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#1 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 06:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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we're seriously considering switching our first grader (7 in december) from waldorf to montessori. i have never been particularly drawn to montessori but having visited almost every alternative school in our area I just visited a lovely school and was quite surprised by what a relief it was to be in that environment versus our waldorf experience. we think in many ways this may meet his needs much better and fit our family better. it is an expensive school though and this would be a big transition, so i'd love input from anyone who is familiar with both methods.

TIA.
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#2 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 09:13 PM
 
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I only have a basic familiarity w/W and decided it's not for us. I love M concepts and our school. What are your specific concerns? I'd recommend you read more about M, it was very helpful to me.
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#3 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 11:44 PM
 
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I am familiar with both methods. Let me be upfront with my biases so that you can take what I say within a context. I believe Montessori is a tremendous method that is supported not just by Montessori-affiliated research, but independent research too. I have watched it do wonderful things for a religious school I ran, and I have also watched it do *amazing* things in my kids' lives. There are things I can appreciate about Waldorf, but also many significant things I question or don't believe are supported by independent research.

I have a 2.5 year old dfd and a 3 year old ds. We do Montessori homeschool with our kids 5 days a week (or 6 if the kids ask for it everyday), and my son also spends a full half day in a Montessori school for otherwise homeschooled children. My kids' experiences at home definitely enhance my son's experience with school. He oriented very quickly to Montessori school in the group setting, and has done wonderfully despite having some developmental delays that make some of the work an extra challenge for him.

If I were transitioning a kid from Waldorf to Montessori, here would be some steps I would take to ensure a successful transition:

I would begin by setting up my home consistent with the Montessori principles regarding providing opportunities for successful independence, stewardship for the community (family community in the case of home), and personal responsibility/respect as well as responsibility/respect for others.

For example, I would look at any areas that I am helping him just to make things easier/faster for myself. Am I preparing his morning bowl of cereal, toast, sliced fruit, or whatever just because I find it a hassle to let him do it himself? A seven year old can successfully get out a bowl and pour cereal and milk, insert toast into the toaster then remove and butter it, and slice many types of fruit (after some lessons in knife safety and presuming a bit of parental supervision). My ds at three can get himself a bowl of cereal and slice bananas that he will place on top. Things that make this possible include but are not limited to the following.
  • Store plates, cups, silverware, napkins, and rags for cleaning spills for your child in child-accessible cabinets. Most folks keep these items up high in an upper kitchen cabinet. A child must climb a counter to get to it, making life rather difficult. In my home, we have drawers in a built-in shelf in the dining room that are exactly at our kids' levels. This now contains everything needed to set the kitchen table, help oneself to a simple meal or snack, and clean up messes.
  • Prepare child-friendly snacks that your child can manage himself, and keep these accessible on your child's level. Then help your child learn to help himself if he is out of the habit. My kids have a bowl of fruit always at their level. Next to it is one of those things that you push onto the apple to core and slice it all at once, which the kids can manage (dfd needs just a bit of adult strength to get it started), some butterknives for slicing soft fruits, and a child-friendly avocado slicer. In the fridge, the kids' have a drawer on their level with boiled eggs (unpeeled as they can peel these independently), cheese that they have helped to slice and grate before storage, and stuff like that. We have small pitchers with milk and water (and rarely juice) that they can manage independently.
  • Encourage personal responsibility. Getting ready for school, my ds is responsible for packing his backpack, and he also helps me prepare and pack his lunch, which goes in his backpack.
  • My kids select their clothing from a weather appropriate selection, and are responsible for getting dressed. Rather than nagging, we've tried to make this a part of the morning routine. Once the kids are dressed, they are free to head downstairs and help themselves to breakfast (sometimes they prepare their own breakfast, though often times this is our big family meal of the day and we're already cooking up eggs, pancakes, etc.)
  • Provide child-sized and child-friendly, safe cleaning supplies accessible to children, and teach them how to use the supplies and materials. My kids know that they are responsible for cleaning up their own messes. Sometimes with a little prompting, but they know how to clean up spilled milk for example.

