Does method matter? Montessori vs. Waldorf

Last time, we examined the goals and methods of the Classical schooling tradition and Charlotte Mason’s methods. This issue looks at the schooling philosophies of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner and provides a listing of schools in Japan influenced by the two schools of thought. Then follows a roundup of all four methods, their similarities and differences and what this means for the homeschooler.

The Waldorf Method

Waldorf schools (from preschool to high school) are said to collectively form the fastest growing group of independent private schools in the world. About 130 now operate in the United States, and 700 worldwide. Waldorf schools were founded originally by maverick Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner in 1919. He was invited to give a speech to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany, afterwhich the owner of the factory asked him to start a school for the children of the factory-workers. Steiner agreed and the first Waldorf school was born.

Key features of Waldorf schooling Methods:

1) All lessons are designed to appeal to the ‘head, heart and hands’, ie, to reach children through all their senses. Waldorf schooling aims to educate the *whole* child. Rudolf Steiner believed that people actually have twelve senses — the accepted five plus thought, language, warmth, balance, movement, life, and the individuality of the other. Some of the ways in which Waldorf educators try to engage and connect the thinking and feeling realms include: the use of lots of make-believe materials for play (such as farmhouses, dolls in cradle) different “fantasy world” corners, items from nature such as pinecones, nuts, seashells, stones, driftwood, having soft pastels and lighting in the classrooms, etc. Students are given an innate sense of material through working with natural materials such as German-imported beeswax and wood. A key Waldorf principle is the need for children to be surrounded with beauty. Watercolors fit for artists are used by the children and teachers take great pains to train children not to muddle their colors into a brown mess.

2) That imagination is the heart of learning permeates all of Waldorfteaching and learning. Key elements of the Waldorf teaching method include storytelling, fantasy-make-believe, art, drama, craft, discussion, the creation of a personal workbook. Practically this translates into a school day where the “main lesson” always unfolds with fairy tales, myths and legends, stories or drama. More academic math classes (that stimulate the head faculty) are likely to be balanced and followed on by music or foreign language classes (that stimulate the “heart” faculty of the child). The study of history may go beyond reading and writing about an era and involve performing a play based on the era. The old-fashioned face-less country-doll is a standard toy in Waldorf kindergartens since the teachers believe an incomplete toy allows children to use their imagination.

3) Life skills and practical experience such as woodcarving, sculpting, sewing and gardening are considered as essential to a complete life experience as academic subjects. The experience of undertaking a project whether it requires great dexterity (mastering a musical instrument) or is a relatively simpler one (sewing or knitting an item) gives the student a sense of achievement and helps develops a quiet confidence to master other more complex skills later in life. For example, through year-long woodwork projects that involve activities such carving out of stubborn pieces of hardwood, filing and sanding, students learn that the rewards only follow the commensurate amount of mental, physical, even emotional effort expended. Even if the student does not show any special talent in any field, he will still be encouraged to create and to learn new skills. On the other hand, since technology promises an experience by which little effort is expended, Waldorf teachers will veer younger students away from watching television and discourage exposure to computers until the eighth grade or later.

4) Waldorf’s chief aim is to encourage a love of lifelong learning through the use of the arts. The curriculum is language-rich since storytelling, drama and poetry are the mainstay of every lesson. A typical Waldorf school offers several different music classes — music practice with recorders a choir, an orchestra. Art projects are promoted with the purpose of building a foundation of developing form and technique. Waldorf educators seek to create a sense of wonder about each subject. Even the approach to subjects like math is unique – students may study geometric progression by doing graphic-art projects.

Arithmetic may be learned by students creating concentric circles of times tables, singing multiplication drills clapping and hopping across the room in syncopated rhythm. A standard exercise in Waldorf classes is a game called “mental math” whereby teachers call out math quizzes and students do the math in their heads. No textbooks are used from 1st to 4th grades, instead students make their own books filled with careful records of field trips, classroom experiments, drawings, impressions of the teachers’ regular oral presentations and syntheses of what they have read in primary sources (at more advanced levels).

