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Waldorf vs. Reggio Emilia schools

Comparing Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools in Canada

What’s the difference between Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools? And which school is a better fit for your child: Waldorf or Reggio?

Below, we compare Waldorf to Reggio Emilia education in Canada. This should help you to understand the difference between these two types of schools. It should also help give you a good sense of whether either option is right for your child, and if so, which one.

Waldorf schools

The Waldorf philosophy is, in many ways, opposed to that of mainstream schools. Waldorf schools have several progressive classroom practices that you won’t find in many of today’s schools.

Flexible curriculum

Waldorf schools and preschools don’t have a standardized curriculum. Instead, they give their students quite a bit of freedom to work in a broad range of areas and pursue their own interests. And teachers carefully tailor curricula to meet each student’s unique learning needs.

Whole child education

While Waldorf schools do cover core academics, at least at the elementary level, this isn’t their whole focus. They aim to educate your child more holistically—intellectually, emotionally, and practically. Teachers develop children’s aptitudes for thinking, feeling, and acting.

Delayed academics

Waldorf schools delay formal academics. Formal instruction in math, science, and reading isn’t given until grade 1. Unlike in many other other schools, it isn’t offered in preschool or kindergarten. Kids don’t start formal academics until they’re developmentally ready, and ideally, interested.

Focus on the arts

Creativity and the arts are a big focus. These are infused throughout curriculum. Many lessons begin with a story, song, or dance. Moreover, schools devote a lot of independent time to arts and crafts, dance, music, and other arts subjects.

Imagination and creativity

Pretend play is encouraged in preschool and kindergarten. There are lots of toys, art materials, and games in the classroom. Kids spend lots of time playing indoors and outdoors. The aim is to promote imaginative learning, creativity, and social and emotional skills.

Practical learning

Students do plenty of hands-on learning, at least up until grade 3. They learn and practice important practical skills, including cooking, cleaning, and gardening. They also learn crafts such as woodworking and sewing.

Limited technology

The use technology such as TVs, computers, and tablets is minimized. Too much screen time, it’s thought, can interfere with interaction and social development. Students first need to master “fundamental, time-honoured ways of discovering information and learning, such as practical experiments and books” (The Herald Scotland, December 2, 2007).

Reggio Emilia schools

The Reggio Emilia approach to education, like the Waldorf approach, is unique. It also involves several progressive classroom practices.

Self-guided learning

Reggio Emilia schools and preschools encourage self-directed learning and use what’s called a “co-constructed curriculum.” Teachers carefully observe and monitor students in class to gauge their interests. They use this knowledge to prepare the learning environment and find meaningful work and activities for each student.

Emergent curriculum

Teachers don’t use a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Nor do they try to impart knowledge to the class through lots of lectures or direct instruction. Instead, they observe children, ask them questions, and listen to their ideas. They thereby learn what kids are drawn to and plan their curriculum accordingly.

Importance of projects

Reggio schools make projects a big focus. These are mainly proposed by students, though teachers do make suggestions and act as a sounding board. Projects can be short- or long-term. They allow children to pursue deep and interesting ideas, and explore them in great detail.

Relationship-driven classroom

Each class is viewed as a system of relationships. Teachers consider each child’s relation to their family, other children, the teachers, the school environment, the community, and wider society.

The Reggio classroom is set up to promote lots of interaction. Children interact with teachers throughout the day, and they often work with their peers in small groups of two to five.

Many modes of learning

Teachers create environments where children can use many modes or languages to learn (sometimes called the “hundred languages.”) These modes include drawing, painting, modelling, sculpting, music, dance, poems, stories, metaphors, and more. Children are also given a wide range of materials to express themselves, such as paint, clay, wire, and natural and recycled materials.

Parent involvement

Parents are considered a vital part of education. In fact, parents are encouraged to be very involved in school. This can take many forms, including day-to-day interaction, advising and working with staff, helping out in the classroom, and attending field trips.

Waldorf vs. Reggio Emilia

Main similarities between Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools

  • Multi-age classrooms: Both Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools have multi-age classrooms. In both preschool and elementary school, children interact and work with peers of different ages. They also engage in plenty of group work, child-to-child teaching, and mentoring.

  • Decentralized learning: Neither Waldorf nor Reggio teachers give regular lectures to the class. Nor do they try to impart knowledge through direct instruction. Instead, children are free to roam around the classroom and choose their own activities and work, with some guidance from the teacher. They can also choose to work independently or in groups.

  • Individualized curriculum: Both Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools use an individualized curriculum. Children’s tasks and activities are tailored to their special learning and developmental needs. And they can often choose their own tasks and work at their own pace.

  • Arts and creativity: Both Waldorf and Reggio schools place a lot of focus on the arts, creativity, and the imagination. In Waldorf schools, the arts are integrated into lessons and injected into the whole curriculum. In Reggio schools, the arts and creative expression are often pursued independently of other subjects (sometimes in art studios or “ateliers”).

