Private, Montessori, or Waldorf?

Updated on January 08, 2011
J.H. asks from Port Chester, NY
11 answers

I'm curious to hear from parents who have fully researched both traditional private schools along with montessori and walforf schools, chose a school for their child, and why you chose what you chose.

Also, can you help me better understand the differences between waldorf and montessori?

I should also specify that public school is not being considered as an option, just private classic prep schools.

Also where are the walford schoools?


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answers from New York on

Hi J.,
Here are a couple very important things that have not yet been mentioned...
First, ANYONE can use the Montessori name since the original founder did not trademark the name. If you want a true Montessori school, you must do research on the specific school you're considering to ensure it is genuine. They even tell you this on their official site. For additional information regarding Montessori schools, see the official web site:
2nd - Since every child is different, with differing needs when it comes to education and/or social learning, it's important to consider if each school's approach and phylosophy matches your child's needs. Some children NEED structure, for which Montessori may not be right. However, many children thrive in unstructured environments. If your child needs more structure, you may consider a different school such as Waldorf or another private school. Again, each school (and teacher) may be different depending on their approach and phylosophy. So check out and interview the schools you're considering to match your children's (and your) needs.
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Hi J.,

I just have a little piece of advice that I had to learn the hard way. OBSERVE!

Make sure you spend enough time observing before you commit.

I enrolled my daughter in a montessori school when she was 2.9 months old. I took the tour, asked the right questions, and researched their credentials. It turned out to be a nightmare. Worksheets, too much structure, and the teacher was awful! This school should NOT have be operating as a Montessori school!

Good luck with your decision. And just so you know, not all public schools are bad! I had a waldorf student in my public kindergarten class and after her mother saw how amazing my classroom was she became my biggest fan! So if you do end up in a public school, know your rights, stay involved and speak up!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Waldorf education and Montessori although created by two different people both had the same idea in mind. Creating independent thinking, creative, self sufficient children. Maria Montessori who was the creator of Montessori believed children should not only play with toys but there should be educational value as well. The creator of Waldorf (can't remember his name) believed that children should learn to create the toys they play with from what ever materials are available to them. Both share the same love of nature, respect, real verses pretend. Basically teaching children to work at their own pace, relying on their own skills and imagination to learn. Teachers observe and do not intervene unless a child seems frustrated. I agree with Amy J be careful and observe. Any one can say they are Montessori however they must be accredited by The American Montessori Society check it out first and make sure. Public school as you know is completely different where children are taught with books, and other learning materials. My kids both attended public school. I was not in education at that time. I had no problems with public school both of my children excelled. I am sure there are many other differences but basically it would take to long to mention them all. I think you have to research and see what the best fit for your child is. I own and direct a Montessori School so of course I know more about the Montessori Philosophy verses Waldorf. Some Montessori schools are not run properly, I remember running into a women who told me after her son attended a Montessori school he needed therapy!! So be careful. Sometimes people take structure to a whole new level
(military school) I have to be honest I think it would be easier for you to find a Montessori program then Waldorf I do not know of any in my area and am not sure where you live. If you want to check out my website it can fully explain the components, and philosophy in a Montessori program. I only have children ages six weeks to six years but I know some programs do go up into the higher grades. My website is Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Montessori and Waldorf are very different. I am a former public school teacher, with many friends who teach in both of those methods. Both are wonderful! Montessori is highly specific- organized, and child-led. Montessori teachers are facilitators, rather than "educators." They help students to create an extremely organized classroom, and then support students as they learn subjects through self-direction. (Example: a 2nd grader may get all of his reading and writing instruction through a report on a subject of his choice, like dinosaurs or guitar, for 2 weeks. He/she may spend 2-3 hours a day researching, writing, and creating a final project.) While there is a clear curriculum in Montessori, with clear standards, students often have a lot of choice in their studies.

Waldorf is also child-led in many ways, but they do have a lot of teacher-led, arts integrated instruction. Waldorf is pretty "green," so there's a lot of focus on peaceful choices, using art and music to express feelings, respect for the earth, etc.

I love both methods of instruction, and both are very different from the more traditional style of private schools. (Even though Montessori is quite old and researched, beginning in Italy in the early 20th century.) Both are quite progressive, focusing on the child and the process- rather than the product. Neither have grades, but rather detailed narratives from the teacher. Both encourage individuality and thinking outside the box. Both are most often found at the elementary school (or preschool) level, though sometimes Waldorf will go higher. It's extremely rare to see a Montessori middle or high school.

Hope this gives a little more info. Here are a couple of good web resources that my educator friends gave me:

Hope this is helpful!

PS I forgot to add a couple of things! Montessori is always multi-age, so students are grouped: preschool (2.5-4/5 yr olds), K-1st (depending on the child), 1-3rd grades, 3/4-6th grades. The students usually change teachers after 2-3 years. In Waldorf, you don't usually have this multi-age classroom environment. But kids keep the same teacher for many years. That can be good or bad, depending on the student-teacher relationship!