5) A fundamental goal of Waldorf schools is to give youngsters a sense of ethics and to produce individuals who are able to impart meaning to their lives. Waldorf schools do not just pay lip service to this goal. Rudolf Steiner founded the first school a few months after the end of World War I and he perceived the need for a new social order and a new sense of ethics: “The need for imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility — these are the three forces which are the very nerve of education”, Steiner had said. Each morning students recite a short Steiner poem that aims to inspire students about nature and good work. Teachers avoid reading from books but daily present oral lessons as topics for open discussion, and to create a dramatic atmosphere in which the moral principles involved in a given subject can be not only pondered but felt. Students may act out Nordic myths, stomping their way through a poem’s iambic and dactylic rhythms. Or they may role-play one of the characters in a fairy tale of good truimphing over evil. Waldorf teachers believe that the stories are essential to the students’ ability to develop a sense of empathy and their capacity to find meaning in life. Waldorf schools also require students to do regular community service.

6) Steiner believed that younger children learn primarily through imitation, that watching and working with a teacher facilitates developing appropriate skills. The relationship between student and teacher is regarded as crucial throughout the course of childhood and early adolescence. In the early years, the teacher, regarded to be the main source of learning, stays with the class for the entire eight years of elementary school. In high school, students are taught by specialists in each subject, and take courses that will lead to college acceptance.

7) Academics (grades and competitive sports) are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. Waldorf is unusual in that it advocates sending children to first grade a year later than usual. Waldorf students aren’t graded on their work until around the seventh grade. And reading is not taught until 2nd or 3rd grade (though the letters are introduced in first and second). Before teaching sound and word recognition, Waldorf teachers concentrate on exercises such as storytelling and poetry recitation to build up a child’s love of language. As one Waldorf teacher put it “talk and play are the foundation of reading”. Waldorf educators abhor pushing a child into realism (through premature reading or denial of fantasy play) which they believe will cripple the child’s development

Key strengths of the Waldorf approach:

–The Waldorf curriculum is designed to teach at the most appropriate level for a child’s developmental stage through the teaching forms used

–The multisensory learning approach accommodates different learning styles of students. Creativity and analytical skills depend on the ability to think with both hemispheres of the brain. Multisensory learning unites the right brain and left brain as does the study of music. Scientific studies have shown that musicians have a larger mass of nerve fibers connecting the brain’s two hemispheres.

–The Waldorf method produces students who have the internal motivation to learn, long attention spans, focus and discipine. This is attributed to both the arts forms used as well as the curriculum that purposely allows room for reflection. Waldorf educators seek to allow students to discover and to struggle toward their answers and individual understanding. Waldorf science teachers will perform an experiment, then wait till the next day when students have literally had a chance to “sleep on it” before allowing the students to come in with questions for discussion (the conventional way is to first introduce a concept and then do a demonstration to illustrate it).

— The confidence and self-esteem of the student is built up by through emphasising practical life experience over academics. By doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading, the Waldorf school is notably successful at accommodating students of all abilities.

— Waldorf schools are said to produce strong moral character and good social skills, optimists and people who think they can help the world.

This is attributed to the Waldorf’s philosophy of teaching through living out stories, enriching people’s imaginations and ethical sensibilities, and putting them to work in modern daily life. Child psychology experts (Bruno Bettelheim and Robert Coles) say the key to the development of a moral and spiritual intelligence in children is an immersion in moral stories. Waldorf teachers say that traditional schools by imposing intellectual demands and emphasising academics before children are ready for them, discourage youngsters and make them prone to become apathetic or unfeeling but clever cynics.

— The Waldorf curriculum is multidisciplinary; its curriculum integrates math, reading, science and history. Multidimensional learning is achieved on a single subject so learning has both depth and breadth. The study of foreign languages is actively encouraged.

Criticisms of Waldorf schooling:

1) Parents can be put off by the relaxed approach as most Waldorf students aren’t reading fully until the third grade. This looks bad when children could be mastering their readng skills by the first grade (or earlier) at more competitive schools. Some parents have claimed Waldorf schools overlooked their children’s disabilities and that consequently dyslexia and such disabilities detected through outside testing were harder to correct.

2) There are those who distrust the spiritualistic flavor of the Waldorf philosophy. Rudolf Steiner shared Robert Muller’s roots in Theosophy, but broke away to start his own system of beliefs, Anthroposophy, which he described as “knowledge produced by the higher self in man. Waldorf teachers have to study those doctrines intensively at the Steiner College, where virtually every class text was written by Steiner or another anthroposophist. The Waldorf tendency towards whole language instead phonics, fables and “literature” instead of factual history, and a strong emphasis on myth, imagination, guided imagery, art, creativity, movement (eurythmy), and spiritual oneness with nature tends to be suspect. In early 1998 Dan Dugan, a Waldorf parent actually sued the Sacramento school district and another nearby for introducing the Waldorf philosophy in two public schools on the grounds that children were indoctrinated into Waldorf’s “religious doctrines of anthroposophy.”


