9 Different Styles of Education: Montessori Vs Waldorf Vs Reggio and More!

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By In The Playroom

With all the different educational options available to parents today, it can be difficult to pick the right one for your child. This article will provide parents with information about the main different types of education system, and help as you’re trying to figure out which school system would be best for your children.

Whether you want to follow a specific education ideology and method or use a more eclectic approach, let’s take a look at some of the styles of schooling available for children nowadays.

Montessori vs Waldorf vs Reggio and more

Whether you’re considering Montessori vs Waldorf, Charter school vs Magnet school, or deciding how structured you want your homeschool day to be, we will walk you through a few of the education methods and systems that you may want to consider.

Traditional Schooling

Traditional schooling refers to the most common type of schooling, with classrooms split by age grades, regular testing and a set curriculum.

Typically, children are in school from around 9am – 3pm from ages 4 or 5 upwards, and this is traditional schooling, but within this there are multiple types of schools you could choose.

traditional schooling

Within this traditional school set up, you could choose to go with your local state school (These are known as public schools in the United States) or go for private school.

With private schools or independent schools, the positives tend to be smaller class sizes, more resources and more flexibility over the curriculum, whereas the downside could be the cost, and in some schools a lack of diversity.

Charter schools are those which receive government funding but operate independently, so would have more flexibility in their curriculum compared to public schools following the national curriculum or common core.

Parochial Schools are schools which are funded by a particular church or religious organisation, so the school and curriculum has a religious focus accordingly. Quite often these are Catholic schools, but not always.

Magnet Schools are public schools which are free to attend and offer the usual curriculum, with a speciality in addition to the regular curriculum. This could be science, performing arts, languages or any other area of academics. Because of this focus, these schools normally draw pupils and students from a wider area, who have a strong interest in that special subject.

Compared to some of the education methods we’ll be moving on to next, traditional school has a much stronger focus on academic goals, and following a set path of learning, regardless which of these types of schools you go for.


Homeschooling is a hot topic among parents these days as the number of families choosing this option increases rapidly each year.

Homeschooling will provide a lot more flexibility over the curriculum you choose, and the ability to follow your child’s interests and move at their pace of learning.


It is a big commitment for you as a parent, and may not be compatible with both parents working outside of the home, so you need to balance the needs of your family and consider if homeschool is the right choice for all of you.

You can homeschool in a more traditional way, following a set curriculum and replicating a school like environment at home, or you could lean more towards unschooling which we will come to later.

As a homeschool family, you’ll also be able to enrol in community groups and activities to provide your child with social interaction with their peers.

The Montessori Method

The Montessori approach was developed in the early 1900s by Maria Montessori. This method has a strong focus on practical life skills and fosters self motivated growth and learning.

The Montessori method of learning is less formal than traditional schooling, and has a stronger focus on hands on methods rather than directed paper and pencil work, especially at a young age.

Montessori method learning with counting cubes

The philosophy of Montessori is that children are constantly learning from the world around them, and real life situations and that the child is self motivated to learn.

In the typical Montessori classroom, the resources should be placed at child height and accessible for children to access independently, and tidy them away independently.


The Waldorf approach is based on the principals of Austrian Rudolf Steiner and one of the main differences between Waldorf Vs Montessori is that Waldorf has a much stronger focus on the child’s imagination and fantasy whereas Montessori is more focused on the real life experiences.

Waldorf education has less of a focus on standardised testing, and does not start reading instruction or core academics until the 1st grade and homework usually doesn’t start until the 3rd of 4th grade in Waldorf schools.

open ended natural wooden toys

Waldorf Steiner schools are very play focused, and the typical Waldorf classroom is calm, with wooden toys, natural furnishing and plenty of bright natural light. Many classrooms are painted in a soothing light pink color.

Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach was founded by Loris Malaguzzi in the Reggio Emilia area of Italy after the Second World War.

The purpose of this educational method was with the goal of ensuring the next generation of children would grow up intolerant of injustice and inequality.

The Reggio Emilia method is a non traditional early years style, there are no fixed seating arrangements in the classrooms and the environment is flexible and open ended.

children painting collaborative

This education approach has a stronger focus on collaborative learning, vs Montessori where the focus is on independent working.

Reggio is described as a student-centered and constructivist self-guided curriculum. It is a play based early years educational approach with lots of free exploration and discovery. It does not include traditional resources such as worksheets.

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason homeschooling is a Christian homeschooling method with a focus on high quality literature (referred to as living books, rather than using text books) narration and spoken skills and spending time outdoors in nature for nature study.

girl reading

This method is based on the teachings of British Charlotte Mason and has stronger similarities to traditional schooling than some of the other more flexible and free homeschool approaches, offering something more academically rigorous and guided.


Unschooling is a method of homeschooling that differs widely from traditional schooling in that there is no structure, fixed curriculum or testing.

Unschooling is the idea that children can direct their own learning, at their own pace, without the rigid structures of formal education.

In this philosophy, children will choose what to learn, and how to learn it, following their own passions and children are trusted to develop knowledge organically.

children in nature litter picking with dad

Virtual School

Virtual school is another way that some families choose to combine elements of traditional school, with a homeschool environment.

By enrolling in a virtual school, the child will follow a set programme, be able to gain qualifactions and will likely need to attend online lessons on a fixed schedule. However, there could be more flexibility for the student to work at their own pace, enroll onto a more advanced class for example or focus more heavily on specific courses which meet his or her interests.

girl doing online virtual schooling


Eclectic education refers to the concept of combining elements of all the main education styles, to create an education approach that is unique to your own child’s needs.

This flexibility and adapting of the curriculum to capture the child’s interest can be managed whether you are homeschooling, or learning in a classroom although is easier to achieve with smaller groups or in the home environment, and relaxed eclectic homeschooling is very popular.

Find out even more at Parenting-Magic.com

happy homeschool family

After reading this article, we hope you now have a litle more insight on the similarities and differences of the different education systems, their history, and where they stand.

If you are planning to register your child into an early years setting or to begin your home school journey, we hope this gives you a starting point to research the methods that appeal to you more and make the right decision for your child and family.

Please go ahead and share this post with friends and family too, to help them out with this important parenting decision, and why not pin to your Pinterest board?

If you’re planning to register your child into an educational setting, always go and visit to see the environment for yourself too and ask as many questions as you need to. Good luck!

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Anna Marikar, mum of four and seasoned blogger, has spent over a decade sharing her parenting journey and passion for kid-friendly crafts and free printables.
Her easy-to-follow craft ideas and practical parenting advice have transformed In The Playroom into a cherished resource for parents.

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