Waldorf vs Montessori

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Waldorf vs Montessori

We always have a dilemma of choices when it comes to providing the best quality of education to our tiny tots. We seek inputs from neighbors, colleagues, other parents, join WhatsApp and Facebook groups to talk to likeminded parents and so on so forth. Today in this rapidly advancing world and with the advent of internet, a myriad of choices is easily available which makes it furthermore difficult. Being a parent myself, I have been through this TOUGH phase and I understand the desperation we go through to find the best option out there for our sweethearts while trying to maintain balance between quality and cost.

Waldorf vs Montessori Comparison table

Attribute Montessori Waldorf
Appropriate Age For kids Upto 6 y.o Upto 14 y.o
Stages 2 3
Stage breakdown Early childhood (0-3 y.o)

Kindergarten (3-6/7 y.o)

Early childhood (0-7y. o)

Middle (7-14 y.o)

Adolescence (14-21 y.o)

Concept Hands on self-correcting approach covering science, math, arts, music Arts and drama based covering a wide range of topics and subjects
Final aim To develop and enhance a child’s individual strength for better decision making To naturally groom a child’s thought process which helps him decide which career path will match his competency
Popularity in US and worldwide

(on a scale of 10, 10 being best)

9 7
Fee

(on a scale of 10, 10 being costly)

6 9
Utilization of Education materials

(on a scale of 10, 10 being best)

Best for e.g number rods, animal puzzles etc

9

Age appropriate and can utilize anything under the sun for hands on learning.

” Even uses garbage to create materials.”

9

Blending with Nature 7 8
Future study scope Best for Early years program.

Need to choose other curriculum after age 6 years

Blended education program to cater to 14 years old

Different Education concepts of the modern world

Making an educated decision

In my endeavor to look for the best, I had done a small research to compare two dominant models of education which I would like to share with you. I hope this article helps to streamline your thought process and makes the decision process easier.

Montessori, Waldorf, or Reggio-Emilia

Alternative educational philosophies try to follow Montessori, Waldorf, or Reggio-Emilia approaches. There are also a few other regional approaches such as the Heguru method. All philosophies have their own benefits, but our final choice should be a method that suits the long-term holistic development of our kids as well as the cost to quality budget. It also depends how much we are inclined towards a modern framework of education and would like to give facilities such as use of iPad & other e-education techniques to our kids. The overall pandemic has driven us to be more conscious towards these alternative approaches that our chosen curriculum should support – by default. Let us check on few facts and basics of these 3 concepts.

  • Montessori- follows a more hands-on approach where kids use their sensory organs.
  • Waldorf – uses art & play based methods to promote various stages of learning.
  • Reggio Emilia – promotes the idea that kids should focus to learn more on the topics of their interest.

By the way, do you know that Reggio Emilia is the name of a famous Italian city where this educational concept took its wings!!Read to know more about 100 languages.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, the final choice remains on how we would like to bring up our kids and what methodology would give them this perfect environment.[1]

Waldorf method of education

Waldorf Basic methodology

Brought into existence a 100 years ago, the Waldorf approach was conceptualized by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. This famous concept originated from Europe and has been well accepted within European study methods. It focuses more on an art form to teach kids different aspects of science, math, and other subjects. Different age groups such as early childhood (up to 7yo), middle and adolescence (14 and above) have been classified with age-appropriate learning techniques. Children learn the important subjects by basic imitation and use of senses during early years and then they gradually groom to take up their own independent decisions. The teachers in Waldorf approach are highly trained into this type of art-based methodology and a single teacher stays with the students for multiple number of years. The teacher to student ratio is small to put more focus on individual holistic development. Exams and assessments are not stressed upon or are seldom used, and the children learn progressively as they grow up. Dependency on computers and electronic methods are limited as the teachers focus mostly on using art and drama to inculcate the learning traits into the children from early ages. As such, the use of electronics is not much encouraged. The overall focus is to trigger the inquisitiveness in a child so that they seek to learn and question themselves more while indulging into the practical concepts of the world.

Worldwide Waldorf Popularity charts

Although Waldorf started to take its roots and grow in Europe, it has started to gain immense popularity in other parts of the world too including the US. The chart shown below indicates the adaptation and popularity of Waldorf all over Germany until 2019.These numbers are 2 years old however the trend is easily measurable. The growing numbers every year is in itself and indication of Waldorf’s increasing popularity and acceptance. With the numbers in Europe still growing, the number of Waldorf schools in US today seems to be in 800 to 1000+ and growing further. As per Waldorf concept, they make the kids ready for all future challenges by grooming them step by step using their teaching techniques. Finally, the child decides what he loves the most and chooses his career in that field. The only catch, Waldorf can be costly.

