Montessori Vs Steiner, What Is The Difference?

Public schools typically follow a formal education system led by curriculums, countless regulations, targets, and structure.

Montessori schools and Steiner schools are arguably two of the most popular alternatives to public schooling. But what is the difference between Montessori and Steiner? 

Montessori Vs Steiner, What Is The Difference?

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with sending a child to a public school, there are some other schools that are based purely on a specific educational method that goes beyond the traditional schooling methods like strewing technique

Montessori and Steiner educational methods were developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori and Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, respectively. 

Montessori and Steiner paved the way for modern teaching methods, allowing for countless years of research and training both in and out of public schools to better our understanding of how kids learn best. However, both teaching methods are fairly different to one another. 

Whether you don’t want to send your child to a public school or if you’re simply curious about the two educational methods, here is our guide to Montessori vs Steiner, what is the difference? 

Montessori Vs Steiner, What Is The Difference?

What Is Montessori?

Montessori is a teaching method developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori with the aim of discouraging traditional teaching structures such as grades, tests, and targets.

Instead, classrooms are self-taught by children as they navigate and learn through exploration, play, activities, and social interaction. 

Maria Montessori founded her namesake philosophy out of pure passion and frustration after not being taken seriously in the field of physics, wherein she was constantly competing with male colleagues.

She eventually changed careers before delving into a philosophy around how children should be educated. 

Back in Italy, children were primarily taught in factories with the goal of becoming young workers. Maria felt that this limited a child’s potential, so she took matters into her own hands and opened her first “school” (which she called a house of children) that followed her newly founded Montessori teaching methods. 

The Montessori method has since continued to develop and has inspired educators and researchers across the world.

There are now about 20,000 Montessori schools that operate independently, including some public schools that have adopted the teachings. Most Montessori schools are private and require tuition fees.

What Is Steiner?

Steiner is an educational philosophy and method that is primarily used in establishments known as Waldorf schools.

This teaching method was founded by Rudolf Steiner and officially established in 1919, making it the oldest alternative teaching method in the world. 

The Steiner teaching method is a holistic approach that works to encourage and instill artistic and practical elements into a classroom to boost a child’s intellectual abilities.

Rather than training children to achieve certain grades and targets, Steiner works to prepare students of all ages for the real world. 

In Waldorf schools, the classrooms are led by a teacher similarly to public schools. Classes are structured this way to educate children on the importance of aspects of humanity, such as spirituality and culture.

Rudolf’s view was that the best way for children to learn was to teach them about the world around them, therefore creating well-rounded children. 

The main point about Waldorf schools is that students aren’t actually taught about specific subjects until further into their education.

When subjects like math and science are implemented into the classroom, spirituality is still at the heart of learning.

This is because Steiner’s work emphasized the importance of how humans are spiritual beings, and how spirituality can be and should be explored through academia. 

What Is The Difference Between Montessori And Steiner?

What Is The Difference Between Montessori And Steiner

Montessori and Steiner educational philosophies have undoubtedly paved the way for current and future generations of teaching practices.

While both philosophies are alternative teaching methods, there are some key differences between them.

Here are the main differences between Montessori and Steiner education methods:

  • The key difference is the guidance of teaching. In Montessori schools, classrooms are self-guided by children as they are encouraged to learn at their own pace and abilities.

This is to develop independence, confidence, responsibility, respect, and self-awareness.

In Steiner/Waldorf schools, however, classes are guided by teachers. Teachers assess each student by their personal progress as human beings, allowing them to understand their abilities and downfalls without comparing them to their peers.

  • The style of teaching is different between both philosophies. Montessori schools encourage children to learn through play and exploration, wherein kids learn about social interaction, numeracy, literacy, humanities, science, and more through Montessori-approved activities and toys.

The aim is for children to ask themselves the question, and figure out the answer without constant guidance from teachers.

Steiner teaching is guided by teachers and focuses less on playing with toys as the kids advance and grow. Instead of implementing subjects through games and toys like Montessori classrooms, kids don’t learn about math/science/literacy or any other subject until far later into their school lives.

This is to encourage children to understand their creativity, their spirituality, their worth as humans, and how humanity works. Without an understanding of humanity, children cannot learn about subjects and how the world works.

  • While Montessori resources and materials are directly linked to real life through practical learning, Steiner takes a far more imaginative and holistic approach. Teachers will tell stories rather than ask specific questions to enhance a child’s imagination.

For example, if a child hits another, the teacher won’t explicitly explain that they did something wrong. Instead, they will create a fantasy story about morals and kindness and continue to tell the story until the child figures out that they were wrong. In this situation, the teacher is planting a seed for the child to grow and apologize.

  • Montessori teaching is far more flexible and relaxed than Steiner teaching. Montessori encourages children to learn at their own pace and do what they want through activities that are carefully designed to subconsciously teach them concepts like counting, color matching, coordination skills, and more.

Steiner, on the other hand, is a more philosophical approach. Teachers will guide and assess children based on an evaluation system called the four temperaments. The four temperaments allow teachers to connect with children individually to help children become self-aware and aware of the world around them.

The four temperaments include:

  • The melancholic: A student who understands thoughts and feelings on a deep level.
  • The choleric: A student who learns best when completing tasks and deeds.
  • The phlegmatic: A student who works best by themselves.
  • The sanguine: A student who works best with others.

The Montessori method doesn’t implement these temperaments as an evaluation method. Instead, these schools encourage students to understand their own learning styles and preferences without guidance from teachers.

  • Montessori schools are only typically for children aged between 2.5-3 years old and 6 years old. This is because the activities won’t benefit a child over 6 years old as their intelligence progresses.

However, some Montessori schools can teach children up to the age of 14 (Middle School).

Steiner schools, however, are for preschoolers all the way through the high school graduate ages. Academic subjects are taught far later into their education than in Montessori schools, wherein subjects are subtly implemented in each activity and game.

In a way, Montessori schools are designed to establish a child’s confidence, responsibility, social skills, self-esteem, and independence before they progress to either a public school or another alternative school.

Steiner schools are more long-term, encouraging teenagers to continue their love for learning after graduating.

  • Montessori schools are not averse to allowing children to explore technology and media to learn. There are a lot of online games and activities that are inspired by Montessori teaching methods to help children learn the alphabet, count, match colors, and more.

Steiner, on the other hand, opposes virtually all forms of technology and media. This teaching method encourages children to be creative with real life activities, with the belief that small children shouldn’t be exposed to technology.

Once children advance to an older age, they can start to use computers or tablets according to the school’s rules and curriculum.

  • While both Montessori and Steiner schools involve toys and games in learning, the reasons between both types of toys are very different.

Montessori toys are specifically designed to become logical and realistic about the world. Toys teach children how to tie their laces, clean the floor, match shapes and colors, count, learn the alphabet, and more. Each toy is meticulously designed to serve an educational purpose.

Toys in a Steiner/Waldorf classroom, however, aren’t designed with an educational purpose. Instead, children use toys for their imagination and creativity.

This is because Steiner believed young children should be filled with creative enrichment by creating their own fantasy games, such as dressing up, playing with dolls, building things, and more. This is to allow children to express themselves through imagination.


Both Montessori and Steiner philosophies have proven to be highly effective teaching methods around the world, which is why there is no right or wrong between the systems.

While there are certain key differences between the two educational approaches, it all mostly comes down to a parent’s personal preference in how they want their child to learn. 

Joyce Bailey
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