Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shared aspects of Montessori and Steiner

Montessori Secrets left me a nice comment on my previous post Control the Environment, Not the Child:
"Children learn so much from their environment. Montessori recognized how important it was for a child to be stimulated by their senses. An excellent environment is one which enables the child to gain independence. I wish you good luck on your journey!"
So I guess that individual liberty encompasses enabling the child to gain their independence. And the prepared environment should stimulate their senses...

It's been an amazing week here. Hug started school! It's his 3rd day today & everything is going so well :) He was as happy as a bean when we dropped him off the first day (it was Lovely who was in tears because he so desperately wanted to stay). We got to linger this morning for morning circle which was very sweet. As I've mentioned it is a wonderfully beautiful Steiner (Waldorf) school close to us.

I've been trying to sort in my mind what it is I am so drawn to in Montessori and it will be something I hope to explore here over the next few weeks especially as I also embrace the Steiner schooling. I want to start with clarifying (for myself, it's a process!) the shared aspects.

Something that I see Steiner and Montessori education agree upon is the Prepared Environment. While the Montessori classroom is often more simply decorated, and the Steiner classroom (for Kindergarten) dresses the area with soft fabric to give a warmth to the space, they both are very orderly and attractive. There is a place for everything and everything is beautifully presented. 

The Steiner teacher and the Montessori directress are also expected to have prepared *themselves* for the task of bringing their best self to the children. From what I have read, personal growth it is an essential part of being a Steiner teacher and there is a very strong element of the spiritual in the entire Steiner curriculum. I personally love the book Nuturing the Spirit in non-sectarian classrooms by the Montessorian Aline D. Wolf. She sees personal growth and a striving for a connection to the spiritual elements of life to be very important underpining of Maria Montessori's vision that has been largely forgotten and stresses it's importance in the Montessori classroom today.

Both streams of thought agree that the environment should stimulate the senses of the child. Of course, I could now list the myriad of ways that the philosophies differ in this regard (with the Montessori classroom geared to much more intellectual stimulation of the senses) but I want to sit with the simple fact that they do share a lot of common ground too. Interestingly Steiner believed that there are 12 senses as opposed to the 5 that we typically consider. I have been reading the book Beyond the Rainbow Bridge and they give a simple description of what he believed they are and maybe I can write more about that later if anyone is interested. So, there is a shared purpose of creating an environment that will stimulate the child's senses. 

Watching Hug at school (I can't believe I'm actually writing that - it's still so new!) I also believe that the children in the Steiner kindergarten are given a lot of opportunity to gain independence - as children are in the Montessori classroom. In both instances they are given real cups to drink from and have access to real (child-sized) tools for cleaning and for industrial activities like woodwork. The classroom furniture is all child-sized too, something I believe both educational streams can thank Maria Montessori for. There are real sinks and real working kitchens for baking and more. 

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy are also strengths of both classrooms. This morning I watched as a sweet little girl walked around the circle offering all of her classmates (and some of the younger siblings including Lovely who were joining them for morning circle) a beautiful ceramic platter of fruit and vegetables. Pieces of capsicum, cucumber, peach, banana and celery (loving presented until a little one knocked the plate and it was served in a much more haphazard way. Cute ;) and she did a wonderful job of offering something to all of her classmates before choosing something for herself and sitting down. Pretty impressive for morning 3!

Okay, I must go and hang out with Lovely & rest my mind. It's been so busy recently trying to tie the two worlds of Steiner and Montessori together (I've linked here to Wikipedia for further reference to both founders).

I'd love to hear your thoughts!...

{image note: Hug on his first day. Love you baby!}

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Comments :


  1. I am actually reading Nurturing the Spirit by Aline D. Wolf right now! (well, not this very second..but ya know what I mean!) It's a great book and I highly recommend it! I'm interested to hear what research you will find on Wardolf. Although, I'm a true Montessorian at heart, I'm still curious to hear about other education philosophies. The more I learn, the better I can help my child.

  2. Hey Montessori Secrets!

    I posted this & thought that I should let you know about it - went to pick up Hug from school - and when I came back you had already commented. Funny :)

    That book is really wonderful. I love it.

    I *wish* I was a true Montessorian! By that, I mean I wish my Montessori journey had been easy... a great school near by etc. etc. But, it hasn't been that way & I doubt it is for anyone ;) I know you have come to Montessori in a roundabout way yourself.

    Our situation and our options have led us to consider Steiner as well and it is a big focus for me at the moment to see how I can utilise the best parts of 2 philosophies that are both really similar in some ways and diametrically opposed in others!

    I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts. :)

  3. I think it's wonderful that you are pursuing both methods. Learning is all about growing & expanding your world views. I like your blog. :)

  4. You've sparked my interest. I'll have too look around for more info about waldorf at home....I am such a mix of philosphies....but haven't found the perfect combo yet!

  5. Hello, I found your blog through ladybugs and dandelions and really like your blog too.
    I just want to comment my son went to a Montessori school...and it was not his thing. :( So even though I love the underlying principles of Montessori, I think there is probably not one philosophy that fits every child. Now we incorporate more Waldorf /Enki methodology and others and that is working out better.
    Look forward to reading more of your blog.

  6. Intresting stuff, VERY intrested to read more posts about senses if you want to share :0)


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