Cross posted from another board.
This is from the reading thread. It is off topic about reading, so wanted to post it here so that doesn't go too far off topic.
Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
I think the main difference (and I believe that they are SO different) is that M is a model that is centered around individual choice, and W is centered around whole-group activity. My reading of Matt's posting is that letting the child decide when and how quickly to learn eliminates the problem of holding kids back or pushing them forward with reading.
I do see a lot of differences between Waldorf and Montessori. I see them as fundamentally opposite in their methods and details about their philosophy, but not overall philosophy and ideals. Our ideals are the same - develop a love of learning, allow the child to grow based on an idea of developmental psychology, education for life (not for tests), caring about the whole child, and a huge list of other things. I think both forms of education work well to achieve those goals if done properly. (I'm sure there are as many poorly run Waldorf schools as there are poorly run Montessori schools).
There are some differences. I have studied a lot of religion in college (I was a Theology major) and I always looked at differences more with an Eastern concept of Yin and Yang kind of way than a Ninja Turtles/Shredder kind of way. (Sorry for the cartoon-filled context. I just didn't want to type anything political and get anyone angry).
Some key differences I see:
1) The delayed academics. Which I don't really see as being "delayed." Both Montessori and Waldorf focus on building up skills that have to be there before something else is taught. Schools today are under pressure to "teach writing" before they even allow a child to work on fine motor skills to hold a pencil. They're told to write creative stories without being taught what creativity is. Waldorf and Montessori recognize this and build those skills before introducing something else that is considered "more academic." They simply do it with different paces and timelines.
2) Role of fantasy. In a truly strict Montessori classroom, there is no fantasy at all until the 6-9 (1-3 grade) classrooms. Now, I'm a ventriloquist and use a talking dog and monkey sometimes outside of the working time. So you can see I hold a different view than many Montessori teachers. The extent of how strict to be about this varies a lot between Montessori teachers, but we definitely have a much different approach to fantasy than Waldorf does. For Montessori, we're trying to help a child recognize the difference between fantasy and reality and helping them to understand what is real and what is fantasy. Waldorf has a strong basis in fantasy in the educational system for early years. I think the reason for this difference might be historically based. As I understand it (please help me if I'm wrong...I just vaguely remember reading this somehow), Steiner saw a need for children to have fantasy based on often seeing children growing up and not having much imagination. (I seem to remember reading that in Dr. Coulter's article). What Montessori saw was that children preferred real activity to pretend activity and that fantasy often took over a child's mind and became a problem at an early age. Fantasy also became a tool to manipulate children. (How many times have you heard someone say, "Be good. Santa is watching!") Fantasy also disrupts creativity if done improperly. (example you'll agree with: Television. Children don't watch TV and come up with their own ideas, they tend to copy what they do see on TV). I think Waldorf avoids many of these problems because it uses fantasy to spark imagination and wonder in what is real - not to manipulate children or avoid what is real. But the levels of fantasy in the classroom is a fundamental difference.
3) Group instruction vs. individual work. I don't know if this is as true in Kindergarten/Preschool levels (I don't know the methods used in that age range for Waldorf). But definitely see it as a big difference in elementary levels.
Thoughts? I'm going to cross post this in the comparison's thread and Montessori thread, too. So you might want to watch for it there.