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January 22, 2016

The Intersection Between Montessori and Waldorf

Montessori is one of many different alternative and natural learning schools of thought. These alternatives to traditional parenting and education offer families a different way of raising their children. From attachment parenting, to RIE, to unschooling and Reggio, there are many options available that don't fit the traditional mold. 

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Waldorf education is one of these options. Waldorf, like Montessori, focuses on the needs of the individual child. Children are to be respected as whole beings. They deserve respect, dignity and a carefully prepared environment. Materials are beautiful, natural and open ended. 

However, there are some important distinctions between Montessori and Waldorf. Waldorf engrosses a child into a world of nature, but also fantasy. Gnomes and fairies are used to illustrate and explain academic ideas. A heavy emphasis is placed on the arts, drawing and poetry. Formal academics -- like reading -- is often delayed into children are older.

Pictured: Pyramid of Blocks {we have the larger set} 

But, there is something captivating about Waldorf play. The simple beauty of a handful of blocks and some peg people. Of a colorful wooden rainbow, and a soft gnome. It's peaceful and natural -- everything Montessori friendly play often aspires to be with a touch of whimsy added in. It also embraces nature, the movement of the seasons and the relationship between man and Earth.

I simply love these aspects of Waldorf-inspired play. They are magical and logical at the same time. They are beautiful and inspiring. Yet, solid and grounding. Just amazing. It gives children this wonderful space to explore relationships, use their imagination and test their feelings. 

And, I truly believe these parts of Waldorf education are completely compatible with Montessori ideals. These toys are beautifully made from natural materials. They are open-ended and child led. They are as intriguing. They provide a challenge and inherent order.

I used to fight my urge to introduce Waldorf elements into our play. But, not any more. I welcome the peg dolls, the gnomes and the rainbows. These elements add a warmth and beauty to our Montessori spaces that is hard to find. I'm so glad I opened my mind and heart to some of these toys. While the gnomes might not join us in our work, I'm happy to see them in our play. 

Do you incorporate elements from many learning styles into your home? Do you think there's room for Montessori and Waldorf ideas in a home? 

If you liked this post, don't miss: HABA Ball Track; Montessori Baby Toys 6 to 10 Months

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cpcable said…
We also combine Waldorf and Montessori (and a lot of other things too)! I definitely think that there is room for them to comfortably and happily co-exist. I do think there is a misconception in the Montessori community about Waldorf though...for Waldorf purists, gnomes are not a thing of fantasy. They are real. Steiner believed that there are a whole host of beings called elementals that exist outside our perception. Children are able to see them because they are more open to such things. Gnomes are an example of such beings. This is not what we believe in our family, but I've often wanted to see this discussed in the Montessori/Waldorf hybrid community. Since gnomes are "real" wouldn't that make Montessori and Waldorf even *more* compatible?
J said…
I am about to pull the trigger on the adorable little Waldorf dolls - are they worth the $85.00? My boys are 8, 5 and almost 1. Thanks so much!
MrsS said…
We too combine styles of natural parenting and learning in our house. I like being open to all approaches and applying what works for our family. I feel this makes for an open and inclusive environment. One Waldorf (I think) approach that works particularly well with our son is using song to mark the end or beginning of an activity. For instance, tidying up before bed, and putting on pajamas and getting into bed.
Anonymous said…
Rudolf SteinSteiner made up a lot of things to make it seems like it is better... let's be careful about that. But on the all use of natural fabric and wooden toys they are compatible for sure.
myriam said…
you put it perfectly -- waldorf materials are really captivating and hard to resist! i'm a very rational person and so montessori makes so much sense to me and aligns closely with how i understand the world. but i'm also waldorf-curious and learning about waldorf makes me think about what's missing from the montessori approach.