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Topic Waldorf vs. Montessori? Go to previous topic Go to next topic Go to higher level

By LeslieD On 03/16/04  

Do any of you know about these alternative pedagogies? What do you think?

By cochineal On 03/16/04  

I did an indepth study of Steiner schools (Waldorf) some years ago as a school project. I had lived around the corner from one for most of my life but knew little about the teaching methods.

In a nutshell what I uncovered was that, yes the grounds and atmosphere are beautiful, the kids are happy and for a kid into the arts (esp visual arts) they get the best encouragement and support.

HOWEVER. There are some really troubling aspects to this method of education. Firstly having the same teacher from Prep to Year 6 might work if the kid and teacher get along, but what if they don't? Also limits the number of adults to have an influence on a child. The way that lessons are structured does not seem to take into account any actual learning! I sat in on a Year Two class for an entire day. I watched them copy text from the blackboard to label their (beautiful) drawings. Many of the kids, when I asked them, did not know what the text said. Their handwriting too indicated that they were imitating shapes, not consciously employing the alphabet.

Lessons are structured over a long period of time with little to no opportunity for review and reflection. For example the week I was there this class was doing English (copying text from board) which they would do for two hours every morning. Next week they would do Maths, the week after Geography, then Science. Meaning it would be some weeks before they got around to doing English again!

I also find the schools to be rather insular. I'm not sure they have many oppurtunities for things like inter-school sports. Again, when I visited it was during the Olympic Games. Any teacher will tell you that events like these can provide all sorts of interesting lessons with discussions on different countries of the world, sports, maths (speeds, times, medal tallies). There was no evidence of any of this kind of teaching, using real world events.

Background research uncovered the interesting fact that when Rudolf Steiner set up his "ideal" education system he had no experience with teaching or schooling at all. He just went with what he thought would be nice.

Admittedly I only have experience with the one Steiner school and as a kid I was always jealous that my neighbours got to go to such a beautiful place every day. All the kids I know who went through Waldorf or Montessori education for at least primary school turned into lovely and intelligent adults. (I know a fighter pilot, an artist's assistant, a public servant and a political analyst)

I guess what it would boil down to is the individual child and what you want from an education system. Perhaps if you were happy to supplement with additional "traditional" studies at home - lots of reading and adding up prices at the supermarket etc it could work. But I'd rather do the opposite, have the school tackle the regular stuff and then take the kid tadpoling on the weekend followed by fingerpainting and baking cakes.

Wow. Enough already!

By eixmi On 03/17/04  

I haven't done much research or anything on Montessori schools lately, but I went to one for three years from the ages of four to seven (it was the norm; I was in Amsterdam). It was an excellent way to learn, and the class environment was great. My first few years in a "normal" school, in contrast, were horrible (in terms of atmosphere, teaching methods, everything - not only did it seem rigid, but "normal" school was boring and didn't stimulate me at all. I think for the rest of primary school most of my education came through the reading I did for pleasure), and I intend to send my own children to Montessori schools (when I have children).

I have a friend who went to a Steiner school in Melbourne until her last year of primary school, and both of us have always agreed that alternative education is the way to go. For both of us, being integrated into conventional schools was no problem in terms of our level of education (and both of us went on to do really well academically in high school), but I always missed the kind of respect I was shown at my Montessori school, the idea that even though I was little I could think for myself, and that my imagination was as important as anything else.

Obviously, I was pretty young at the time. My parents taught me to read pretty early (when I was about three I started reading "Peter and Jane" books), and I guess their input made up for any deficiencies in my Montessori education (if there were any). But they were both working full-time, so their input can't have been that huge, and at any rate, everything I learnt at school was in Dutch, and everything at home was in English, and - I guess my point is, we turned out all right! And I really recommend any kind of alternative to conventional education.

By jasmineT On 03/17/04  

I like aspects of both programs but I think the best route would be to find or create a program (if you're homeschooling) that incorporates both. The Waldorff program I visited seemed like endless preschool. Not nescessarily a bad thing but kids need to be challenged a little bit. The Montessori programs, around here at least, are the exact opposite. Sure your kid can do long division in kindergarten but they have no social skills whatsoever. I also find Montessori parents extremely annoying and competitive. (maybe the 2 are related?)

We ended up finding programs that are sensitive to childrens needs and respect their individuality while incorporating strong educational principals. If you look a litle, you'll probably find them. One of our schools is part of a museum program. The other is preK-8 with 120 students. We found them through word of mouth as their advertising budgets are next to nothing. You can ask people at the food co-op, museum guides, or community educators which programs are good. If you're homeschooling, you can create the balance for yourself.

By wendyland On 03/17/04  

My daughter is in her 2nd year of Montessori. She's done really well. But, judging from the other montessori schools, there's a lot of differences. You'd really need to visit a lot of schools to get a feel for the atmosphere. Some say they're montessori, but seem more like day care. Others are very rigorous.

Her school is very small, only 30 children total for 3 grades up to kindergarten. Her teachers are very warm & loving. I think they do a lot of cool stuff. I'm jealous. Unfortunately, we moved & she's going to have to go to a different school for kindergarten. The new school's kindergarten is a cross between montessori & regular school to ease them into public school.

As far as Waldorf, we only have one school around here. I think some of it's kind of cool, but not something I'd want her in for all of elementary school.

By Daphne On 03/19/04  

My daughter's been in Montessori since she was 3 and I have to say that she has done really really well and absolutely loves it. It fosters independence (making them get their work for the day, putting their trays away themselves, etc.) and they also let the kids work at their own pace (she's reading books, doing higher level arithmetic). I like that the kids can do things at their own level b/c it lets them experience the joy of learning instead of cramming it down their throats. Since it's a "private" school the class size is waaaay smaller so the kids get individual attention from their teacher, which is important for them. Every Motessori is different, though, since Motessori is a "teaching method" every different school implements the teachings differently. Some schools are much more strict about applying the method (i.e. kids can't have prepackged foods, only home-made foods in tupperware containers that they can open themselves) than other schools are. It's really beneficial to visit the proposed school and have a tour, speak with the director/principal, watch the other kids interacting, etc.

All in all I just wanted to share that everyone I've known that has put their kids into Motessori schools in our area has had nothing but good things to say about them, and we have had a wonderful experience with it personally.

By misshawklet On 03/21/04  

side note, but I thought steiner was a white supremicist. this is what has turned me off to waldorf. even if its not (its controversial), the rigidness of waldorf ed. is odd to me.

here is an article on that:>

By amigarabita On 03/23/04  

i could go on and on about how much i love the waldorf school. my children are both there, one just finishing up two beautiful kindergarden years and starting grade 1 next year, and the other will be in grade 4 (time flies!). contrary to other respondants, i find the pedagogy extremely comprehensive. one thing i will say, is that this structure very much builds upon itself. it is not advised to start a child in this system to attend another school within a few years. reading is taught from experiencing stories, to the experience and creation of letters to understanding of content. it is slow, but foolproof. the fifth graders in our school just tested at grade 13 on their california acheivement test! (gr 13 was the highest possible). these students are also accomplished crafters (pre-math is taught in first grade by knitting!), musicians, actors, singers, artists, and have a nice foundation in french and another language... as any childhood development expert will concur, these talents are the basis of a concrete cerebral understanding. most schools have a financial assistance program (scholarship program). my daughter's teachers both have master's degrees, as well as infinite world knowledge; whenever i don't have an answer for seemingly any type of question, my oldest will say, "i'll just ask maggie!"
anyway, i have to run and can't go on and on like i'd want to do...

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