Main differences between Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools

  • Education level: The Reggio Emilia approach is mainly used for preschool (though sometimes it’s used in early elementary school). The Waldorf approach, meanwhile, is used in preschool, elementary school, and even secondary school.

  • Projects: Reggio schools are more project-focused than Waldorf schools. Reggio teachers encourage students to pursue open-ended projects and to find work that can sustain their interest over the long term.

  • Work and play: Both Waldorf and Reggio Emilia offer a combination of work and play at the preschool level. Waldorf, though, is more play-based than Reggio (it especially focuses more on pretend play).

  • Technology: Waldorf schools tend to use very little modern-day technology in the classroom. Reggio schools, on the other hand, use a fair amount. Reggio teachers, especially, use lots of technology, including cameras and video recorders, to observe and document children’s work and behaviour in the classroom.

To learn about the differences between Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia schools, read our guide. You can also read our guides comparing Montessori to Waldorf and Montessori to Reggio Emilia schools.

To learn about the differences between various preschool approaches, read our comparison guides. In separate articles, we compare Montessori to Waldorf, Montessori to Reggio Emilia, Waldorf to Reggio Emilia, academic to play-based, Montessori to play-based, and Montessori to academic preschools. If you want to compare specific schools or preschools one-to-one, visit our compare hub.

Series: Waldorf schools

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List of Waldorf and Reggio Emilia schools

 
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  School Name Type Cost

Hudson College (est. 2003)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Day school (355 students)
Hudson College is a non-denominational, co-ed school offering superior academic programs from JK‒Grade 12. [View profile]
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
$15,600

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• Our Kids Review
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Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 15600

St. Michaels University School (est. 1906)  

  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • K to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (255 students)
  • Day school (733 students)
Independent K-12 boarding & day school in Victoria, BC, Canada focusing on university prep. Find out how a SMUS education can benefit your family. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$19,260 to $68,810

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reviews (3)

• User reviews (3)
Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed 19260

Richland Academy (est. 2002)  

  • Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (200 students)
Richland Academy is a progressive, innovative Reggio inspired and International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for children from 2.5-years to Grade 8. Voted #1 Private School in Richmond Hill 4 years in a row. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
$18,000 to $18,800


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 18000

The Dragon Academy (est. 2001)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • 4 to 12 Coed
  • Day school (80 students)
Dragon Academy is the right fit for gifted students, grades 6 to 12. Dragon's small, discussion-based classes go beyond the classroom into our world-class city . An inclusive, exciting, can't wait to get there school. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$22,000 to $27,000

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• User reviews (10)
MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 22000

Aurora Montessori School (est. 1989)  

  • Aurora, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (370 students)
Aurora Montessori School offers a comprehensive, nurturing and enriched program for Toddler to Grade 8. Our enrolment of 375 day students has an average class size of 15 to 24. [View profile]
  • Montessori
  • Reggio Emilia
$10,500 to $16,200


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 10500

Summit Micro School (est. 2010)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 8 Coed
  • Day school (60 students)
Summit Micro School offers an alternative program from JK to Grade 8. Reggio Emilia inspired Kindergarten and Project Based Learning programs inspire and engage while developing essential 21st Century skills. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$14,300 to $20,400


Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 14300

Kingsley Primary School (est. 1981)  

  • Etobicoke, Ontario
  • PS to 5 Coed
  • Day school
For the past 36 years Kingsley Primary School offers programs from junior kindergarten to grade five in Etobicoke. Its average class size is eight to 12 students. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$12,000

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reviews (2)

• User reviews (2)
Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed 12000

Robbins Hebrew Academy (est. 1957)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (390 students)
Robbins Hebrew Academy (RHA) teaches students to think critically and globally, in a community that builds self-esteem and life-long character. RHA is Toronto’s first Jewish school to be CAIS accredited. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$13,050 to $17,990


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 13050

Academie Providence (est. 2002)  

  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • NS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (200 students)
Providence Academy is the only Private French Catholic School offering a trilingual program of study in Ontario with classes from nursery to grade eight. Tuition: $8,800-10,300. Extracurricular activities: $600-$650. [View profile]
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
$9,000 to $10,300


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 9000

The Bishop Strachan School (est. 1867)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (825 students)
  • Boarding school (75 students)
Located in Toronto, The Bishop Strachan School is Canada's oldest independent JK to Grade 12 day and boarding school for girls, welcoming students from Toronto and around the world. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$32,860 to $62,250

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reviews (1)

• User reviews (1)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 32860

Havergal College (est. 1894)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Girls
  • Day school (900 students)
  • Boarding school (50 students)
Havergal College is an all-girls school in Toronto for students in JK to Grade 12. Preparing Young Women to Make a Difference Since 1894. [View profile]
  • Liberal Arts
$33,850 to $61,900

