Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mixes of educational philosophies

I have spent some time researching both Montessori and Waldorf philosophies, and I have found SO many benefits from both. I think the main difference in actual pedagogy is actually the colors. LOL! Well actually, that is what it looks like from the outside. The Waldorf school all pastel paint and silk with beautiful nature objects everywhere... and Montessori is set up with tables and chairs at the child's height and nicely set out primary color wheels with inviting neutrals and bright patterns that serve a purpose. But when I looked closer, on the inside, these are a few differences (and similarities) that I have found:

~ Waldorf focuses on the artfulness in everything. Many Waldorf teachers spend lots of time making the classroom or lesson beautiful, and the kids are more interested in the lessons because of this, making them have an emotional or in the case of art, body connection to the lesson. In my experience, ANY connection to the lesson that isn't strictly 'recite and regurgitate' has a greater impact on learning.

~ Montessori focuses on order. Which also brings children in. I know that my kids in particular, can't function if there is no order in a space. The act of getting a lesson out, being able to complete it in a single sitting, and putting it back when finished also creates that 'third connection' that will make learning easier and more fun.

~ That is not to say that there is no beauty in Montessori, or order in Waldorf... but the focus is a bit different. Like the difference between a deep royal blue, and a periwinkle blue... they are in the same family... but the main portion of the focus is a bit different.

~ Waldorf makes art and doing art a top priority. It brings painting, coloring, pencil drawing and other art into subjects like math... which for me, was very hard to picture before three years ago.

~ Montessori puts a lot of beautifully organized projects in front of the child and the child is naturally drawn to the subjects that you present. Many things in Montessori education are self corrected, so even the children afraid to fail will be able to successfully complete a project and have it done correctly, before they show it to anyone. This creates a wonderful ability to complete something all on their own.... which fosters a great amount of self esteem and independence.

~ Both philosophies have a strong belief that the environment is everything. A properly set up environment can bring a whole new level of understanding to a child's education.

~ Waldorf does not focus on speed of learning. Instead, it focuses on the entire child understanding the concept... body, mind, and soul. This requires more time... so children usually are a 'grade behind' whatever the public school system would put them in for their age.

~ Neither Waldorf, nor Montessori would send a child forward into another grade or lesson level unprepared. Both philosophies are child led. Which is the way I try to teach as much as possible.

Personally, I think both Rudolph Steiner and Maria Montessori were brilliant! I have loved learning about them, and even enjoyed some of the books that have stemmed from their work. They give tons of ideas and tools for education that I had seen, but didn't really know how to pull them off. I think that by combining these two I have brought a boost to our homeschooling that I have really enjoyed! I mean, really... who doesn't like more beautiful art and more fun organized activities?


Annicles said...

It is funny how people have the impression that art is not a big part of the montessori classroom where-as, in fact it takes a huge place in it. We don't have huge organised group art lessons because we don't need to. I think back over this year and remember the seven year old who got interested in monet, and from there impressionists and spent hours watching the light on the trees and then just painting and drawing and sketching. Her art was mixed up in nlessons about art history, political history, a study about france and it's geaography, so she could see where all the artists worked and lived.

I remember the group of 4/5 year olds who made a television out of a box (which took them 2 days, they worked so precisely) and then devised and presented a whole series of programmes, even writing them out in a kind of script. They were so funny with their heads sticking into to box and a hole cut in the front.

The general imression of a montessori education is that it is so routine and work cycle based that there is no time for creativity but the truth is, all those lessons lead into the freedom to be able to concentrate for days on a single subject and follow it right through. Having learned how to use scissors, mix colours, use differnt media through the lessons the child is then free to use those techniques. The classroom is never the same from week to week. Sometimes ew have most of the children concentrating on aquiring skills and then the focus changes and huge projects are taken on.

This is not a rant at you, I promise, but there has been a lot of comparing waldorf and montessori on the web recently and the differnces are not the ones I see in my classroom. Just sayin'!!!!

Val in the Rose Garden said...

I don't think I ever said there was no art in Montessori, but I hear what you are saying.

Cyan went to a Montessori preschool before she was home with me and spent most of her time painting. She liked the other stuff, but she really just loved the painting station. And her teacher gave her lots of room to paint. She even had her own little art show at the end of the two years she was there. She loved that. :)

If you look at Waldorf though, and not comparing it to what you do in your classroom, but in general, there is more art... because art is the focus. Art IS the lesson instead of lots of great art coming from the lessons. If that makes sense.

This wasn't a critism of either philosophy. It was more an understanding of the focus on the same basic child lead/child corrected pedagogy. They lead to a similar type of self asured and self motivated child. And this is why, I think, that people are comparing the two right now. It is clear to see that many things done in both Waldorf and Montessori classrooms are similar. But the enviroment of both look SO different. I am naturally drawn to both for completely different reasons.

Annicles said...

I am biassed, being a Montessori teacher! I have also only had indirect experience of Waldorf education, when I baby sat a little boy when I was in my teens and he begged me to teach him to read in secret becasue he wasn't allowed to at school because he was too young.

It is good that the debate is happening. The more it gets into the mainstream the more it is likely to get into the education system. I doubt it will go much further but over here in the UK the emphasis on early education has become much more child led and recognisable to either a montessorian or a Waldorfian! I am relieved that my youngest daughter will be going into an environment that is child led and where learning is not measured by scores and how well she can read.

Anyway - I love your blog. I check it out every few days and have used some of your work in my classroom and at home with my three children.

Val in the Rose Garden said...

Aw thank you. :) I completely agree... the more people talk about Waldorf and Montessori the more child led the public school system will get and the more laid back we can get with our kids. The push to do more, know more, think more is learning to nothing but loving less. It is really sad to think that our children are growing up in a world where success is the measure, instead of enjoying it and becoming passionate about anything.

Honestly, I think that all this talk will lead to more homeschoolers and more private schoolers. I believe that only after that will the government see what it has done to the public schools.

I hope you are having a beautiful day!


Amber said...

Hi Val :)

I enjoyed reading this post - especially as I'm constantly trying to understand my own love of these 2 philosophies.

I read Meg's post (all of those comments!) over at Sew Liberated last week & spent all weekend thinking about my take/feelings on the Montessori/Waldorf mix.... It's such a big & complex picture.

btw, Hug spent a lot of his time in his Montessori preschool drawing. His teachers did try to enthuse him into other areas but it was the drawing that most grabbed him & - in retrospect - he was going through an amazingly prolific & uniquely creative time. He had his own style that I loved & thought would be here forever but luckily I saved a lot of that work because he's moved past it now. Anyway, I'm waffling ;), but he's so very happy in his Waldorf school now, positively thriving there, even though he says his favourite thing at school is gardening (not art)!
Funny :)

At the same time, I see signs of an ordered mind & attention to detail in him that I can attribute to his Montessori experience.

I look forward to reading more of the feedback you get :) Hope you're having a good day.

sarah in the woods said...

Thanks for this post. I've never read about Waldorf, but now I want to. It sounds really beautiful.