Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: High Desert of California
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Yes, they are very differtent approaches, especially in the early years.
Waldorf philosophy is that imaginative play is essential to young children, and that is thier main work until 1st grade. Rythems, songs, rhymes, finger plays, and fairy tales are key parts of a Waldorf kindergarten class. You will not find the academicly based (letter, numbers, etc) activities in a Waldorf class that populate the Montessori classes.
Montessori philosophy is to teach children through play. You will not see the plethora of imaginative play items in a Montessori classroom that you will in a Waldorf class. Children are allowed to spend time time working individually on available projects. It is child led, however, each task is to be first demonstrated by the teacher, and what is available is limited based on the Montessori ideas of development.
Both stress real work for children. Nature is important in both programs (although Waldorph with a more spiritual bent, and Montessori with a more scientific bent)
What Mamaluna said about her friend's experience in viewing a Waldorf class is one that I think many people have misconceptions about. We hear that Waldorf schools treat the arts and academics equally, that the children learn to draw, play music, etc, and assume that the children do the arts if they wish, and how they wish. When in reality, these subjects are taught the same way that academics are taught. Every child learns these things. Yes, they are told what to draw, what to play, etc. This is the way that basic skills are formed in the early years so that later they can branch out with their own ideas.
Theis is a new school of thought now that has combined Montessoru and Waldorf methods- it's called Enki