Montessori or Steiner

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Which one is a better fit for your child, Montessori or Steiner?

When considering which type of education you would like your child to experience, you’re going to run into some tough choices. If private school is an option for your family, the main choices are pretty much Reggio, Charlotte Mason, Steiner (Waldorf), and Montessori.

They are all amazing methods, but they do have differences. I will compare Montessori and Reggio in another post, as well as discussing Mason. Right now, I’d like to help you make the decision: Montessori or Steiner.

Montessori and Steiner (Waldorf) materials
Montessori and Steiner materials.

First, let’s talk about the similarities between the two methods.

The similarities between Montessori and Steiner

1- Both methods are based on the thorough research of childhood development.

2- Both methods categorize stages of childhood development. Steiner refers to them as “stages” and Montessori refers to them as “planes”.

3- Both focus on practical activities that provide children with the opportunity to learn through their senses.

4- Both classrooms are designed with natural, appealing materials.

5- Both methods discourage the use of screen media in the primary years.

If you were to look at a Steiner Waldorf classroom, you would notice many similarities to a Montessori classroom. You would see some differences, as well.

Montessori Dressing Frame
Child working with Montessori Dressing Frame. Practical Life activities are part of Steiner and Montessori educations.

The differences between Montessori and Steiner

The major difference in the Montessori and Steiner methods is that Montessori education is child-centered, while Steiner education is teacher-centered. Montessori classrooms consist of children of mixed ages. This is so children can learn from and teach each other. Steiner schools follow a typical grade structure and the teacher plays a more central role in the classroom.

Waldorf schools also encourage free, open-ended play, instead of giving children items that serve mainly educational purposes. Steiner schools focus on fairy-tails and make believe, while Montessori schools encourage a child’s imagination through real life activities. Montessori materials are designed for the purpose of letting the child play, with a built in control of error, for a designated purpose. (The child is often unaware of the purposes of the activities.)

Both types of schools are great options, in my opinion! If you are torn between the two, consider your child. What’s important to them? My daughter was very rooted and didn’t do much fantastic play. She wanted to do what I was doing, instead of playing. For my daughter, I would choose Montessori.

My 2 year old can stick up an index finger from each hand and play “dinosaurs” on his own for an hour or longer. He seems to enjoy a mix of practical life and imaginative play, and he asks for input in his play. For him, I would consider a Steiner education, however I am still going to follow the Montessori philosophy while teaching him at home during the primary years, as those are my qualifications and private school is not an option for our family.

Montessori and Steiner (Waldorf) materials
Children using Steiner (Waldorf) materials.

Montessori, Waldorf, and fantasy play

There is a common misconception that Montessori discourages fantasy and imagination. This is simply untrue. Montessori does encourage children to experience the world in a concrete way before introducing fantastic stories and books, but children are allowed all the imagining and fantasizing they can muster up. Montessori does discourage teacher/parent-led stories about fairies, dragons, and that sort of thing. This would be another key difference in the two methods.

Since there is no rock solid evidence that favors one method over the other, you can use the Montessori “follow the child” principal, and do what it seems your child needs.

As far as what you do at home, you may find that your child doesn’t appreciate having to choose toys or learning methods from one particular category. Children are individuals. We, as parents, have our own preferences, but we need to be careful not to impose our preferences on them.

Cheers and don’t forget to subscribe for updates and freebies!

Here are some items featured in the photographs in this post. (The Montessori Knobbed Cylinders featured and linked are not full-size.)

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