Thursday, January 20, 2011

which school, what school, when school, homeschool, unschool?

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about different educational philosophies, child development and psychology, homeschooling and unschooling. I am still unsure of how we will start North's (or Indi's) education (and I don't think you ever really know how long they'll be right for one place- depending on the child and their needs, wants, passions and personality), but I am definitely a lot closer to finding something that rings true to my heart, and as I talk Brad's ears off about it every night, his too.

Here is the reading I am doing at the moment: The Kingdom of Childhood. A very good introduction for those who want to learn more about the original Waldorf schools and teachers, straight from the mouth of Rudolph Steiner himself. It is a series of seven lectures he gave to a small group of teachers who were dedicated to opening a new Waldorf school. "These talks are filled with practical illustrations and revolve around certain themes—the need for observation in teachers; the dangers of stressing the intellect too early; children’s need for teaching that is concrete and pictorial; the education of children’s souls through wonder and reverence; the importance of first presenting the “whole,” then the parts, to the children’s imagination." (from

It's available here to download online for free is you're interested in learning more.

How did you choose the right school or homeschool environment for your child? And does anyone have any opinions they want to share about Montessori versus Waldorf? Waldorf seems to appeal more to my heart and soul and Montessori seems to appeal more to my practical and organised self. Perhaps it's a matter of where North fits best... but I'd love to hear what all of you have to say about it.

xo m.


eidolons said...

I've read that Montessori works really well for boys and the way their brains are wired. I have no firsthand experience, though.

We chose to homeschool our kids for a variety of reasons. Our oldest (eight) is the only one officially in "school" though. We tried various things with him - mostly student led block learning. We tried and discarded so many things. And then unschooling stuck. It just works for him in ways that nothing else did. With the younger two I'd like to incorporate more Waldorf lessons. But in the end, if it doesn't work for them we'll search until something does.

Anonymous said...

Hi M!
My daughter is in her 3rd year of the Casa program at the Montisorri school by our house. I have to say, that she amazes me with the kind of stuff she can do, both in the practical life aspect, but also her reading and numeracy are high above those at the SK age. I teach kids her age at a regular old private school, so it is amazing to see the difference between what Montessori teaches them and the mainstream school. I don't know a lot about the Waldorf philosophy, except from what I read from your blog, but it also sounds like a great system that will expand a child's mind.

xox Margaret

Andrea said...

I'm a HUGE proponent of public school, as the keystone of democracy, but there's a lot about both Montessori and Waldorf that appeals to me as well. My kiddos went to Montessori preschool, which was nice in many ways, and had many drawbacks as well. I've read some interesting things online about some weirdness in Waldorf schools. My kids go to public school (my oldest, at 9, has thrived; the other two, at 5, are still getting used to it). We do Waldorfy things like knit and sew when we're at home (and avoid any associated dogma). It's a tough choice, and no situation will ever be exactly perfect, and how you spend your time with your children when they're not in school must count for at least as much as what they get out of school. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Our daughter is in kindergarten at a public Montessori school (a magnet school). It is fabulous and I am also surprised, as Margaret mentioned above, by how much she is learning. I was worried that it would be too academic, but I have been delighted to find that her teacher incorporates art into math, puzzles into reading, and so on. Tonight she brought home some weaving to complete. I have been happy with the balance.

The way we chose a school is by touring all our options during the school day. I brought my daughter along to see what she thought. I also made a list of criteria that I wanted in a school and made sure each option met it by talking with the principals, teachers. etc.

Best of luck in your decision!


Jessica said...

I was a young mum and though i wanted to homeschool I truely believed it was illegal here (something to do with all the trouble mum got into when i was unschooled as a teen perhaps making me think that?) So from pressure from friends my eldest went to kindy then 3 years school.She had nothing but problems from both teachers and bullies (wont go into details).I was a little less inclined to send daughter 2 anywhere, she did go to kindy but due to illness saw maybe 20 days in the 2 or so years she was enrolled.Because of her we looked into home schooling.Just after we made that choice for her daughter 1 was gang attacked at school and so upset with everything (she was grade 2) so we decided if 1 was home they all were.We have not looked back.
Finding our philosophy was harder and there are still days i doubt myself.We started with plain old school at home and that caused so much tension.My husband (the man I had to beg and debate with to begin homeschooling) told me there had to be a better way and directed me to natural learning.It took a while but now I would consider ourselves Unschoolers, working to more RU...slowly, but surely.I have a lot to work through myself.
Every one is different, whats right for one is not right for others.Thats what makes our world so amazing, all our differences colouring life:)

Suse said...

A Steiner/Waldorf education seems more in tune with the way you are living your life already. My three boys (one primary school aged, the other two are teenagers in high school) are all in the Steiner system and I love the way it nurtures them holistically - each as an individual, as part of a class community, the whole school, the planet, etc. The whole philosophy is respectful, thoughtful, creative and natural.

I could go on about Steiner education for pages ...

Good luck with your decision. Follow your heart and gut and you'll be right.

Anonymous said...

Im on the otherside of the country to you (WA), but thought I would write to let you know that we have enrolled our daughter in kindergatern this year and the school is inspired by the principles & practices of Reggio Emilia & draws on some aspects of Steiner. The name of the school is Childside and is located in Boyanup - thay have a GREAT website - check it out!! (I am very excited as you can tell)

Just more info for you

Thanks for your blog.


Not Blessed Mama said...

i believe that homeschooling is an extension of a natural, attachment parenting lifestyle. that was my first choice, but due to family pressure i did try out a waldorf school. it was nice, just didn't work for my son. we are unschoolers for the past 3 years and we love it.

tracy said...