The Montessori method:

The Montessori method originated from the scientific work of Dr Maria Montessori drawing from the disciplines of medicine, psychology, anthropology and education in Italy around the end of the 19th century.

Her methods, initially the result of observations and work with so-called “retarded” and “uneducable” children, were applied subsequently in infant schools for deprived and neglected children in slum and rehousing areas, normal children in schools for those with more privileged backgrounds, all of which achieved astounding results and brought Dr Montessori fame and recognition. The Montessori schooling became a movement which gained momentum in Europe and India where she worked. Upon her death Montessori schooling saw rapid growth all over the world, including with more than 4000 schools in the US alone.

Key features of the Montessori method:

1) One of the guiding principles of Montessori philosophy is that the teacher/caregiver is to respect the unique individuality of the child, to treat him as an “unknown entity” whereby his true nature and personality will freely emerge. Recognising his profound role and impact upon the development of the child’s personality, the teacher is trained to model kindness and consideration, to observe the child and follow his interests in suggesting work, to give careful, individual lessons, and to refrain from interrupting when the child is concentrating on an activity. Montessori didactic materials and equipment are carefully designed with a “control of error” built to clue the child onto the correct way of doing the activity.

2) Another important principle was there should be as much physical and intellectual freedom for the child as is possible and safe. Montessori teachers allow the child to freely pick the activities he likes to do most, to explore, discover and to make mistakes. The child is never forced to attend a lesson or do a piece of work that he does not wish to. To build self-esteem, the child is to be given as many opportunities for developing independence and for participation in the routines of everyday life activities (meal preparation, cleaning, gardening, caring for clothes, shoes, and toys). To this end, Montessori classrooms are filled with child-sized real equipment for activities that simulate practical life. Children learn to pour and stir, cut and paste, use the art easel, set the table, do and undo buttons and shoelaces, etc. The focus is on learning concentration, and refining large and fine motor skills.

3) Another important guiding principle was the importance of the child’s environment. From Dr Montessori’s observations of young children allowed to freely engage in activities of their own choice in a well-ordered physical environment, she concluded that the children returned to a “normalized” state of being in harmony with their entire environment showing qualities such as spontaneous self-discipline, love of order, concentrated attention, and spontaneous interest in goal-directed activity and a genuine thirst for knowledge and propensity for acquiring new skills. She then devised a whole series of materials and lessons to produce that optimum “prepared” environment that would facilitate the natural development of the child.

4) All of the learning materials in the Montessori schoolroom were designed by Maria Montessori for a specific purpose and developmental age so that they would attract and hold the child’s attention. The Montessori curriculum has many lesson presentations, materials and games that help develop language, reading and science skills and knowledge on history, geography or culture. Dr Montessori believed learning is a natural, self-directed process which follows certain fundamental laws of nature and one of her aims was to make it possible for each child to develop to his full intellectual capacity. Recording her studies with children from 3-18 , she identified the following key ideas of childhood

– that all children passed through a series of definite stages of development, that all children have “absorbent minds”, they want to learn and be independent, all children pass through periods of sensitivity (to order, language, walking, social aspects of life, small objects and the sensory world) and they learn through play and active participation. There is no junk food, no television and no computer in the traditional Montessori environment. Book selections are outstanding and classroom equipment aesthetically appealing, of the finest finish and quality.

5) The Montessori method is multisensory using uniquely designed “sensory materials” (objects that the children work with which teach size, texture and color discrimination). For example, one child will work on a self-correcting puzzle and try to place a series of different-sized cylinders in a row from largest to smallest. Children learn to read letters phonetically with their eyes and ears, and also by touching letters cut from sandpaper and other materials in the language and reading center.

6) One of Dr Montessori’s main goals was to help children become socially and emotionally well adjusted and grow up as physically strong and happy children. The Montessori philosophy believes it important to encourage self-discipine in children, cooperation with other children and a caring and respectful attitude towards other people. Unique to Montessori is the multi-aged, multi-graded, heterogeneous classrooms. The children live and learn in a natural, mixed-age group of children viewed as a microcosm of the natural society they will live in as adults. In a natural community children spend their daily lives with old people, babies, and everyone in between. Montessori children do not compete, but learn to search out the needs of others and to help others.

