Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Wheaton, MD
Re: Montessori vs Waldorf schools
I was a Waldorf early childhood teacher for 5 years before DS was born and the following is the best way that I have been able to give a synopsis of the differences. Be forewarned that I have not studied Montessori in a formal way at all, so if I say something incorrect, I apologize!
Simply, Waldorf and Montessori use structure differently:
In a Waldorf school the day is highly structured.
*The teacher decides what to do each day. It is usually the same each week for the duration of the year, with more flexibility and change the higher you go in the grades.
*Teachers decide the schedule/rhythm for the day and tries to be mindful of including bathroom time, snack time, free play, out door time, cooking, lessons, stories, games, festivals/celebrations (like birthdays or May Day), etc.
*Every child is expected to follow these schedules and hopefully participate in each activity. Of course, there is the understanding about not being ready or having an off day, but the goal is to get everyone doing things together.
*Within the strong daily rhythm, however, there are large portions of the day dedicated to free, child directed play. I would say in a typical 7 hour school day there would be about 3 and a half hours are dedicated to free play with about 2 and a half of those hours outside.
*The toys in a Waldorf school are almost all open ended and what a child says it is, it is; Ex, if a toy horse is being used as a phone, that is totally fine and even appreciated by the teachers.
*Both the focus on creativity and on free play are designed to allow children to develop their imaginations which is thought (in Waldorf schools) to be the foundation of higher thinking.
In a Montessori school the day has more flexibility, but each activity is highly structured.
It is my understanding that in a Montessori school the teachers endeavor to have all activities available at all times to allow the child to choose. Thus:
*There is always a snack table available.
*Children may choose whatever activity strikes them at the time, whether it is math or reading or some other skill.
*Each activity has a "right" way to do it, and the teacher's job is to show the child how to do it correctly. The child then follows what the teacher has shown them how to do. A child will be corrected if they are using the activity incorrectly or if they decide to use it in a way that it was not intended to be used.
* There are no toys in a Montessori class room. And since most activities have a particular purpose, not much room for open ended play.
*A child may move on to another activity when ever they are moved to do so, and there is no need to finish one activity (except for putting it away) before going on to the next.
*I am pretty sure there is a good focus on being out doors in Montessori schools as well.
*I expect that there are creative activities in a Montessori class room (like painting, coloring, clay modeling, etc), but they may not have the same reason for being there, ie, to foster imagination. Their reasoning may be more along the lines of "art is fun", or "art is cultural".
I know this is in no way exhaustive, and, of course, each class room will be a little different, with different emphasis and interpretation of the given philosophy, but I hope it gives a good picture of the differences.
Last edited by Zoethink; 02-20-2013 at 08:15 PM.