Cleaning up after oneself and helping with family chores is also very helpful in preparing for Montessori school. Our kids have been taught to put one thing away before getting something else out. They go through phases of being more or less helpful in this arena, but they definitely are *capable* of maintaining the system, and they have learned to prefer it. We keep out minimal toys at one time. We have big storage bins labeled by type of toy "musical toys," "dress up," "blocks," "fine motor toys," etc. stored in our closets. We rotate toys in and out of the closet every couple of weeks. Everything that is out has its place, and we always return what we have out to the same place on the same shelf or in the same bin or basket, etc.

The kids help out the family by setting the table every time we eat a family meal (they also set the table for their own snacks and meals, but just for themself), clearing the table after meal time, picking flowers from the yard to go in small vases in the house, helping to fold laundry (at their age, they fold only napkins and washclothes, etc.), filling the dog food bowl and the dog water bowl, and watering plants (though currently we don't have any houseplants due to a recent move...this has been our routine in the past). My kids also enjoy dusting and washing windows on occassion.

We break down everything we teach the kids how to do in small steps that we demonstrate quietly, modeling thoughtful attention to what we are doing.

We have a silent time before we eat family meals (after a song we sing). We try to model for the kids throughout the day times of slowing down and paying greater attention. When the kids are working on something, we do not interupt their work, and we teach them not to interupt one another. We call most things they are engaged in "work" (the term used in Montessori). Work is not a bad thing. One of the things Montessori recognized is that kids want to be helpful participants in community life and take whatever they are doing (whether a game they are playing, etc.) with some seriousness. This is not the opposite of joy. My kids adore their "work." By calling it work, I show them that I take it as seriously as what I do in my office everyday. And by doing that, I honor the importance they assign to the things they do.

This also gives us a framework for teaching respect. My kids do not touch one another's work (without asking first), interupt one another in work, or otherwise disrupt one another. If one is working on the floor, they have practiced and know well how to walk around the other's work. In fact, I refrain from my own commentary about my children's work. Montessori allows children to develop a relationship with their work independent of their relationship with adults. Unless one of my children is using material inappropriately...that is, in a potentially damaging manner, I do not give either positive or negative feedback while my children are engaged. If I notice they need instruction in use of the material, I ask them if they would like me to show them (if I believe they are truly unfamiliar with the correct way to use something) OR I provide some kind of control in their environment that will make them self-correcting in their use of the material. In Waldorf teachers likely will have been much more involved in the children's work.

One big difference between Waldorf and Montessori is that Waldorf engages adults in children's pretend play. In fact, Rudolf Steiner felt this was an important part of a child's education through which particular religious/spiritual beliefs would be communicated and taught to children. Thus for example, a teacher might tell the children there are trolls living under the stairs leading out of class or that a ferry or spirit has moved materials in the classroom. Your child may need to be explicitly taught that this is not a part of education. I would underemphasize your involvement in your child's pretend play at home and leave make-believe in your child's domain so that he becomes more attuned to his own inner/imaginative life then he may have been when it was more fed to him in the school setting.

Also, there are some fundamental skills he may have missed during his years in Waldorf. I would recommend consulting with the teachers at the Montessori school to find out what particular skills they would have expected him to aquire in his earlier years, and then do some inventory on which of those skills he has picked up elsewhere. Where there are gaps, perhaps the teachers could advise you on ways to do work at home in preparation for his new school. I am almost wondering if it might be helpful to have some short gap of attendance between the schools, during which time you can reorient him to what the classroom experience might be like?? I guess I am just thinking that the two models of education are so very different, that he almost needs some space from Waldorf before he can begin to accept Montessori.

I am also wondering what the faculty at the school you toured said about this transition? Did they have feedback on how to go about it? Is his acceptance into the program a given, and if not, what preparatory work did they recommend for him?