7) Montessori educators try to nurture the child’s understanding of life processes and awareness of the natural world and the universe around them. Cultural activities and lessons (including peace education) are taught to Montessori children to facilitate their understanding of their role as human beings in their own society, community and in the world. The teachers seek ultimately to encourage the child’s involvement and responsibility in caring for his own immediate environment. The child would begin by observing, exploring and discovering everyday things in the natural world, realise that plants and animals require the care and responsibility of humans for their survival, learn about the processes and sequences and interdependence of living things in the natural world, and finally understand his own role and power to control the environment.

Main strengths of Montessori schooling:

— The Montessori philosophy addresses the needs of the whole child (spiritual, emotional, physical, social, aesthetic, cognitive and intellectual) on the premise that that children thrive, learn and create when all those needs are met. Children are respected as whole individuals, and teachers don’t talk down to them.

— Montessori education fosters competent, responsible, adaptive individuals who are lifelong learners and problem solvers. The Montessori model serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability, whether gifted or possessing of disabilities.

— Montessori schools show a consistently high level of academic achievement which is regarded as the natural outcome of experience in such a supportive environment.

— Learning is multisensory and developmentally and age-appropriate. Students learn through manipulating materials and interacting with others.

— The Montessori method is a “scientific” method, practical and tested for bringing forth the very best in young human beings. The principles, methods and prescribed lessons are straight-forward and easily applied. They can be easily adapted into a Montessori homeschooling plan.

— Montessori curriculum also has a strong ethical dimension. In the multi-age classrooms, children (and teachers) are taught to respect individual differences and to be well-socialized. With competition de-emphasised and the freedom of the child respected, typical Montessori-trained children will exhibit a desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment. Montessori children are well-balanced and confident in their ways since the curriculum fosters independence of the child and his ability to competently handle practical life.


— The methodical and clinical lesson presentations and well-ordered environment of the Montessori classroom can seem sterile and “dry” with less enthused teachers. And the classrooms can appear less rich and imaginative than say, Waldorf schoolrooms, stripped of the teacher’s personality since the teacher is to refrain from imposing his/her personality and will upon the students.

— The traditionally true-to-Montessori equipment made of the highest quality wood are expensive to set up in the home environment. Similarly Montessori schools are generally expensive because of the high teacher-to-student ratio.

Waldorf vs Montessori methods. A Comparison:

The two methods show up many similarities: Both emphasise respect for the child, practical life activities, a holistic education of the “whole child”, multisensory methods, control of environment (beautiful natural and quality materials that stimulate the senses), a strong sense of ethics. Both de-emphasise competitive grading and attitudes. Modelling of teacher roles is shared by both Montessori and Waldorf philosophies except that in the former there is the added condition that the care-giver’s “personality should be “controlled” in order to free allow the child’s personality to emerge.

Main differences between the methods lie in the way the pedagogy is presented; the Montessori method is envisioned and presented in a “scientific” way while Waldorf method is motivational in that Steiner believed his anthroposophical ideas would produce passionate and dedicated model teachers and consequently, spark a true passion for learning from their students. Steiner’s philosophy is often expressed in dreamy and spiritual tones while the Montessori method tends to be prescriptive and pragmatic.

Waldorf method gives free rein to the role of imagination and fantasy, through its classroom environment, curriculum content and free forms of teaching used. Montessori classrooms emphasise order and a prepared and controlled environment” chaos to facilitate concentration and tries to minimise any distractions, through its use of defined activity spaces.

The Montessori method emphasizes “materials, environment, structure, building, play exercise, concepts, specificity, order, and practicality” and the purpose and outcome are important. For the Waldorfer the focus is on “delicate processes, essence, aspects, rhythm, feeling elements, context, imagination, and beauty” are more important. (Source: article “Montessori and Steiner: A Pattern of Reverse Symmetries” by neuroscience educator Dr Dee Joy Coulter at According to neuroscience educator Dr Coulter, “Montessori would first introduce the manifested forms of the greatest mathematicians to the children – Platonic solids, Pythagorean geometric forms – and later introduce biographies and the ideas behind the forms. Steiner would ask his teachers to introduce the wonder of sacred number principles, the biographies of the mathematicians, and the spiritual quests of their day before introducing the forms. Waldorf education reintroduces the questions so that the child can personally generate the spiritual quests that led to the answers, and then shows them what the culture has developed. Montessori education invites the child to reverence the answers first, the wonders of human cultural deeds, and then to progress to the seed elements of the finest of our manifested works.