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answers from Albany on

It really depends upon which school you feel comfortable with. I imagine there are differences between each individual school even if they subscribe to the same educational theories. Rudolph Steiner created the Waldorf school concept. I absolutely love the atmosphere of our local Waldorf school. There is a great sense of community there. However, I am less than thrilled about their ideas about music in education. (I think children should listen to music as well as make music). I highly recommend taking a tour of several schools to see which one you like best. You will want to meet the individuals who would be teaching your child as well as finding out what education theory guides their work.



answers from Albany on

Dear J.,
I have a masters in ed, 3 children, and a business that helps children who struggle. When my daughter was young, we looked into several options for her, so I have some experienc and knowledge. First Montessori: I had a class with a Montessori teacher and was fascinated to learn about the method. In a typical primary classroom of kids, each child chooses a project they want to do, and that interests them. They may get guidance from the teacher or other students, but it is primarily independent. The project may focus on dinosaurs or food, but the lessons include age appropriate lessons in several areas, such as reading, math, social studies or science. The children learn at their own pace and are engaged because they get to choose from their interests. For young children, I see no problems in this philosophy, unless there is a problem that does not get noticed, but I did not see this as a problem.
We looked at Waldorf for our daughter.
Waldorf schools have a philosophy based on development, and because they have all children do certain movements and activities, they develop entire mind and body. It is very art based, and they follow their teacher through the years. The benefits include age-appropriate instruction, lower stress from staying with the same kids and teacher, and a strong arts and crafts instruction. The problems could be for the child who does not gel with that teacher, or who has learning disabilities, since reading is not directly taught until 4th grade, and even then it is taught by whole language, while some kids require a more structured sound-letter approach. 4th grade is late to find this out. Some Waldorf schools have chosen to teach reading earlier and using a more traditional approach, however. You would need to find out how yours stacks up.
We settled on public education until 4th grade when that no longer worked for my daughter. I then home-schooled her for a year, to get her caught up, and moved on to a small private school with an excellent reputation. In less than 2 years, they asked us to take her out, they could not understand how to teach her, and they thought she had learning disabilities (which she did).
The conclusion? Probably any choice is wonderful for the well-adjusted non-LD child, but for the child who struggles, none of those options is ideal. Without excellent intervention, homeschooling would be the beat option.
BTW, my daughter got excellent intervetion through OT, vision therapy, and cognitive training which increased her IQ by 20 points and reduced all her symptoms to the point that she no longer has LD. She is currently a college Sophomore on the deans list with no interventions. If this is at all interesting to you, go to
Best of luck with your decision!!!
K. Johnson, MS Ed



answers from Albany on

Each child is different. I have had good and bad experiences. The bottom line is a safe and pleasant learning environment, FIRST, then the style. Always talk to others and get references. My twins attended private and Montessori schools. The Montessori in our case was better than the private. I home schooled my youngest in addition



answers from Albany on

Hi Jen,
My oldest daughter went to a Waldorf school & we loved it. THe idea of teaching the whole child is pretty neat. My daughter was in their pre-school class & we loved the rocking chair in the room, the all natural toys. They made bread from scratch on Mondays & veg. soup on Fridays. The atmosphere was very loving & low key. My daughter only went to the Waldorf school for pre-school.
What I didn't not like was their world view. THey don't teach kids to read until 3rd grade, the kids have the same teacher starting in first grade through 8th, or how ever many grades the school offers. I would be very careful before sending my child off to a Waldorf School.



answers from New York on

1st.. good luck. I know 2 students that go or went to Montessori.. one is now in college... and literally has no experience with sports, or playing outside.. he is an intervert because he never learned how to play with others outside of school. He is downright strange.. maybe it's just him.. but I think part of it is the school didn't teach him to play against each other.. but only to play with each other. He doesn;t know how to socialize.. and never fit in with other neighborhood children..
the second child is only in 2nd grade and they just took him out of montesori because he was acting out all the time. He has no manners what so ever. he is very smart.. but they more or less let him do whatever he wanted. He has no respect for his parents or peers... My children.. go to a great public school in our town... and they are both honor students. I went to a private school growing up and it was fantastic.. just do your homework... drop by the schools at any given time.. to see what the classes are like.. good luck..



answers from New York on

My understanding of the early childhood programs in a nutshell: Montessori sees childhood as a time to expose children to as many different things as possible to help them expand their interests. Waldorf promotes an unrushed childhood that unfolds naturally through daily/weekly/seasonal rhythms and focuses on the child's imagination, rather than outside stimulation, for play and learning. My kids are Waldorf Kids, some of our closest friends have Montessori kids. Both are great options depending on your personal philosophy. We chose Waldorf because we believe that kids are too rushed today and we support the curriculum. There is no teaching to a test as you find in public schools.

There is a misconception that Waldorf education is great for the arts, but not much else. For the record, the kids who graduate from the 8th grade in my kids' Waldorf school are by and large far ahead of their public school counterparts in all subjects when they move on to the 9th grade in our local public school (which is strongly rated). The curriculum in the grades is rich and thorough, not just in the arts, but also in math, science, history, language etc. Good luck with your decision.



answers from San Francisco on

When I was in high school I read about Maria Montessori and liked the concept very much. When my own daughter was nearing 3 years old and I was considering which preschool to enter her into, I sought out a Montessori, but after being interviewed by the head of the school, and after my daughter seemed to have flunked her test, by not putting back the graduating blocks correctly (though they were standing beautifully), I went to another direction....the Waldorf direction.

My daughter now 24, and a junior at UCBerkeley in Architecture happily attended a Waldorf school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. If I could have relived my own education I would have also attended a Waldorf school too.

You might want to look on facebook and see what students say about their seems to run the gamut, just like every other school experience.

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