolution tools and many opportunities for socializing. I want to discover how Waldorf supports academics using child’s own will and readiness. What are the requirements as a an instructor to use for moving forward with education? This article doesn’t show a difference in Waldorf vs. montessori based on the incorrect differences based between the two . Please help me understand the differences and what are the attributes of Waldorf style

  3. Thank you for this clarification. I personally think Montessori is a wonderful option. I hope you don’t feel that the article looks at Montessori in a bad light… that is not what I was trying to do here at all, only explain the differences between the two models.
    Love Donni

  4. Interesting article! I have to say that I love both Waldorf and Montessori. We use both methods in our everyday life as well as homeschooling; I believe they are much more compatible than what they intially appear!

  5. I would agree that Montessori on the surface can seem stereil, but really it is a rich program that allow children to work together and to gain sucess personally. I am a homeschooling mom and I was homeschooled. I chose to use the Montessori method due to the amazing clarity that the material provides. The material offers so much to my children and their confidence builds everytime they are succressful! There is nothing better them seeing little faces light up with joy as they discover they can do it themselves! This is the heart of what Montessori wanted give to children and it is what I want for my kids as well! These are just my thoughts! Peace ad Smiles!!!!

  6. I appreciate what you and the author are trying to do here, and I appreciate Waldorf philosophy in general. I have been sitting on my thoughts regarding this piece since you first posted, and eventually decided to post them in my own space since they’re quite lengthy. I did that here.

    I do thank you for sharing this.

  7. Thanks for this fascinating comparison. I’ve always admired Montessori, but the more I find out about Waldorf, the more I fall in love with it. I think aspects of the two can happily co-exist in any home learning environment, but the two philosophies are significantly different, aren’t they? So much food for thought.

  8. Hi, I’m a new mum and I was thinking about enrolling my little girl in a kindy that uses either the montessori or waldorf philosophies when she is a little older.

    I was wondering if it might be a good idea for her to have a few days at each school? Or if I should embody montessori at home and send her to a waldorf school? Does anyone have any suggestions, tips or advice??

    I just want the best for my baby and while I think both philosophies are good for her development, but im just confused about what to do…

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