Hello, love your blog first and formost :) When it comes to education I'm torn because I'd love to find the "perfect" school for my babes to go. Something that's a little Montessori, a little Waldorf..just a warm crunchy place to raise kids who love to play, make art, and who are learning to be KIND. I think right now we will be doing a Waldorf parent/child class, and sticking with our unschooling sort of life style. I think that unschooling works for us because I positively stink at any sort of curriculum, but I think it's possible to still unschool and follow a gentle rhythm. We have an ease (very Waldorf) to our days, and a bed time/meal time rhythm but I don't plan things really. We do ABCS and 123s but sort of when we feel like it which is daughter is 3 and my son is 6 months (he just hangs, naturally)

angie said...

We've done a few different things to find out where we belong in the world of education. Our children (who are now 9 and 10) did waldorf preschool and kindergarten...I can't say enough good things about the early childhood program, it feels so right in every way for every child. For a few different reasons which I won't go into here we started public school in 1st grade. The academic transition was absolutely fine, our kids started school not knowing how to read and by the end of the year were well beyond their classmates. I must say that I truly wanted to be a "part of the change" and make a difference in the public school system. After giving it more than it's deserved chance (2years) we are homeschooling. It's funny, we are new to it and flying by the seat of our pants a bit but again it feels natural, like we've been a homeschooling family all along. If I had to do it again I think I would still do a waldorf preschool and then homeschool for the grades. Good luck to you on your journey, you will find what is right and it will feel natural.

Saminda said...

Hey there. :)

Ah, you are not alone dear girl. I struggle, and know many who continually struggle, with these decisions year after year.

We have done both formal school (good Christian school in town, where my husband teaches), and homeschooling. I have used both Montessori and Waldorf techniques with my preschoolers at home. I prefer Waldorf...... but tend to be a bit eclectic in my style. ;)

This year, my two older children are going back to school (Prep and Grade 3 - my Grade 3'er has been home the last 2 years) - but this is not a decision we made lightly. I actually just blogged about it, the past few days. You may like to read those posts. :)

I was very sick last year, and had some frightening hospital stays. After basically 8 and a half years of full time mothering, I am honestly exhausted and my body is wearing down. Of course, this doesn't happen to everyone - and I'm so devastated it has happened to me at all. Having family around you would help immensely - our closest is 3 hours away. None of our kids had babysitters, went to day care or kindy or preschool.

So big big changes this year. :) This year is, for me, a year to get myself and my family back on track and to a place of balance. I can see us sticking with school - because it's a place we know and trust - until William completes Prep with my husband (he's the Prep teacher. ;)). Will is only 2 at the moment.

After that? We'll see how we're travelling. Listen to your heart, read widely, talk openly with your husband as you are doing, and I'm sure you will make the best decision for your children.

All the best!
Saminda xx

a little crafty nest said...

Hello there...thought I'd take a peek after you left such thoughtful and encouraging words for me. From my heart, thank you.
My oldest is 5 yrs and "should" be enrolled at the local public school. We are loosely homeschooling him this year in Kindergarten with plans to continue the same next year, keeping us on track with the Waldorf pedagogy. I am also a teacher and worked for three years in an alternative school nearby. They were very student driven but alas, not ideal. I love Waldorf philosophy and wisdom. It really works for our family. I know just a little about Montessori but I have heard from my best friend who is a Montessori teacher that there is no room for imagination or make-believe...for any one out there, is this not true? Waldorf on the other hand, encourages the imagination and fantasy play. Academics are on the backburner to fuelling the imagination for the first seven years. As a teacher, I witnessed the majority of my students would rather play than sit and learn how to tell time. And yes, they learn to read when they are ready. I found that so many children are not really ready until seven or even eight. And then they take off! So, yes, I am a big fan of Waldorf and Dr. Steiner. I hope that in some small way this helps you:)
xo Jules

Tania said...

Gut feeling. Hasn’t let me down (yet). The Steiner approach fits perfectly (so far) for all of us.

Carla said...

We are in exactly the same boat. I am chatting to DH about it non stop. We have decided to unschool our daughter this year instead of sending her to kindergarten (4 yo). Next year she is due to start prep and the more I read the more I am reluctant to let her go...
There is no Steiner school where we are at the moment but we lead crunchy organic lives as much as we can.
So we have decided to unschool with a waldorf slant. Our children are still very young (4 and 16 months) so radically unschooling is not something I would consider yet.
I have been reading a lot of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto along with many other Steiner-esque texts and forums and blogs. LOL.
Good luck and I think listening to your heart is the way. That said the pressure has been enormous for us. DD was enrolled in a kindergarten and a place was allotted for her. When we declined the pressure came from the centre, family, friends, teachers we know. Insane!
Your blog is great, I read all the time but this is the first time I have commented.

renee ~ heirloom seasons said...

I think you should listen to your heart. There can later be a place for practicality, but for our littlest children I feel simple rhythm, imagination, and of course love are what is most important. I'm sure your "organised self" would be nourished by the rhythm too.
For our family Waldorf has always been just right, I have seen it meet the needs of my girls in a most wonderful way! Sometimes I worry that I am not doing enough, but I know that those first seven years of a completely honored childhood have set us out on the right path.
I don't know if you saw this post when you visited my blog the other day (other week perhaps, I have been meaning to reply for a while..) so I will mention it here...
I wish you all the best as you take this journey with your family!

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