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#4 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 11:55 PM
 
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I just wanted to say in a mild counter (but not too counter) to Sierra's great post - even though we kind of always did have it in mind to have a kid-enabled space in our home, we don't have everything she mentioned and it's fine - there's not a huge disconnect from school to our house. In other words, you don't have to reorganize for week one! (Or ever.)

I only toured a Waldorf school and had a few conversations, but I do think probably one of the critical areas of difference will be the approach to reading. At Montessori the language activities, including letters and writing and reading and all that, are available pretty much from day one. I don't think this is likely to be a problem per se, but if he's not reading, you may want to talk to your son about it a bit so that he knows if the other kids are quote-unquote ahead it's just a difference teaching approach and that he'll be able to learn the same things in time.

Also it does take time for most kids to adjust to the work cycle - I don't know if Waldorf does a lot of teacher-led activities or has short bursts of activities specifically, though. But I have seen kids in our school need some time to realize that no, there isn't going to be a singalong in 10 minutes.

I hope it works out however is best for your family!

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#5 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 12:00 AM
 
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Having just written all that advice regarding transitioning your son, I have re-read your post and realize I may have misunderstood the question. Are you asking for feedback on whether it is worthwhile to take him to Montessori and leave Waldorf behind?

On this particular board, I believe you will find that most of us would support Montessori over Waldorf. If you think the school is a match, I would switch him in a heartbeat, but you have to understand my inherent bias because that was my personal *first* choice.

You might find this forum of interest: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...play.php?f=287

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#6 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 12:06 AM
 
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Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
I just wanted to say in a mild counter (but not too counter) to Sierra's great post - even though we kind of always did have it in mind to have a kid-enabled space in our home, we don't have everything she mentioned and it's fine - there's not a huge disconnect from school to our house. In other words, you don't have to reorganize for week one! (Or ever.)
I think it would be a higher priority though to get organized like this in preparation from a transition from Waldorf. The model there is so very, very, very different, and this kid is going to have to really reorient. Even subtle changes at home can help him have a new frame with which to view his own growth and learning, participation and value.

If this was a seven year coming in even from public school, I wouldn't place so much emphasis there (though the organization helps, it may be okay depending on the kid).

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But I have seen kids in our school need some time to realize that no, there isn't going to be a singalong in 10 minutes.
Yes, in a true Montessori school that sticks very carefully to the model, the work period (that is time when the child is selecting and completing his own work) is three hours. A kid in Waldorf would want to know walking in ahead of time that this is what the cycle of the day is like.

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I hope it works out however is best for your family!
I second that.

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#7 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 01:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, i should give more background I realise. DS was in a waldorf preschool in the Uk till he was 4.5. Lots of pretend play and fairy tales etc but also lots of "work"; chopping vegetables, cleaning, making bread etc. From very early on we saw how independent he was. He has been dressing himself daily since he was 3 yrs old. He has been making his own snacks, and now snacks for his little sister for over a year. He cleans his own messes, sets the table every evening, you name it. All of that is such a fundamental part of he who he is; a very thoughtful, helpful and respectful individual.

Since 4.5 we have been homeschooling using Enki which in my mind is the perfect blend of waldorf, montessori and other approaches. If we could have an Enki school, that's where we'd be. Homeschooling suited him in that he is such an incredibly independent learner; he creates his own projects all the time, makes his own books, was starting to teach himself to read and write and do math (all out the window since starting school), and loves being in mixed age groups.

For various reasons we sought out school over homeschool; partly because i'm working 20 hrs now, and partly because he is such an incredibly social boy with a strong pull toward community. We gave ps a very brief try out last yr and that was not right for him at all so we went back to hs-ing. This yr we searched for the right first grade and despite having many many reservations about the grades in waldorf, we decided that was the place that best suited him; because of the emphasis on the arts, on community, structure/rhythm of the day, continuity of teachers, the no media policy, the natural materials/environment.