Waldorf vs Montessori 5

There are ways to make it affordable if you consider long term growth and development of your child. Consider it as an investment into your child’s future. Sow the seeds now and reap the benefits later.

Montessori method of education

Montessori Basic methodology

Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician came up with the concept of visual and sense-based learning using age-appropriate learning methods for children aged 0 to 12y.o. Do you know – Dr. Montessori was one of the first woman who was granted a diploma as a physician in Italy!! While her extensive stay with kids, she devised her own tools and kits to develop the process of self-guided learning in kids. During her teaching and nurturing sessions, she observed that kids engage and learn very well using experiential learning techniques. Visual, touch and other sensory engagements helped them to understand and grasp better while they tried a hands-on approach. Be it science, math, music, or arts the same technique was used to nurture and strengthen a child’s individualistic attributes. Montessori education is more prominent up to ages 7 as beyond this, the course for adolescents was not fully formed by Dr. Montessori due to her untimely death. You can say that this is where Montessori falls behind Waldorf method as the latter helps to provide education for adolescence age groups. Although there are few schools which do cover Montessori for adolescents, but they are quite limited.[2]

Dr. Montessori travelled worldwide spanning US, Europe as well as Asia to make people aware of her innovative approach and on the way trained a lot of teachers. She created a Montessori Institute to protect her IP as well as provide for authenticated teachers trained in Montessori methods. With her honest endeavor to nurture nascent minds Dr. Montessori had created a holistic education method for the development of children and as a result, Montessori education is now available at least in 6 continents. Her efforts were duly recognized such that she was nominated a few times for Nobel Prize[3]. Like Waldorf, this method has also clocked 100 years and is going head strong.

Worldwide Montessori Popularity charts

Some years back, a data by Montessori consortium showed the growing trend and popularity of Montessori concept in early childhood. As seen from the graph, there has been a tremendous growth in new schools adopting Montessori while a steady rise in total numbers has been observed. Recent data shows that there are around 4000+ Montessori schools in US. This can easily explain the worldwide

inclination and acceptance of this approach of education. Montessori is mostly recommended for early years program. A sample of the hands-on kit used in Montessori is available at the below link.

Montessori Toys for Toddlers
Best sensory toys for self-learning toddlers

Montessori techniques focus on a self-learning, self-correcting approach and this product exactly fits the bill for your tiny tots at home. The kit can be used to learn numbers, counting, colors as well as arrange jigsaw puzzle blocks into proper slots thus helping your cutie pie to be more pro-active and learning both at the same time. It also comes with an advantage that the shapes will be attracting them more being those of dinosaur, rabbit or a teddy thus helping to form long lasting images in a child’s subconscious brain. Imagine after using this kit, if your tiny tot starts telling his daddy – “Daddy I fixed a dino today!!”, wont he be super impressed. I bet he will.

I have added a few more products which should be super cool for Montessori hands on learning. These focus on building the self-correcting technique and confidence in kids while also helping them learn various body parts of animals.

Comparative analysis of both methods in education

Explanation of comparison table

As shown by the above table, I have tried to explode and compare various aspects of both the curriculums for you to take a calculated decision. You can gage the adaptability and use of both of these and then making a judgement would be an easier process instead of just speculating. Both methods have their own benefits which need to be kept in mind.

Statistical comparison in terms of popularity

Education Future applicability-based choice and limitations

As seen in today’s rapidly changing world, as a parent we need to see how far our child can go within a single campus of his study. The best approach what I would recommend is to look for schools that can facilitate education from age 0 up to adolescence. This really helps the kid to boost his phases of learning, his confidence and makes him/her a more resilient individual with distinct choices. This defines the choice that we have in hand and Waldorf with a curriculum up to adolescence stands out in this preference. The inclination and thought process worldwide is changing to adapt to this scenario, even though Waldorf may be premium fees option.

You see when your kid continues in a single campus for long time, he develops a stronger bonding with his friends, teachers as well as the overall school and teaching environment. Competitions are healthy and results are definitive instead of unknown in case of a school or campus change. Montessori education is helpful in defining the early years of kids however due to its limitation and availability beyond this age group, we do not have a choice of extension. With practical hands on learning using senses and self-correction kits, even today Montessori is de facto choice for early years. It can stretch to lower Primary education (6/7 y.o) in certain schools but beyond that, we are forced to look for alternatives. This is where Waldorf tries to attain superiority as it can stretch far.

Waldorf vs Montessori 6

Waldorf or Montessori – Justification of one over the other – a personal touch

If you consider the overall fee, Waldorf may become more economical in the long run. The rational here may be a registration fee or other one-time fee that may need to be paid “if” you change or re-register to different schools. This is comparative to a diesel versus a petrol version of a car wherein although you pay a premium upfront to buy a diesel car, but it averages out in the long run in terms of mileage; if you use it daily for long distance travel. Same analogy goes for Waldorf in terms of fee in case you continue with the same school up to adolescence. That is what we can see in the above graph. With the future trends making an earlier shift to Waldorf, the prediction is that after 2020 the percentage of kids joining Waldorf at early years will see a rapid rise.