Montessorians have the children discover geographical spaces and their spatial relationships early, to see how geography reveals our cultural interconnectedness. Steiner, on the other hand, would start with the local environment and gradually work outward in spiral to reach astronomy by grade 12, but he would reverse the spiral for history. In history, the child would begin with fairy tales, legends, and myths, then work on through Biblical and ancient recorded history to current events in grade 12. Steiner would pace this historical journey to match the unfolding consciousness of the developing child. The Golden Age of Greece, for example, would be addressed during grade 5, when children are their most sensitive about fairness, and newly able to become a democratic society themselves.”

A comparative evaluation of the contents of the Waldorf curriculum(a typical preschool to high school curriculum at with other curricula can prove elusive since there is apparently little or no academic content in the early years of Waldorf schooling (though there is the cultivation of pre-academic skills). By contrast, the Montessori philosophy unabashedly anticipates the learning and mastery of academics by the child. It does not consider this an undue emphasis on academics since the curriculum addresses all the needs of the child (besides intellectual ones), all learning activities are age and developmentally appropriate. Also since the Montessori child has complete freedom in choice of activities, all learning including intellectual/academic is regarded as natural. The focus on facilitating children’s mastery of the basic skills of reading, writing and math was necessary to enable them to bring them on par with their more privileged peers in society from the point of view of Dr Montessori’s work with “autistic”, “retarded” and underprivileged children living in the slums.

Dr Coulter also suggests that a balance should be sought by a rapprochement of ideas of Montessori and Waldorf approaches: “When I am with Waldorf teachers, I witness their feeling of isolation and inner exhaustion. For them, a sense of context in the world would be a good tonic. When I am with Montessori teachers, I witness their feeling of overwhelmed compassion for the chaotic conditions of the world. For them, a sense of inner spiritual renewal would be an equally good tonic. One thing is clear. The children need them both. Each brings a high level of love and caring and a path through childhood vitally needed by children today. Both of these paths are brilliant, full of compassion, and honoring of the child. And each path has the same obligation that faces every individual in these times.”

Komazawa Park International Preschool in Tokyo has sought to find that balance by incorporating the spirit and positive elements of the 3 leading educationists of early childhood education Montessori, Steiner and Froebel. Incredibly the school has for every ten children, one teacher, one sports trainer and one music teacher. (See resources below for details)

But in the final analysis, we may find that a homeschool may indeed be the best and most flexible environment to find the balance between the two approaches.


Originally published in the


Copyright Aileen Kawagoe

More on Montessori Resources

Questions: Can the Montessori method be used beyond the elementary school stage?

Answers from our forum:

Maria Montessori’s books themselves are also excellent references. I taught middle school language arts many years ago using her book on elementary education as my primary inspiration for how to teach parts of speech. It is never too late! The Advanced Montessori Method Volume 2: Materials for Educating Elementary School Children — Steve

I highly recommend Montessori at Home for homeschooling preschoolers (for those who don’t know… you get free shipping on more than 1,500 yen
purchases, and you can pay cash via Convenience store pickups in Japan, on
top of the usual other methods of payments). And for people wishing to use the Montessori method beyond preschool there are a few other resources:

Montessori Today: A Comprehensive
Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood
by Paula Polk Lillard;

Montessori Read & Write: A Parent’s Guide to Literacy for Children by Lynne Lawrence ;
Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock

For Montessori school information, see our listing of schools in Japan at this page

By the way, I was interested to discover that Montessori method is now used with people suffering dementia. — AK


Waldorf School First Grade Curriculum by Christine Mann

Waldorf kindergarten curriculum

Tests Waldorf teachers use to determine a child’s readiness for first grade

Become a Waldorf Teacher
Stellar teacher training in CA. Educational hope for our children.

Waldorf schools in Japan

According to Daily Yomiuri, Jun 14, 2005, there are 7 Steiner schools in Japan, 2 in Kanagawa and one each in Hokkaido, Tokyo, Tochigi, Gifu and Kyoto prefectures, out of the 950 Steiner schools worldwide. Also featured in the news was a new school  Ashita-no-kuni Rudolf Steiner Gakuen Primary School to open in Chiba.  The schools listed below are Japanese medium schools unless stated expressly otherwise. A Japanese listing of Steiner schools is at Nihon no Shyutaina Gakko



3892-1 Sakamoto, Chonana-machi, Chosei-gun, Chiba 297-0122

Ph: 81-475-463881 Fax: 81-475-463880 Email:

(THE) CHILDREN’S GARDEN (preschool and after school class) (English medium)