Well, it's a long story that i've shared some of over in other forums but it's been an awful experience all in all, and besides the many many issues with this particular school and his teacher we are seeing that (a) maybe the waldorf approach doens't suit him so well after all, and (b) there is so much that drives us nuts there and juts feels "off". It runs the gamut from curriculum to teacher student ratio to behavioral problems to discipline to parent teacher communication to administration...not to even get into the anthroposophy. And to jump to the end of the long story we have been threatened with being asked to leave the school if we do not sign ds up for support services that we absolutely don't believe he needs.

So we've been exploring our options again and were leaning toward a progressive independent school but it just wasn't "clicking", and didn't like the amount of mainstream/media influence. Out of the blue a friend recommended a montessori school (ams) which we just toured and honestly I was in tears at some many points here. The teachers were all warm, open, direct, intelligent, thoughtful, curious, and all had their own distinct personalities and interests which they bring to their class (not so true in waldorf). The emphasis on science was so exciting and refreshing to us, and would suit ds so well (he just said he wants a new school where he can ask lots of q's and learn about birds and sea creatures; so NOT waldorf!). There was a great mix of male/female teachers and older/newer teachers. The director has a great reputation. best of all in my mind they have a wonderful music program and the class teachers incorporate music and art into the classroom. we're all musicians and ds is a drummer, but percussion is banned in waldorf until middle school! i loved the mixed age idea and the buddy system. I think he would thrive in the structure/organization of the classroom/day. BUT we have yet to see the classrooms in action.

We're findign out if they have a spot for another boy, but they seemed to have no cocnerns about him coming from waldorf and were very sweet when we talked about the struggles we've had. There was no mention yet of prepatory work.

so..my concerns...it's all so new to us. I wonder about creativity in the classroom. ds draws all day every day, and uses his hands to make and learn all kidns of things, sings all day, puts on his own shows all the time.... I wonder about creative writing further down the line. Is there any oral storytelling in m? Any place for mythology or folk/fairy tales? I wonder about it feeling a little "cold" to him after the (supposedly) "nurturing" atmosphere of waldorf. He would miss the toys in the classroom at waldorf, and the outdoor play space with it's forts and swings and ropes and sandpit. I wonder if the way kids play in m is very different? He really enjoys interacting with and learning from adults - something he doesn't get in a satisfying way in waldorf - and wonder how this looks in m? can kids ask questions, learn directly form the teacher? I wonder how we would fit with the community of parents and whether there would be a heavy media influence (although a teacher there said 75% of the families feels the same way as we do about it).

We are looking for a place where he can be challenged and be able to ask questions and explore, but where he can also be creative, expressive and playful. Where his emotional well being is valued as much as his academic growth. And where he can be seen and respected for the individual that he is rather than being expected to fit an adult-prescribed "mold". Where he feels free instead of controlled/restricted. Where all beliefs and cultures are valued equally. Where parents are respected as the child's first teacher. Does this sound like m?

ironically I think largely in w he has been struggling with the teacher led nature of everything where there is NO independent or small group learning. also having to be silent and still for long periods of time, the harsh discipline being used (time outs, being sent to sit in K class), a lack of supervision of recess and lack of conflict resolution, having to produce work that looks identical to everyone elses in the class (stifling and also stressful; he feels he has to be "perfect"), being unstimulated by the academics (his uncle is a top astrophysicist; he has an inquiring mind and needs more than fairies and gnomes for answers by now), needing more outlet for the creative playful and silly parts of himself, and not being able to interact with peers during lessons... so how does all that shape out in montessori?

soooo many q's!!
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#8 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 02:59 AM
 
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so..my concerns...it's all so new to us.
That's fair enough. I think that's actually one of the biggest concerns people have ~ it is something new and foreign.

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I wonder about creativity in the classroom.
Montessori is basically built around creativity. I'll address the elementary years more specifically in my post since that's what you're looking at.

Learning in a Montessori elementary environment begins with stories the teacher tells to spark the child's imagination. With language, the children learn the history of language through a story the teacher shares.

