Thursday, March 12, 2009

There once was a man named Montessori....

... and in this earth based education method, the children played with pine cones, watched no tv, and had lots of interesting math manipulative's.

Say what?

I have been reading about Waldorf and Montessori teaching methods at the same time. I have about 6 books out on each subject. I didn't think I would get all of these books in at the library at the same time, but I have. It got confusing for a couple of days. Even the pictures in the books were mixed up in my head as to which one went with which book.

I have studied both subjects before. But never together. And though that they are both beautiful, child based learning structures that have tons of benefits. I have always leaned more towards Waldorf than Montessori because it is more like my personality. Nature based, rhythm based, etc. But looking at Montessori methodology it is easy to see that it is an amazing way to teach your children... and honestly, aside from the more sterile seeming atmosphere (which seems to be based on personailty of the teacher), there are a lot of similarities in actual practice. And a lot of differences in philosophy.

The biggest thing that I have gotten out of these are the rhythm's. There is a rhythm to the day, a sequence to the lessons and to the story hour, and in the case of Waldorf, even rhythm to the stories and aloud work. These rhythms are something I really want to bring into my teaching practice.

Another thing I kept seeing over and over that I would like to bring into my teaching practices was more venues of art. My kids draw. They draw all the time with good quality materials I keep them stocked in. But that is about all the art that I allow. The habit of limiting art was mainly started by having a very destructive toddler (Cyan) and then moving into a tiny house for the next 4 years. I stopped having markers around. I stopped letting them paint... ever. I stopped allowing the clay and the fabric I have to be used without direct supervision. And then I got pregnant with Logan and Don went to academy... and the 'direct supervision' things dropped off the radar as well.

I don't know anyone that has a real distinct teaching style. There is always a mix of methodology and ideas. Even some of my online friends who were die hard a couple years ago, have now seen where different children need different methods and have adjusted like the amazing teachers they are, to incorporate some of those methods for that child. It is amazing to watch as one child gets older, what will work and what just won't for their individual learning style.

At this point in my life, if I were to classify my teaching style I would say it was a unit study based-Charlotte Mason-Waldorfy type style with a bit of unschooling thrown in because we like to go off on tangents that we are interested in and we count random field trips I found educational in our curriculum. lol...


Amber said...

Hi! I love this post. It made me smile :) I totally get what you mean about being drawn to one method over another because of our own personalities. I love Waldorf but I just cant get past Montessori! Even though my boys are in Waldorf programs now I still can't shake the Montessori bug & really - it just must be me! It's just a good fit I guess. I'm intrigued & as much as love so much about the earthiness of Waldorf... I need to find a middle ground for us. I also keep getting looped back to the idea of homeschooling even though my biggest bug just started school (yes, at a school ;) only weeks ago. I appreciate much about unschooling too & don't know much about CM but lots of bloggy mamas who I am inspired by are really drawn to her & I would love to learn more. More mama educational reading... I'm sure I'll still have books on the go when my littlies are all grown :)

Thanks for sharing this post. I'd love to read more on your thoughts (particularly of a Waldorf / Montessori mix).

Val in the Rose Garden said...

I posted this on your blog as well... :)

As far as the mix of Montessori and Waldorf goes... I have found them to be quite compatible (in my head... lol). Montessori is so much more organized and 'sterile' like I said in my post. That is the one difference in the practice that I can tell from the outside. They are both ‘whole child’ curriculums. They both try to see the child as a whole person and start at the beginning getting the child to love to learn being the main goal. Waldorf seems to have a lot of rhythm. They even concentrate of the rhythm of the year as a main teaching venue (love that).

Montessori almost seems like a behaviorist approach. The environment is everything. I find that the way they set up their spaces to be relaxing, organized, a bit sterile, but always accessible. I have met teachers with cluttered classrooms in Montessori methods… but not often. And all the books make it look very clean and neat. Every picture is crisp and the baskets of natural material toys are all labeled with pictures for younger and words for older, etc… Very neat and easy to keep neat. Even the way that Montessori teachers teach the kids to keep their projects on those mats (brilliant!) helps keep the environment clean and neat. I do like sequence that Montessori has included… say a child wants to pour the juice. That morning, they would start with a small pitcher of lentils or other small bean, then they would move on to water when they don’t spill any of the lentils. Again… brilliant. If you have the discipline. I don’t usually so Waldorf has always been easier for me to apply.

Waldorf is a bit more messy. A bit more artsy, loose… a bit more hippie. ;) They have a lot of room for expression. The nature table idea (which we had for years and then I had another baby) is something that I think is amazing. I LOVED putting out different colored candles and silks and then watching what my kids would choose to put on the nature table each season. It was like they were drawn to it. Very natural for me to have things like that. (Did I mention I really think curriculum is about the personality of the teacher… it is like if we like it, we can sell anything. :) )

As far as similarities in environment, I see lots of baskets, lots of natural materials, lots of hands on, lots of setting up experiences and environments so that the children will find it very easy to go from one thing to another and learn along the way. Sequence, rhythm, balance. Both founders were amazing and brilliant. I am still comparing and learning, and I don’t even try to delve into spirituality or philosophy quite yet… I haven’t read enough side by side yet… but I am enjoying the study.

Feel free to email me at BlueRoseMama@hotmail . com I’d love to chat and get feedback. :)

Amber said...

Hi Val! Wow, we're both wordsy today :) I agree with everything you said. I believe in holistic education as a fundamental principle & that's why I think I can be enamoured with both W and M even though purists of either would probably find that kinda crazy.

I would love to chat further sometime & will send you an e when I am not dog tired like I am right now. It's been a big day ;)