3-12-19 Honcho, Kichijoji, Musashino-shi, Tokyo
Phone: (0422) 20-5055) Email:

Run by Ellen Motohashi, the school’s pedagogy and philosophy share elements from the Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia (project based approach) and any other discipline which promotes the importance of child directed, experienced based learning which enhances the development of the whole child. Rich natural experiences are emphasized and outdoor trips will be planned for as often as possible during the year. The school which opened in 2002 offers a full day English content based preschool (9:30 am – 2:30 pm) along with an after school class for English speaking children who attend facilities outside, Saturday special activity classes, and a bilingual class focusing on the creative arts. It is located in Kichijoji about 10 minutes directly west from the Kichijoji JR central exit straight down Nakamichi-dori (this street continues on from the main street which runs in front of the station past Parco). Bilingual elements in the program include bilingual storytimes/singing and will be expanded gradually.

Website: / Fujino Koutou Gakuen Website
2805-1 Fujinocho-Nagura, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 229-0207
Phone: 0426-86-6011 Fax: 0426-86-6030 Email:

(Old link link is obsolete, and the school has moved to Fujino, please see new website for new address)
Instruction is in Japanese. The eurythmist there (Hata-sensei) also gives adult classes. The school has been existed as a non-accredited school for delivering Waldorf education on art. Under policy of the education as art. The school has recently been accredited as a private school in Kanagawa Prefecture and thanks to the Koizumi cabinet’s deregulation program called Kozo Kaikaku Tokku the school may be established without having to own its own land and/or buildings as well as unstandardized curriculum. The school may also be able to give you info on another group trying to get a school started in Machida.



3-19-23-1003 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo (7 minutes from Shinagawa JR station)
Phone: 03-3473-6896 (Contact Mrs. Toku Nakashima) Fax: 03-3473-7410

The school’s mission is to provide special education and therapy in order to support children with special needs such as developmental disabilities (ADHD, PDD, LD), Autism, CP and so on. Services include motor-skill training, coordination with eye and motor-skills, speech therapy (revised ABA), movement exercises, art activities, social skill training and communication skill training. The school operates a full-time day school programme is called self-acquired applied behavioral learning/advanced applied behavioral approach, with an individual program according to original IEP plan. Individual counseling and program design will be done by Professional Occupational therapists and psychologists. Family counseling will be included in the session. The school is also well-known for its tutoring program and/or after-school program according to individual’s needs in which arts and fundamental learning activity based on Waldorf-Steiner and Montessori is also included. A small Waldorf-Steiner day school has also been opened since September 2004 by Ms. Nakagawa (with support from Ms. Nikki Sanders who was active in Steiner schools in Michigan for more than 20 years) opened for children aged 3 – 7 with an English-language curriculum only but some staff speak Japanese. The school is also accepting students with special learning needs with a specialist teacher on hand.

Website:ミカエル・カレッジ or
6-13 Hibikinomura-no-oka, Hokkaido 052-0001
Phone: 0142-25-6735 Fax: 0142-25-67155 Email:

2 schools – Rafael School and Forest Bay Nursery School are featured at the website. Contact them here for more information

KOMAZAWA PARK INTERNATIONAL PRESCHOOL (2 – 6 years; elementary – jr high evening programme)


4-26-17 Fukasawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0081
Phone/Fax: 03-5707-0979 Email:

Begun operating in September 2000, the school incorporates the spirit and positive elements of the 3 leading educationalists of early childhood education (Montessori, Steiner, Froebel). Teacher:student ratio : one teacher, one sports trainer and one music teacher: ten children. The Evening & Saturday Elementary Programme is designed to maintain and improve the English level as well as to foster Western cultural awareness of Japanese returnees, children who want to continue learning English in Japan and half-Japanese children who attend Japanese schools. The program makes use of similar methods as many international schools when we teach students how to express their thoughts and conduct research; deliver an effective presentation; and discuss their ideas at age-appropriate levels at a high English calibre. The amount of course time devoted to doing research, creating and practiciing presentations increases as children gorw older and improve their language skills. Upon completing the Evening Junior High Program, students will have received the instruction and training to the point where they can conduct research presentations and give speeches with the presuasive power needed to convince anyone from any country, and theyll be at the same level as, if not hgher than students who attend international schools.

