Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the waldorf way

A while back I wrote a post about our search for the right educational path for our children. North has been going to a Montessori and a Waldorf playgroup so that I could observe him within the different environments in order to make a more informed choice about the type of preschool (ages 3-5) I was going to enrol him in twice a week. It didn't take long to see that the Waldorf philosophy speaks to our hearts, compliments our family values and beliefs and speaks to the style of parenting I am naturally inclined to. But it has also become apparent it is also an environment in which North thrives.

North enjoyed Montessori, as he is a naturally organised and task-oriented little person, however after he had matched all of the farm animals onto the right flashcards, named them aloud and put them back into their box, he wanted to play imaginary farmyard animals. He wanted the cow to talk to the duck; he wanted the sheep to jump up onto the fence (chair) and then to scamper through the fields (the desk). And there was, plain and simple, no room for this kind of play within the Montessori playgroup. This was where that particular method lost us the most. He did however learn to take his shoes off and put them on by himself (ahem... more like I learned to have patience and wait for him to do it himself); learned how to set a table nicely and learned a few more manipulative skills (buttoning buttons etc). However, there was very little interaction with other children and not a great sense of sharing and community within the group. Of course, this could just be the particular playgroup we joined and not totally reflective of the teaching style itself, and I am not at all saying I don't agree with the Montessori method- I think it is amazing in so many ways. It just wasn't the right fit with us, him.

Although the Waldorf playgroup costs significantly less than the Montessori group, we roam wide open spaces dotted with climbing fortresses, a chicken coop, a sailing boat and a huge sandpit. We sing songs and listen to enchanted stories that are related to the world and the seasons around us. We knead and bake bread together. We give thanks and eat together as a community. Mother's are given the materials to make beautiful felt toys while the children play with gorgeous wooden treehouses, knit dolls and animals. What I love most about the Waldorf playgroup is that it feels like an extension of our home and our values. It instills and supports a sense of imagination, wonder and creativity within the children. It finds and highlights the magic in the everyday.

The biggest issue most people have with Waldorf is in regards to delayed reading. Generally, children at Waldorf schools do not learn how to read until the first grade. I can only answer from our own experience: our home is riddled with books. We read the children, at very minimum, four books everyday. North is already "pretend reading"- pointing to words and narrating what he thinks they say. He is also learning the sounds associated with letters- in his own time, when he shows interest. And so, I might veer from the average Waldorf family on this point. This is just what feels natural for us. I am quite sure that no matter how little we directly "teach" him, he will be reading long before first grade, and by then who knows what kind of school we will think he is suited for- public, private or home. We are still figuring out what the exact plan will be, but I believe a Waldorf preschool two days a week starting next year (North will be 3 1/2) is a step in the right direction.

This Sunday we are driving to the countryside to pick apples with our Waldorf group. We'll sing songs of Autumn, collect apples, share a harvest picnic and play in the fields with new friends. I am so looking forward to it and look forward each step in our Waldorf journey.

xo m.


Umatji said...

yep suits us as well. so good. love the creative goodness for me and mine in every way. must go. want to craft!

Umatji said...

yep suits us as well. so good. love the creative goodness for me and mine in every way. must go. want to craft!

Catherine said...

It sounds like a wonderful environment to be involved in, so natural and nurturing. Enjoy your day in the countryside, it sounds like a beautiful day will be had by all of you. xo

apples with honey said...

So great!
Thanks for this post. I so wish we had playgroups like this to join...I often feel like I am not doing enough, but it seems that Poppy is just so against anything different from what other Waldorf and Montessori families describe...
I have tried following the little acorn learning guides, but she just talks over blessings and has no regard for order...oh my I am frustrated now...she just turned two...perhaps the calm is coming.

momma rae said...

thank you for sharing the waldorf love. there is a beauty that is unparalleled in nurturing children's innate imaginative play.

my daughter is seven and just started academic training this year. having a mixed age kindergarten program using waldorf methods myself, she was always with me prior to starting first grade. admittedly, i had some hesitation when she started her non-waldorf schooling last fall. how would she survive in this environment with all these children that were already reading?

i am thrilled to report that she has excelled! she is actually moving at a faster pace now than i am comfortable with. she reads everything around her and is writing proficiently. she only wrote the words *love* and her name at the beginning of the school year.

what she did have, that most of the children in her class lack, is a deep, rich imagination that results in detailed story telling, meaningful contribution to conversation, elaborate drawings and true love of the outdoors (in all weather!).

i meant to keep this short. oops! i am a little passionate about what waldorf has given to my own children and to what i am able to share with so many others each day. enjoy your orchard outing! said...

I haven't had the time to truly research Waldorf vs. Montessori yet, so this post helps a lot! Waldorf appeals more to our parenting choices- seems to be a natural extension of our every day play/ "work".

We read a lot of books as well- I'll be posting soon about reading soon, but I think that my girls will most likely begin reading well before first grade, though it is their choice, so who knows?

Lovely, informative post. xo

Rochelle's Lenz said...

This is such a heart felt and passionate post. I too have just posted about my waldorf play group experience. My daughter and I love our new community. I am enjoying being connected with parents who are informing themselves and families about the pathways ahead for their children. I love people with a passion who can articulate it, not to justify but to enlighten their own and others.
Have fun harvesting the apples, I might just delve into your dutch apples this weekend with my little girl.
Thanks so much for sharing this post

Michelle said...

I'm so pleased that you've come to this decision! I know in my heart from watching my own children that they learn through play. And that was the thing that discouraged me from Montessori, liked lots of things about it (the order!) but at the end of the day, learning through play suits my kids the best.

Autumn is such a lovely time in Waldorf schools, enjoy!


Miss Cinti - my poppet said...

you are so lucky to have the option to choose from either teaching style,
I've enrolled Emma into a Montessori pre-school but the waiting list is so long that it's unlikely that she'll even get in, let alone the cost. I'm not sure it will be right for her but we can only try. we like to incorporate imaginative play into our daily lives and I've always believed both teaching styles have their good and not good points.
My Emma can be a little distracted at times so I'm hoping Montessori will help her focus a bit more.

dailydialect said...

I looked at both too and came to the same conclusion! As far as the reading concern, I know that Lukas (age 3) is amazing at remembering stories right now. I also know that preliterate cultures sang and told very long stories and lived very cooperatively. It seems good to foster these cooperative memory related neural pathways for as long as possible so I am not worried at all about postponing reading, which appears to shut that kind of thinking down. K

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