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• Our Kids Review
• User reviews (5)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls 33850

ArtsCalibre Academy (est. 2011)  

  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • PS to 9 Coed
  • Day school (170 students)
ArtsCalibre Academy empowers students through creativity, mindfulness and leadership. We offer Preschool to Grade Eight in 2017/2018, adding one grade per year through to Grade 12. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$1,600 to $6,250


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 1600

Toronto Waldorf School (est. 1968)  

  • Thornhill, Ontario
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (360 students)
Toronto Waldorf School offers a curriculum that integrates academics,arts & movement, and addresses the intellectual, physical, emotional & social aspects of child development. Preschool to gr. 12. [View profile]
  • Waldorf
$18,000 to $21,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 18000

Waldorf Academy (est. 1987)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (240 students)
Waldorf Academy offers programs from childcare to grade eight in downtown Toronto. Its average class size is 18 students. [View profile]
  • Waldorf
$5,040 to $19,950

User
reviews (2)

• User reviews (2)
Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 5040

Kingsway College School (est. 1989)  

  • Etobicoke, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (400 students)
Kingsway College School offers programs for PK to grade 8 in Etobicoke. Its average class size is 17 to 21 students. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$9,980 to $28,060


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 9980

Halton Waldorf School (est. 1984)  

  • Burlington, Ontario
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (180 students)
Halton Waldorf School in Burlington, Ontario offers a licensed preschool, kindergarten and grades 1 to 12. It’s average class size is 15 to 21 students. [View profile]
  • Waldorf
$8,800 to $14,620


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 8800

Pickering College (est. 1842)  

  • Newmarket, Ontario
  • JK to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (115 students)
  • Day school (325 students)
Pickering College's fully-integrated Global Leadership Program (JK to Grade 12) inspires students to become agents of courageous, ethical and positive change with the confidence, knowledge and skills to shape the future. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$25,270 to $66,580

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• User reviews (1)
Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Day Coed 25270

Vincent Massey Academy (est. 1985)  

  • Etobicoke, Ontario
  • NS to 3 Coed
  • Day school (230 students)
Vincent Massey offers a balanced approach to education, setting your child up for succecs in all avenues of life. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$9,000 to $15,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed 9000

Whistler Waldorf School (est. 2000)  

  • Whistler, British Columbia
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • Day school (200 students)
WWS is a dedicated Waldorf school in Whistler, B.C. offering early years education all the way up to grade 12. [View profile]
  • Waldorf
$8,938 to $16,423


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed 8938

Oak Learners (est. 2016)  

  • Etobicoke, Ontario
  • JK to 6 Coed
  • Day school (12 students)
Oak Learners offers a creative learning atmosphere, working with your child’s unique learning style to inspire their strengths and interests. [View profile]
  • Reggio Emilia
$3,600 to $18,900

User
reviews (3)

• User reviews (3)
Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed 3600

Mississauga Christian French School (MCFS) (est. 2008)  

  • Mississauga, Ontario
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • Day school (63 students)
Mississauga Christian French School offers programs from pre-school to grade eight. Its average class size is 15 students. Offering an Olympic-sized Gym. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$7,000 to $9,000


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed 7000

Vancouver Waldorf School (est. 1971)  

  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • Homestay school (30 students)
  • Day school (300 students)
Vancouver Waldorf School offers programs from pre-school through to grade 12 in North Vancouver, BC. Its average class size is 12 to 25 students. [View profile]
  • Waldorf
$8,500 to $14,170


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Homestay Day Coed 8500

B.E.N. School-House (est. 2005)  

  • Toronto, Ontario
  • PS to 6 Coed
  • Day school (35 students)
B.E.N. offers an engaging, caring learning community.Focus is on qualities and skills alongside Ontario Curriculum. Small class sizes, daily outdoor activities, art classes and workshop. Parenting workshops are offered. [View profile]
  • Progressive
$7,350 to $11,900

User
reviews (5)

• User reviews (5)
Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed 7350

St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School (est. 1891)  

  • Oakville, Ontario
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • Day school (550 students)
Oakville's SMLS continues to be a premier independent school for girls Preschool to Graduating Year since 1891. "Millie" graduates take on the world with confidence and the knowledge that they can do anything. [View profile]
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
$18,000 to $28,430


Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Girls 18000

Dewey Institute   

  • Bracebridge, Ontario
  • 7 to 12 Coed
  • Boarding school (130 students)
We uphold and pursue a pragmatic, balanced education with an emphasis on art, sports and music to cultivate talents to lead the new century. [View profile]
  • Traditional
  • Waldorf
$20,000 to $35,000


MiddleSchools HighSchools Boarding Coed 20000

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