I have to admit that I learned about Waldorf before I learned about Montessori. I lived about a mile from the Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento and, being curious, I stopped in one day to learn more. As a public school teacher, I was fascinated by alternative forms of education. Continue reading to learn about some of the key similarities and differences between the Montessori method and Waldorf education, as we start a "for-beginners" series comparing alternative educational methodologies.
The Montessori Method and Waldorf Education - Comparing Alternative Educational Philosophies
Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, and esotericist who was interested in the synthesis between science and mysticism. Like Montessori, Steiner took a humanistic approach to education, educating not just the mind, but the body, soul, and spirit as well, believing that the cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral were interlinked.
Similar to Montessori, Steiner’s first school was developed to serve the children of working families. In 1919, the director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company invited Steiner to open a school in Stuttgart, Germany to educate their employees’ children. (Today, Steiner’s method of education is simply known as Waldorf.)
There are other similarities between Montessori and Steiner as well. They both:
- emphasized the development of the whole child
- believed in the importance of childhood and in protecting children from the stress facing adults
- based their education on the needs of children and not on governmental curriculum
- believed in surrounding children with natural objects and exposing them as much as possible to the natural world
There are, however, some fundamental differences between Montessori and Waldorf education.
While Waldorf encourages imaginative play at an early age, Dr. Montessori believed that all materials and toys should purposefully teach concepts. She encouraged the child’s imagination by introducing them to the greater truths of the universe and believed that “The true basis of the imagination is reality” (The Advanced Montessori Method, pg. 196).
Despite the differences between the two methodologies, it can certainly be said that both Waldorf and Montessori value the child above all else. Both philosophies believe that education should develop free and morally responsible citizens who have a deep sense of social responsibility.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, July 26, 2013.