Do you have any experience incorporating Montessori and Waldorf Philosophies?
I think that a true “Montessdorf” or “Waldsorri” would be really hard. The two philosophies’s theories of development and environmental organization (how the classroom is run and the curriculum implemented) are too opposite to integrate them completely, but I do think that a Montessori school that uses some Waldorf techniques or Waldorf school that used some Montessori techniques would work if the right people were involved.
I have always thought that the concept was interesting. I mean initially to the casual observer, the two philosophies seem almost identical. Both are alternative methods of education steering clear, especially in the early ages, of text books and dittos. Additionally, both have a focus on nature, creativity, and spirituality, and both strive to educate the “Whole Child”.
It is only when you scratch the surface that you see how the two philosophies are actually more polar opposites trying to produce similar outcomes since the goal of both philospophies is for their graduates to have a love of learning, a respect for nature, and a broad foundation of knowledge. It is the path that each takes that is so different.
Montessori education focuses on reality-the teaching science, social studies, and geography as well as reading and math with a myriad of materials in many different modalities to the young child, where as Waldorf schools believe that focusing children's learning on intellectual endeavors too soon distracts from their physical, spiritual and emotional development, so reading, writing, and math are not taught at all during preschool and only slowly introduced in the lower elementary years. Instead, emphasis is placed on the building of language skills and wonder though fantasy, imagination, storytelling, rhyming, and movement games.
So can the two be integraded successfully? Well, the answer is yes, and no. Yes, if you are willing to take one philosophy and use their beliefs on cognitive development and environmental organization as the foundation and then supplement with concepts and activities from the other. No, if you believe in adhering to both philosophies completely.
For instance, Montessori education believes in teaching academic subjects as soon as children start to observe and question the world around them. Montessorians believe in working with each child on their maximum plane of development while utilizing numerous materials to “spark their interest‘. The use of these manipulatives, songs, and activities not only make the concepts fun, but ensure that each child is learning in his strongest modality. Art is used also, but Waldorf Education has much more beautiful enticing art projects than traditional Montessori education. In this case if the Montessori teacher could use Waldorf techniques and add alluring stories and art lessons to help in the illustrating of the academic concepts. Using the Waldorf block crayon techniques, wet on wet painting, or molding beeswax in conjunction with the Montessori curriculum can only improve and enhance it. I know this for a fact because I am a Montessori teacher and I do specifically do this.
Now as I type this I know that there will be some Waldorf teachers out there running to get their blood pressure checked. They will feel that applying these beautiful techniques to such hard core subjects, for such young children, will destroy their magic, their beauty and their effectiveness. Although I don’t agree, I can sympathize. Nobody likes to see their philosophy “watered down” or “butchered”.
We could go the other way then, use the Waldorf timeline of teaching children to read and write when they are older. Using Waldorf techniques we could introduce the topics with enchanting stories, beautiful art, and fluid movement, and then supplement and reinforce with the Montessori materials for mastery. This too I see as working well, but being a Montessori teacher, I can easily tell you how many of us would react. We would talk about how this is still “mass education” and each child’s individual learning schedule is not being honored. We would complain that by only using the materials as a supplement or reinforcement, the child will miss out on the very important activities of deriving information and concepts on his own, not to mention that their lack of choice would be taken away. Like I said, “Nobody likes to see their philosophy “watered down” or “butchered”” and in all honesty, often when things are they become less effective. I wouldn’t want to see that for either philosophy.
Yet, with the right people, using a strong foundation of one philosophy and a careful sprinkling of the other, I believe very effective enhanced versions can, and have, been created.
Montessori Biology Curriculum
Montessorians will recognize the curriculum. People with a science background will recognize the concepts. Most people will love the project, but true Waldorfians will have a problems with it because they will feel that the material is too academic for 6 - 9 year olds and will be upset with certain colors and materials that the children used to illustrate their books.
Research and Writing
Once again, Montessorians will recognize the curriculum, people will enjoy the integration of science, history, social studies, and geography into the core language arts curriculum, as well as the different illustration techniques, but true Waldorfian will be upset with the academic focus at such a young age,in addition to the use of certain colors, and artistic techniques.