Montessori & Waldorf: Understanding their Basic Differences and Similarities
I have always found it best to start with what we have in common and then dive into differences, so today let's begin with what Montessori and Waldorf education have in common.
To start both Montessori and Waldorf ideology focus on the education and well being of the whole child. This means they both consider spiritual, mental, physical, psychological health, over any academic curriculum. They both provide an environment rich in art, music, dance, and theater at all ages. They lead with great respect for the child and see them as individual, spiritual, and creative beings. Fun fact, both schools were shut down by Nazis during WWII because they refused to teach the ideology of the state.
Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
The Montessori approach was founded by Maria Montessori, a medical doctor and anthropologist. She opened the first "Casa dei Bambini" in Rome, Italy in 1907.
Unlike traditional schools, Montessori students are not grouped with children their own age rather, they are grouped in 3-6 year age span (for example 3-6, 6-12, 12-15). In a typical Montessori "classroom" a teacher is more of a facilitator and often dedicates individual time to each of her students or helps facilitate and activity with a small group. Often it is older children that teach or lead younger children in their learning, and while a teacher will give guidance, the choice of what to work on is up to the child.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist and philosopher, founded the Waldorf School at Stuttgart in Germany in 1919 for the children of the factory workers of the Waldorf Astoria Cigarette Company at the request of that company's director.
At Waldorf institutions traditional academic subjects are not considered to be enjoyable and are put off for as long as possible, until about the age of seven. Instead, Steiner believed in the unity of spirit, soul, and body, so children spend their day enjoying the arts and letting their imaginations flourish with make-believe activities.
Unlike Montessori classrooms, Waldorf classrooms are more traditional. Children are kept in groups with other kids their own age and sit at desks while their teacher talks. However, unlike traditional schools, Waldorf schools move teachers with children from year to year allowing them to work with the same group of students for up to 6 years.
Focus during the first years is placed on art, music, and make believe play and teachers play the role of performers that initiate play and learning. Imaginary play is thought to be a catalyst through which the child grows and develops. In Waldorf eduction fantasy is considered so alive in a young child that it is a key and integral part of how a teacher should work with a child.
As mentioned previously, both models of education focus on the whole child. They provide an environment where art, music, dance, and theater are a focus at all ages. And most importantly, they both lead with great respect for the child and see them as individual, spiritual, and creative beings.
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