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Nature Class

Montessori & Waldorf Comparison

Montessori Schools 


People who are seeking Montessori schools sometimes choose SYV Family School for its similarities. SYV Family School does have some important similar approaches and techniques, but there are some differences as well.

SYV Family School and Montessori approaches are both grounded in close and meaningful observation and interaction with children. Maria Montessori was a pioneer in researching and developing a learning model and environment that was naturally “child-centered.” The six principles of a Montessori education that follow are also deeply embedded in our own philosophy:

  1. Multimodal Learning – Learning happens through movement, touch, sight, and sound.

  2. Mixed Age Classrooms – Placing children in mixed age groups, corresponding to planes of development, allows them to relate to children who are both older and younger.  It also allows for a “confidence interval” around learning in that a child is not labeled as either behind or gifted simply because they acquire a concept a little earlier or a little later than same-age peers.

  3. Observation – Observation of the child reveals the proper timing for the presentation of new information and experiences academically, socially, and personally.

  4. Developmental – Awareness of the needs and abilities during specific times of development allows for optimal engagement and learning for the child.

  5. Classroom Community – The classroom experience should build on the desire of the young child to master their environment.  The classroom community is child-centered rather than adult-centered.

  6. Materials – The use of self-correcting materials allows children to manipulate and explore at their own pace experience satisfaction and develop self-confidence with success.


These principles were radical when Maria Montessori developed them over 100 years ago. She was joined by Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and others who believed in a “constructivist” approach, whereby children learn by doing, or by “constructing” their own learning.

SYV Family School and Montessori Differences


One of the biggest differences between Montessori education and SYV Family School is how each day is structured. In a classic Montessori school, children spend much of their day doing independent work. At SYVFS, children have blocks of time for independent work, but they also have more group collaboration, group projects, and direct instruction. We believe in supporting each individual child, within a group setting.


In preschool (Green Door), the whole class gathers each day for a community circle. There is a strong sense of the class being a community, and children have the opportunity to learn how to work together and practice social and emotional skills that are critical in today’s world.


In summary, if you feel that a Montessori School may be a good fit for your child, it would make sense to tour SYV Family School, as our philosophy and program have many similar features, as well as several different features as well. If you are already at a Montessori School and wondering how the transition to SYV Family School would be for your child, it is worth a conversation.

Boy on a hike by a creek

Waldorf Schools 


SYVFS may look or feel similar to some schools inspired by Waldorf Education. For example, we too believe in Beverley Amico’s words published in the New York Times: “Perhaps computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. We must be as aware of what is lost through computer-based learning as we are of what might be gained. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, a child’s natural, instinctive, creative, and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.” Other similarities include:

  • Similarities in beliefs about child development

  • Approaching the child holistically

  • A nurturing classroom environment

  • Emphasis on teaching as a sacred calling

  • Appreciation of story and myth

  • Emphasis on and love for the natural world

  • Use of natural materials and aesthetically beautiful classroom environments

  • A similar view of the media as needing to be tempered in the lives of young people

  • Art Immersion


It is also important to note that some schools inspired by Waldorf Education are not members of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).  There are differences between schools inspired by Waldorf Education and AWSNA member schools.

SYV Family School and

Waldorf Differences


The differences we see between SYVFS and other schools inspired by Waldorf Education are primarily a result of the underlying philosophy. Waldorf education, established by Rudolf Steiner and Emil Molt in 1919, has its foundations in Anthroposophy, or “spiritual science.” Many Waldorf schools use Steiner’s original lectures and writings as primary sources.


While SYVFS loves to pull from best practices from many schools of thought, it is not bound to the doctrine of one particular philosopher.  As a result of this fundamental difference in foundational approaches, here are a few of the different specific practices:


  • We believe that every child is on their own learning journey and we introduce many concepts before the curriculum that was indicated by Rudolf Steiner.  For example, we believe many kindergartners (Blue Doors) are ready to learn to read, and in fact start many pre-literacy skills in our Green Door program in preparation for learning to read.

  • We hire teachers who are traditionally trained, as well as those with alternative training.

  • We have students begin using technology at the beginning of Purple Door (4th grade).

  • We believe teachers bring different passions, strengths, and relationships to different students, so we do not "loop" teachers passed the two-year program.

Alpinen meadow

In Summary

If you love Montessori or Waldorf education, it is worth taking a tour to learn more about our unique program. If you are already at one of these schools, and are wondering about the transition to SYV Family School, we would love to have a further conversation.

Please contact us, anytime.

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