3-17-11 Minamisawa Higashi-kurume-shi Tokyo 203-0023

Phone: 81-424729169 Fax: 81-424729170 Email:

325 Nasumachi Takaku-Ko, Tochigi-ken, 6394-1

Website: (new) (old)
94 Minami-Hokodate, Kodo, Kyotanabe-shi, Kyoto-fu, 610-0332(For instructions on how to get there, see access map ) Email

Website: OR
83-2 Asashinonome-machi Toyoura-cho Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 049-5411
Fax: 81-142-83-2630 Fax: 81-142-832630 Email:
The school has been designated a free school.


4-3-18 Shibasaki-cho, Tachikawa-city, Tokyo 190-0023 Email
Phone: 042-523-7112 Fax: 042-523-7113

Tokyo Kenji School is a NPO corporation started and run by Toriyama Toshiko who has incorporated the educational ideas and cosmologies of R. Steiner and Miyazawa Kenji into the school’s original curriculum. The elementary course has eight grades, and the number of pupils in each class is limited to less than twenty. They also provide workshops for youths and teachers. The classes respect individual feelings and aim to establish the harmony of body and soul. Other teachers are trained by Toriyama after school through their discussions of the day’s lessons. In 2006, the school expanded its classes through high school grades.

1-20, 3-chome, Kirigaoka, Midori-ku, Yokohama City, 226-0016
Phone: 81-45-922-30107 Fax: 81-45-922-3107 Email:

PTC PACIFIC INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (2.5 – 6 years) (English medium)

5-11-5 Shimouma Setagaya-ku Tokyo, 154-0002
Phone: 03-5481-9425 Fax: 03-5481-9425 Email:
The school is seeking to expand its grades in the next school year.
Located in Shimouma, Setagaya Ward, near Yutenji Station, it offers Steiner method instruction (explained at URL: in a cozy kindergarten environment. School Principal Yoko Takatsuka embarked on extensive study periods in the U.S. and Germany and has become well versed in Steiner methodologies. The emphasis is on children developing confidence and getting back to nature.

3-14 Matsugaoka, Yokohama shi, Kanagawa ku 221 Phone: 045-32-33737


55 Kokuzodani, Osumi, Kyotanabe-City, Kyoto 610-0343
Phone: 81-77-463-0950



Toshimae, Nerima-ku, Tokyo


A kindergarten offering a Waldorf education for children in the Nerima ward, Tokyo

7141-1 Yaho Kunitachi-Shi, Hoshinoko, Tokyo


2-27-7 Inakoshina, Tokyo, Mitaka-shi, 181

85-1 Yamazato-Cho, Showa-Ku, Nagoya-Shi, Aichi Prefecture

Rombini Yochien in Kanazawa Bunko (within walking distance of the JR station) By word of mouth, Rombini is a small school with about 12 kids in a class.

In Zushi: There is another Japanese Steiner preschool operated out of a residence in Zushi that is said to be excellent.


Other related Japanese Steiner or Waldorf Related Educational websites

A more comprehensive Listing of Japanese Steiner Schools may be found at Infokids a Japanese page explaining the key precepts of a Steiner education.

Rudolf Steiner College website’s Japanese pages

1-18-26-203 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-0075. Phone / Fax: 03-3205-9645. Watch out for the workshops, talks and sales of materials and books that are held from time to time.

Japanese Waldorf internet resources

Infokids site includes a kindergarten list and other resources.

An interview with Michiko Koyasu who is a professor at Waseda University and who has written many books in Japanese and made a film on Waldorf Education, see Passagen’s webpage

Training seminar resources for Japanese Waldorf instructors at the Steiner college

Japanese version Waldorf FAQs, Mr Mori translates many Steiner books and qualified Waldorf Math /Biology teacher in Osaka

General Internet Resources on Waldorf education

For a typical curriculum from preschool to high school see:

***A good homeschooling resource that has many aspects and principles consonant with Waldorf education is Enki Education URL: This resource is much highly regarded by many homeschoolers in Japan.

See also Waldorf homeschooling resource site

On Waldorf Education worldwide see Waldorf Education Resources on the Internet

Catalogues or Stores in Tokyo

Omochabako catalogue

Obaachan no tamate bako in Kichijoji Phone: 0422-21092

The Mercurius catalogue is the main supply catalogue for Waldorf schools here and they have distributors in many countries. Some of their things are sold through omochabako but you can order directly from them as well.

The Waldorf Resources website lists dozens of suppliers of waldorf toys, craft supplies, books, etc. Most will happily ship to Japan by sea.

