Friday, May 27, 2011

Montessori and Waldorf Steiner

I'm personally fascinated with the convergence, the differences, and the union between Montessori & Waldorf Steiner education & philosophies.

It's a rather controversial topic and I acknowledge the myriad of perspectives and I appreciate the pure form of both on many levels. But, for me, the very fact that I have been so strongly drawn to and inspired by both means that there has to be something there. Which for me is the seed, the intent of both. I have a lot more I could say (and have said) on this topic but that's for another post!

For now I just wanted to share an article I stumbled across which was published late last year here on New Learning Culture which looks at the "Yin & Yang of Montessori and Waldorf in Early Childhood Education" (click on the pages to enlarge):

How do you incorporate elements of Montessori & /or Waldorf Steiner into your home or classroom? Or do you follow a purist approach to either? What do you find difficult and what seems like a natural connection? Please leave your thoughts below in the comments box :) I'd love to further this discussion.

EDIT: Adding some resources:

"Steiner Compared To Montessori"
"A Look at Waldorf and Montessori Education in the Early Childhood Programs"

Fb Comments
Comments :


  1. I wrote a great long answer and then deleted it because I was afraid it would seem so aggressive. I'll try again.

    I would call myself a progressive Montessorian. That is, I follow the philosophy to the spirit rather than the letter. I would argue that one could have a Montessori school without a single Montessori material and also, have all the materials but not be a Montessori school because the philosophy wasn't in place.

    I also keep a keen eye on other philosophies and methods of education and also on current research in child development.

    I do not think that Steiner has much to recommend it. Sorry.

    It denies some vital aspects of child development and supresses them, to the detriment of the child. There are some distinctly horrible racist aspects or the philosophy and some very dodgy astrological teachings too.

    From a purely child developmental point of view, Steiner is not a good, respectful model of education. I hate that it gets lumped together with Montessori because they are so completely different.


  2. I have so much to say about this and have wanted to write a post but I'm not very eloquent with words. I'm going to read the article and think about it then leave a longer comment. Thanks for starting this discussion : )

  3. I have to agree with Annicles, and here's just one of the main reasons: Children need to be introduced to the real world when they are in the concrete learning stage birth-6 and for some 7.

    They need to establish connections to the real environment, because they don't have the ability to distinguish between what is real and what isn't.

    All of the fairy tales and myths, etc. can be introduced later, when they are developmentally ready to understand the difference. Usually 6 or 7-9.

    I read an article that illustrated this perfectly.
    A child of 4 or 5 has been told stories about fairies and imaginary creatures, but told they are not real. The same child comes across a book about giraffes and has never seen one before. She says, "But I know giraffes aren't real mommy."

    The more I learned about the differences between Montessori and Waldorf, the more I realized Montessori made much more sense academically. Montessori education fosters a love for learning and independent work. One of my main concerns was creative work, but I now see that fostering independence leads a child to their most creative work.

    I had a child in a Waldorf school for a while, then started to research it more and was surprised by what I found. (We didn't leave because of this. I researched years after we had left the school due to a move.)

    Steiner books and online research will give a lot of important information.


    This article and the comments that come after are an interesting read. The article defends steiner education and attmepts to refute some of the arguments used against it. The comments answer the article very intelligently and interestingly. You will get both sides to the arguments here.

  5. Thank you for your comments ladies - both confronting & thought-provoking.

    I've spent the day thinking about how I feel. & will write more tomorrow. But just want you to know that i really do sincerely appreciate your thoughts & concerns (& am quite shocked by that article).

    With love, A.

  6. I am very much in agreement with most of what Marsha and Anna have to say on the subject, but I'm also appreciative of the intent of practitioners of both philosophies.

    There are some Waldorf ideas that I consider to be very "out there," but there is so much good in what most Waldorf educators are doing. Another interesting comparative article on the two philosophies is this one:

  7. Well..I will have to say that I agree "both philosophies have different goals".
    I like both!! But the question is What do you want to accomplish with your child?
    Do you want to create a world full of fantasy opening her imagination way OR Do you want to prepare your child to go ahead in this world and deal with real life?
    It is a difficul answer at least for me!
    I am a Montessori Mama who belives on educating my child be succesful in this life but I also like a child who want to dream and believe that there is a fantasy childhood world.


  8. There is plenty of space for imagination and dreaming in the Montessori education.There is space for the child who is not yet ready to read or write, even if his/her peers are. There is space for the high energy child who needs to engage with the world through big movement. There is space for the child who wishes to engage with the world through art and creativity.

    The thing that make all this happen, or not happen is the prepared environment, including the guide or teacher.

