Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Montessori and Waldorf Educations

Upfront I have to apologize that this is really long. I did two educations types.

Although my sister-in-law is a teacher at a Waldorf school, I must admit my knowledge is limited mostly to what I have researched. I enjoyed reading up on these education methods. I hope you do too.

Montessori and Waldorf educations actually can be a charter school, a private school or taught in the home. They are methods of education rather than just a type of school.

The Montessori method was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori in Italy in the early 1900's. It is based on the belief that children teach themselves and that parents/teachers are solely guides or directors who create an environment full of many developmentally appropriate activities and then allow the child to discover them.
The Montessori method is often blended in part into other types of education; most often in preschools. True Montessori schools should be affiliated with a Montessori organization. The two largest ones in the U.S. are Association Montessori Internationale or American Montessori Society. These organizations cannot provide accreditation, but these schools are subject to state requirements.
For more information go to: my source for the above information.

-You can use this method at home if you prefer homeschooling.
-It is centered on the child's interest and learning style.
-It can provide an appropriate learning environment for gifted students as well developmentally delayed students.
-It provides a more holistic education approach following Dr. Gardner's theories on multiple intelligences: music, kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, intuitive, liguistic, and mathematical.

-Very Expensive if you decide to attend a Montessori School - ranging from $5,000 to $14,000.
-Ratio is 1:30-35 (I was surprised by this, but it is considered an appropriate ratio to the schools so it is up to you if you think this is a con).
-If you believe pretend play is important, you will be disappointed find that Montessori does not encourage pretend play. For example:
"It is not considered "creative" to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it 'creative' to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom. (

Waldorf Education was founded by Rudolf Steiner also in the early 1900's, and is based on Steiner's Anthroposophy movement which compares our innate need to seek out a spiritual connection with the universe to something as natural as thirst and hunger . (
The Waldorf Education is divided into three periods of child development:
The first seven years: imitation
The second seven years: imagination
The third seven years: Truth, discrimination, and judgement
"Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head." (
Waldorf education emphasizes connecting with nature and following natural rhythms of everyday life.
Not much information is given on accreditation. I suppose if they are charter schools they are subject to state requirements. Most are private schools and I believe do not follow any state guidelines.

For more infomation go to:,, and Wikipedia

I could go on and on. There is SO MUCH depth to this education method. As for personal experience, I have attended a Mommy and Me type class at a Waldorf school and have discussed Waldorf education with my sister-in-law and other teachers. The websites provide a good overview, but I don't think that it provides an accurate window into what a Waldorf school is really like. This education is more a way of life and a culture than just an education, in my opinion. The stages of development are also compared to the evolution of humanity. For example: The Renaissance is correlated to the second set of seven years...meaning that our own personal development is correlated to the development of the human race. I hope I explained that correctly. This form of education believes that physical development, such as gaining or losing a baby tooth is linked to what the child is ready to learn or be introduced to. None of this is really represented on the websites that I could see. I only gained this insight from talking to actual Waldorf teachers.

In the class I attended, there was a lot of singing (with movements), cooking involving the children (giving 2 year olds a dull knife to use to cut up vegetables for soup), sewing, and playing with wooden toys and dolls. It really did strive to follow the rhythyms of everyday life and was quite peaceful actually. I enjoyed it but my two year old son had a hard time entertaining himself for the most part. Each class is given space to garden. Many schools raise chickens, bees, and other animals. It is a very holistic, natural method of education...a stark contrast to a public classroom.

-Emphasizes developing the whole child.
- Allows children to learn in a way that best suits their learning style and at their own individual pace.
- Class sizes are usually small and teachers follow their pupils throughout their elementary years.
- Gets kids to connect with nature.
- It is non-denominational.
- The websites I researched touted high success rates in children who go onto college and have satisfying occupations upon graduation.

- A school is hard to find. There is not one in Utah.
- There is a long list of don'ts: they don't teach reading until about 1st grade because they feel it will interfere with physical development and other areas of growth before they are ready, activites like tangagrams are not allowed, no television, radios, or computers are allowed (computers are introduced in high school), etc.
- Like I said before, it is more a way of life than just an education. It is very different from mainstream America and I believe almost provides somewhat of a sheltered environment. If you desire that, then you can make this a pro.

There is an immense amount of information on each of these methods of education. I hope I did an accurate overview of each. If I left anything out please forgive me...or better yet you can add to what has already been written in the comments. Thanks!


Brittany Iverson said...

What a great blog. I am going to have to sit down and read through all of this. You came up on my google reader. Where are you girls? Do you all live in the same area?


Tannie Datwyler said...

Brittany - the ironic thing is that we did used to all live in the same place (within a couple of bloc radius). We now span several states!! :) Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoy.

Delia - FABULOUS JOB! I am woefully unknowledgeable about these two types of learning (I like how you said that they are learning styles and not really schools). What great information. I feel so informed.

Erin said...

This is great! I had heard of both of these teaching styles, but never really knew what they were. Thanks Delia!

Megan said...

This post has been interesting to me. While I can't contribute much because I had never even heard of these styles until the panel decided to do school week, I have learned something new!

Courtney said...

I 2nd Tannie...WELCOME Brittany glad to have you in our Village!

When I was doing Montessori research I felt the same way about it not really being a school vs a teaching style. I LOVE the idea though! There is a fully fledge Montessori school down the road from me and I know a certified teacher and principal of a secondary school! I have been wanting to go in and watch them teach 1st hand. youtube Montessori lessons to get an idea of what the teaching is like! =0)