14 thoughts on “Does method matter? Montessori vs. Waldorf”

  1. Hey, the artcle was quite informative. I am looking forward to start my preschool. I also want to get trained in the steiner method of education. Could you please assisit me how do i get trined in this method of education. Also if possible please let me knoe the type of format whether distance learning is possible or not and alos the duration of the course. I am from India.

  2. greetings!

    my daughter and i will be setting up a Waldorf-inspired school, where is a good place in Asia to train in this method. i would greatly appreciate your prompt reply regarding my inquiry.

    thank you so much,

    marge santos

  3. “But in the final analysis, we may find that a homeschool may indeed be the best and most flexible environment to find the balance between the two approaches.”
    Perhaps so, though homeschooling places a substantial demand on the time of the parents-requiring the parents to be right with their kids, buying the materials, etc, and for the parents to be aware of more than their own particular skillset. for those who have the time and intelligence…fine.

    1. “homeschooling places a substantial demand on the time of the parents-requiring the parents to be right with their kids, buying the materials, etc, and for the parents to be aware of more than their own particular skillset. for those who have the time and intelligence…” Agreed. It requires personal sacrifice on the part of parents, and is not an option for every family. Conventional schooling has economies of scale and provides pooled resources and expertise. But at the same time if the quality of public schooling is an issue or other factors such as bullying are a concern, never has there been a time as now … when parents have so much available information on the internet, and free edu resources on the internet to make homeschooling on a shoestring budget a reality…should the parent be inclined to do so.

  4. Thankyou SO much for this article, it is exactly what I was trawling the net to find! I had my son at a Waldorf school for three years but eventually he wanted to leave it so much that I took him out and have been pretty much unschooling him the past year (from age 4 to 5, along with my three year old daughter. Now a friend is starting up a Montessori-inspired kindergarten, with the Montessori materials and ethos but set in a lovely little wooden cabin in an orange grove.

    I have missed certain aspects of the Waldorf system but have tried to incorporate them into our home life (e.g. making ragdolls, telling fairy stories, collecting things from nature…) The thing that put me off the Waldorf school was how dogmatic the teaching could be, the level of guilt and pressure placed on the parents for not doing everything right (what relief I felt when I saw the other kids with Playmobil toys!) and the strict order that children are expected to follow in the history as you mentioned above. There also didn’t seem to be any discipline or any way of dealing with unruly kids, so there was some quite nasty stuff going on which the teacher either didn’t want to stop or didn’t notice (I think it may have been the latter).

    I feel strongly that my own inclination to learn what interests me has always made me a keen learner, but I needed school to give me discipline, even though I found high school in particular more of an anthropological experiment, a way to learn about society rather than to learn the information (which I could have learned far quicker and more enjoyably at home). State schooling was totally lacking in any understanding of human nature or compassion – except for drama, to some extent.

    Regardless of the school, though, I think that the example given at home is the one that makes the greatest impression on the child. If the home environment is really loving and supportive, and the school characterised by boredom, bullies and bitchiness, there will be a really painful split in the child but eventually the family’s example will probably win out.

    I hope that a fusion of these two great educational methods will gradually come to replace the factory-brain system we have in place in state schools, in an organic, wholistic way that ensures that nobody is being squashed! Thanks for this well-written, thorough, and balanced article.

    1. Thank you for that very interesting account of your personal encounter with Waldorf education, I have always wondered about the anthroposophical influences and “religious aspects” although parents have told me they have not much bearing and do not trickle down to the children.

  5. kid draws smiley face= cause for panic? same kid draws heart= cause for panic? too many books, lock them up?

  6. child enrichment programs
    ブレイニーチャイルドは、モンテッソーリ教授法を採用するローカル系幼稚園です。シンガポールで最もにぎやかな街、オーチャードロードの真ん中にあり、月曜日から金曜日まで一日保育と半日保育の二つのコースでお子様をお預かりします。すでに幼稚園へ通っているお子様には、フォニックス(英語の綴りと発音のつながりを学ぶことで英語を読む力をつけます)、算数、外国人のための日本語など週末の特別プログラムもご用意しております。幼稚園へ入る前のお子様には、保護者の方と一緒に教室で学べるMon ‘n’ Tot プログラムもございます。

  7. We are a couple of artisans who have educated our children in the Waldorf School “Escuela Libre Micael” in Madrid, Spain. That’s why we have known this pedagogy and developed a Waldorf toys line in our workshop.
    Now, along with other artisans, have a website with which our products can be delivered to any part of the world. You can see it at the following link:
    Kind regards


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