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The difference between Waldorf and Montessori is less based on "free play" and more on the following: Montessori is entirely focussed on reality-based activities and is child-centered. Waldorf is almost entirely focussed on fantasy-based activities and is teacher-centered. And in these domains, the two pedagogies are so far apart from one another (mirror images, really) that it would be difficult to be torn between the two. In neither of these pedagogies is there room for a lot of free "play". What YOU call play might be present in Waldorf (painting, nature activities) but they are entirely teacher-led activities. The whole class is tuned in to the teacher, listening and watching her. In Montessori, fantasy "play" is limited but form of learning is entirely child-centered. And from a Montessori perspective, children's "work" IS their play.
|The children were entirely absorbed in imaginative play with eachother. One teacher was preparing soup, and the other teacher was ironing/folding....A few children wandered over and joined in with the teachers occasionally, but that's it....the rest of the time, they played with their peers. No one directed the play, and the teachers seemed very sensitive to not interrupting it.|
This actually sounds more like a MOntessori classroom.
You say that there was none of this in the Montessori but I am not quite sure I understand. During the entire three-hour work period in a Montessori classroom, children choose what they want to do within the prepared environment. How is this different from what you have described above, except for the materials that they "play" with? (And what you describe above sounds like materials in a Montessori classroom, too - the ironing and folding, preparing soup...this is all Montessori "practical life" activities).