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Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf

When searching for schools that include early childhood and elementary grades, you may come across programs identified as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf, three progressive approaches to early education that originated in Europe. San Diego has a wide variety of schools based upon each of these programs. As you begin learning more and visiting area schools, you will find many similarities among the three and also marked differences.  Below are brief overviews of these educational approaches.

  • The Montessori School of San Diego

    The Montessori School of San Diego

    Montessori schools are based upon the work of Italian educator Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. The underlying philosophy of these schools is that children are individual learners and teachers are facilitators or guides. Students work at their own pace in classrooms that are organized around hands-on, self-directed, developmentally tailored projects and toys. Classrooms are often multi-age and can span two- or three-year age ranges. Montessori programs strive to develop self-motivated, curious, and self-disciplined children.

  • Reggio Emilia programs are based upon the preschools developed by Loris Malaguzzi and the people of Reggio Emilia, Italy in the 1940s. Their emergent curriculum reflects the interests of their students and learning is a collaboration between teachers and students. Teachers document their students’ learning and play through pictures and words. Reggio Emilia programs emphasize creativity and artistic pursuits, and they consider the educational environment as the “third teacher,” playing a crucial role in the education of their students.
  • Waldorf schools, also called Steiner schools, were founded in 1919 by Austrian educator Rudolf Steiner. Their pedagogy is based upon Steiner’s educational philosophy  and teachings, which follow a developmental model of education, and on anthroposophy, a sprititual philosophy founded by Steiner. Waldorf schools emphasize creative learning with the goal of developing the child whole child – academically, emotionally and physically. School days follow a dependable routine within a home-like atmosphere with play materials made of natural substances. Television and computers are strongly discouraged for younger children. Teachers often remain with a group of students for several years, creating a strong bond between teacher and child.

For a more in-depth look at these three approaches, Carolyn Pope Edwards at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has written an article for Early Childhood Research and Practice titled, “Three Approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia.”

Thanks to Private School News by Robert Kennedy on for the pointer to this article.

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