    The other thing to remember is that a Montessori education is supposed to be a classtoom based method with many children working together. Montessori herself read fairy stories to her grandchildren from babyhood.

    Using Montessori as a homeschool or wrap-around philosophy is not what is was intended for. Montessori saw the child's home life as separate to the school work although influenced and reflected by it. However, she expected a child's culture to be dominanat at home, including dressing up, stories, free art and all the rest of it.

  9. I read somewhere that the Montessori Method was designed to help Italians get it together and the Waldorf Method was designed to help Germans loosen up! (Actually I think the article kind of says this in the introduction)

    I think there are things to like and dislike in both philosophies. In Montessori, I love the design of the 'children's house', the design of practical life experiences to suit the child and the idea of 'control of error'. In Waldorf, I like the emphasis on rhythm, being outside, and the idea that a child under the age of 7 does not need to be pushed into academic work. (I know that Montessori advised letting children work at their own pace, but my experience of a Montessori pre-school (my son's) was that in practice this didn't really happen. That isn't to say that it wasn't a wonderful place in other ways).

    On the other hand, I don't think there is any harm in introducing letters to an interested 4 year old - after all they are a lot more present in a child's natural environment than they would have been 100 years ago! I certainly think some of Steiner's ideas are a product of his time and seem very odd now.

    Equally, I do not think that telling fairy stories to a child will result in long term giraffe confusion! (sorry marsha, I know that isn't quite what you meant!). I would agree that too much television exposure could be harmful, but I don't think that would be controversial in either philosophy.

    I think both philosophies draw out the inherent abilities of the child, rather than seeing education as drilling facts into children, which would have been the norm when both were writing, and is still something towards which mass education seems to vere.

    Anyway, in conclusion, being neither Italian nor German, and living 100 years after both writers, I think they both had inspiring things to say, but I wouldn't feel the need to follow either of their philosophies exclusively. As somebody said "follow the child".

  10. Wonderful discussion with so many really insightful comments. I am a Montessori zealot and my only experience of Waldorf comes through information I've read and stuff I've gleaned thru friends who had their kids in Waldorf, so take my opinions w. a grain of salt because I'm not really familiar enough w. Waldorf to criticize it...but here I go. I do agree w. the comments who are a bit offended by Steiner and Montessori being lumped together - they are wholly different. I recoil from the ideas I've heard of in Waldorf because they are the opposite to what I've seen w. my own kids flourishing in Montessori. When I think about how it would've been for them if they were not allowed to read by age 4, and particularly my eldest was a HUGE reader at 4 - and my 6 yr old has such pride in learning to write and reading - I shudder. I just think it's a shame they place so much emphasis on myth and fairy tale and not as much on the practical life aspects that young children so want/need to learn and emulate for their own development. I wholeheartedly embrace myth, stories, dress-up and fairytales w my kids but there is a time and place for it. My kids are in an AMI Montessori school until they are 12 - and perhaps I've "drunk the Kool Aid" but I can't imagine a finer, more imaginative, beautiful learning environment for a child than Montessori. Anyway- thanks for the post

  11. I wanted to share this has had me thinking a lot too. I'm STILL working on my 'response' :) It's so long...I'm gonna post it on my blog.

    By the way...I LOVE your blog!


  12. This has been a very interesting read for me.

    From my understanding, Montessori and Steiner had similar observations about child development but their responses were completely different. As a Waldorf teacher I am more familiar with Steiner’s approach but my learning about his and Montessori’s methods are ongoing.

    I came across Waldorf a bit by accident – I was looking for community and toying with the idea of going back to school to become a teacher. In any case, the values inherent in Waldorf schools (and some parts of anthroposophy) really resonated with me. I already knew the importance rhythm, teamwork and spending time outside. I also recognized that “listening” isn’t something most of our population does well.

    I know that writing and reading come later in Waldorf education and that this raises concern for many folks. I like to look at this in another way though. With the focus on oral storytelling, children learn to listen and create their own “picture” of things so much better. Then, when they learn to read they’ve become so fluent in moving between words and pictures that they can more deeply understand what they read.

    An important piece in this is fairytales and the fairies, elves and gnomes that are featured in those stories. When I started my training I really wasn’t sure about all this – after all, there wasn’t much “fantasy” in my childhood and I’d never been able to get through a fantasy book before. Now that I see how alive the world of fairies is for kindergarten children I realize that this is an important part of play for the young child. Completely different yet easily just as important as helping bake the bread and sweep the floor. Not so different from believing in Santa and the tooth fairy except that the magic of it lives on every day!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...