With all these positives lining up in choice of Waldorf, there is still one gap. The Waldorf concept does not promote usage of electronics. The recent pandemic has shifted the approach how the working and teaching needs to be tackled and everything has switched to virtual environment. Waldorf being more art and drama oriented, with inhibitions to computers and electronics this may come as a backdrop.

I took classes for Montessori kids completely online for at least 3 months in the recent lockdown during the pandemic. And you will not believe, we made it a very successful experience for both sides; the praise from parent community was enough to state this fact. The kids were attentive and focused for the entire circle time that too in absence of their parents! So, you can see how technology can be leveraged for better usage instead of totally limiting its acceptance or thinking it as a dependance.

Adaptability and preference worldwide

Alternative education methods

If you do a simple google search today using the term “alternative education”, a plethora of options will pop up. Digging deeper, you will be able to see how the world today is thinking beyond the primitive and traditional approaches that we had been through during our own childhood. Those were the times of limited or even single option, no choice was available. Comparatively today you have multitude of options and we really are confused which is the best of them.

Dominance of education methods

Waldorf and Montessori will be most prominent of the choices that you will be able to filter through your search easily. Although too early to mention, with the growing trend being seen worldwide, Waldorf may soon become a dominant choice. The change although gradual may see a wider acceptance if this trend continues. Again, the benefits are to be seen over a longer period.

Education Cultural trends

Another thought process in adaptability to either of these methods is the culture and religious inclination. Although not so obvious, but Waldorf also tries to imbibe biblical techniques into their teaching methodology which Montessori may not have. Waldorf although born in Europe is gradually setting its foothold in US and other continents wherein this factor may find a wider acceptability. Biblical plays and skits form a part of routine curriculum for Waldorf. Montessori is more of a general approach wherein kids are exposed only to utilize their senses to develop and learn irrespective of their religious background.

Education Future preferences

As in Waldorf, adolescence curriculum also forms a part of the entire methodology; the child has more freedom to choose his/her career as they progress through various levels. They have a deeper understanding and exposure to the outside world. The child becomes more prepared and focused to take the challenges head on. Based on this, we can have a focused future plan for our child and can act accordingly. This will help the child to groom his mindset and develop him holistically as a more knowledgeable human being. It will also help our own mindset to be more settled that our child is in good hands and we do not need to worry anymore. Instead of treating the process of finding a relevant curriculum or methodology as a burden, it will in fact become an easier and straightforward one-time effort.

Waldorf or Montessori- the gist

A long-term future plan right from early childhood to adolescence makes it more sensible and should be the need of the hour. Jumping schools although may help a few but may have overall impact on the gradual development of the child which a child would have seen if he continued in same campus/curriculum till adolescence. Other factors that recently came into play are virtual learning which can also be a part of our decision making. Sooner or later as the world is gradually trying to come out of the pandemic, this virtual stuff may become a reality which we cannot ignore.

For e.g., the office productivity seems to have increased in the pandemic since people are always available/approachable as they work from home. So, you see that for the same price, availability has increased multifold. Schools can utilize these virtual teaching methods to maneuver their teaching schedules to be a more individual centric approach based. Even weekends can have scheduled teaching.

So, consider a scenario that you are on a planned family vacation and your dear one lost some valuable school sessions. Schools can do a virtual session when he is back home! That is the beauty of virtual classes and would really be a wonderful experience as I know that missing school sessions is really a nightmare if you are scheduled for exams soon. I hope this article helps to frame your thoughts and helps in quick decision making…

Summary

Finding a relevant school and education for our children has always been a necessity. We as parents strive to give the best out there in terms of education, cost being a secondary factor. However, with a multitude of options available in the ever-changing world today, I am sure this choice will go on getting tougher. With the above article I tried to put forth few pointers which may help to make a right choice. The article considers multiple dimensions to this process as we need to investigate this topic more holistically and diligently instead of making random choices.

Stay tuned!!

  1. Edwards, Carolyn P., Lella Gandini, and George E. Forman, eds. The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach–advanced reflections. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.
  2. O’Donnell, Marion. Maria Montessori. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.
  3. Asher, James J. “The story of Maria Montessori.” Discoveries by ordinary people that change the world (2010): 143-155.

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Author

Tiffany Biondi

Tiffany Biondi

Mother of 4 kids, Tiffany is a certified childcarer and during her free time, she write posts in thebabychoice to share her hands on experience and knowledge.

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