When it comes to choosing an alternative education model for your child, there are often two popular choices: Waldorf vs Montessori. Each of these programs has their unique features but they also have plenty of similarities. To help you decide on the best model that will facilitate your child’s learning and development, it is important to examine them in an in-depth manner.
The Montessori Experience
The method of teaching and learning at a Montessori school is a lot different from a traditional classroom setting. It offers a student-centered approach to learning wherein educators and the curriculum itself take cues from the child’s natural growth and development.
There are also other unique features to the Montessori method of teaching that makes it unique and successful. Here are the key features worth considering:
- Mixed-age classroom – In traditional classrooms, all students are of the same age and the curriculum is based on that age level. In a Montessori classroom, students are classified based on age range. For example, children aged 3 to 6 years are part of the same classroom. The idea is that a child’s development
- Prepared environment – The environment in a Montessori classroom is also unique from a traditional classroom. It fosters excitement in learning and encourages children to explore. Everything you see within the classroom is designed for a specific “work” – from hands-on problem solving, interactive math problems, and so on. A teacher will be overseeing a child’s progress and learning at each station. Children are, therefore, allowed to wander about in a classroom rather than remaining seated throughout the duration of a class.
- Freedom and flexibility – Given the mixed-age setting and the hands-on learning, the Montessori approach of student-centered learning offers freedom and flexibility. It allows children to select their own tasks or projects. Each of these projects is designed to foster a specific type of learning or subject matter. Montessori proponents believe that this is a more effective way of learning as it is based off of a child’s curiosity and interest.
- Character education – One other unique thing about Montessori teaching is that it does not purely dwell on academics. The focus is to develop a child as a whole: character, morals, and values. This is achieved by allowing a child to learn about themselves, their environment, and others.
- No rewards or punishments – The Montessori approach admonishes the use of reward and punishment system. It is important for children to develop their own motivation and inspiration rather than rely on rewards to learn and strive to be better. Instead, the use of positive reinforcement is practiced.
The Waldorf Experience
The Waldorf method of teaching has its own set of unique features that make it stand out, just like Montessori. Both of these approaches are the same in that they are student-centered. However, Montessori emphasizes on real-life experiences and learning that would later help them in the real world. With Waldorf, it encourages creativity of the mind and supports a child’s imagination.
Founded by an Austrian philosopher, there are a few distinctive features about the Waldorf approach to education:
- Imaginary Play – While there is limited play in Montessori and more focus on exploring real-life objects, Waldorf is founded on imaginary play, as well as imitation. It believes that the imagination of a child is the catalyst for learning and growth.
- Focus on Creativity and Arts – Without a formal academic curriculum, Waldorf is focused on artistic media such as music, dance, visual arts, and crafts.
- Omission of Written Language –Students are not required to learn reading or writing. Instead, it relies on the child’s imagination to lay the foundation of their future learning rather than focus on what are learned in books.
- Role of Waldorf Teacher – In a Waldorf classroom, the teacher initiates and directs the student in the learning process.
Waldorf vs Montessori: How to Choose
Each of the alternative education models has their own strengths and weaknesses. You need to evaluate your child’s temperament in order to assess the best fit for their needs, as well as that of your family.
If you have an active child who likes to discover things on their own, perhaps the Montessori classroom is the ideal learning environment for them. The Montessori prepared environment encourages them to explore the different learning materials available to them and active play. This is the perfect learning condition that would meet their need for mental stimulation.
However, a child who is naturally creative that requires a teacher to lead them would be best suited in a Waldorf program. This type of program offers a natural and wholesome learning atmosphere.
A Montessori school is designed to foster children who are more aware of their surroundings and the different cultures around them. It prepares a child for life outside of the classroom so they are more open-minded and culturally-aware.