The stories really provide more questions than they do answers. The students have questions and the teacher guides them on how to research those answers. The answers can then be presented in a variety of ways. When I was in elementary, I loved a lot of what you are saying here:

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ds draws all day every day, and uses his hands to make and learn all kidns of things, sings all day, puts on his own shows all the time....
I don't remember specifics of my work in 6-9 classroom, but I do remember enjoying making books where I was both the author and illustrator. So the ability to draw and be creative in something I was learning about was there.

If we have an idea for a show or presentation, I'm sure the teacher would help us with that as well.

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I wonder about creative writing further down the line.
Creative writing was my strong points throughout my elementary years. When I went to traditional school, the teacher was fascinated by my creative writing stories.

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Is there any oral storytelling in m? Any place for mythology or folk/fairy tales?
Yes. Especially in elementary.

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I wonder about it feeling a little "cold" to him after the (supposedly) "nurturing" atmosphere of waldorf.
Not if he has a nurturing Montessori atmosphere.

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He would miss the toys in the classroom at waldorf,
He would learn about new "toys." (We don't call them toys, so I put the word in quotation marks).

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and the outdoor play space with it's forts and swings and ropes and sandpit. I wonder if the way kids play in m is very different?
From my experience, kids play just however they play.

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He really enjoys interacting with and learning from adults - something he doesn't get in a satisfying way in waldorf - and wonder how this looks in m? can kids ask questions, learn directly form the teacher?
Kids can ask any question they want. What the teacher will usually do is get the child to explore that question and teach the child how to find the answer.

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I wonder how we would fit with the community of parents and whether there would be a heavy media influence (although a teacher there said 75% of the families feels the same way as we do about it).
Montessori parents are regular people. If someone feels strange about your choice to have little to no media, let them feel strange about that choice. There are other people you can get along with.

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We are looking for a place where he can be challenged and be able to ask questions and explore, but where he can also be creative, expressive and playful.
That's the cornerstone of Montessori Elementary Education.

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Where his emotional well being is valued as much as his academic growth.
They're seen as going hand in hand in Montessori Education. Montessori Education is based primarily off developmental theories and stages of development. Montessori classrooms are designed to meet the needs of children in their particular stages of development.

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And where he can be seen and respected for the individual that he is rather than being expected to fit an adult-prescribed "mold". Where he feels free instead of controlled/restricted. Where all beliefs and cultures are valued equally. Where parents are respected as the child's first teacher. Does this sound like m?
Yes. The beliefs and cultures thing, especially. Maria Montessori said, "Averting war is the work of politicians. Expanding peace is the work of education." (Or something very similar). Montessori had to deal with a war torn Italy and peace education really became a big focus. Montessori schools place huge importance on appreciating other cultures.

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ironically I think largely in w he has been struggling with the teacher led nature of everything where there is NO independent or small group learning.
Montessori is mostly student-lead. A group presentation might take about 10-15 minutes, maybe a little longer. I don't work in elementary, so I have to think back on my own personal experiences for some of these, but I remember when I was in 9-12, our day worked out something like this. Every school will be different, but to give you a general idea of what the day was like:
--Morning meeting: About 5-10 minutes. During this time, we would also discuss the schedule for the day. We might have swim class, pottery class, or even a certain lesson given at a time (4th graders meet at 10:15 for a math presentation)
--Work period: About 3 hours.
--Lunch
--Recess
--Afternoon similar to morning, but we would have more extra classes in the afternoon.

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also having to be silent and still for long periods of time,
Not Montessori. Montessori has a long work period where the students are very active, engaging with each other, and moving throughout the classroom.

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the harsh discipline being used (time outs, being sent to sit in K class),
Nope.

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a lack of supervision of recess and lack of conflict resolution,
Supervision at recess seems like a necessity to me - if for state guidelines if nothing else. Conflict resolution = key part of peace education. There is no exact set way to do this and you might want to ask how the school does it.

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having to produce work that looks identical to everyone elses in the class (stifling and also stressful; he feels he has to be "perfect"),
Totally not Montessori.

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being unstimulated by the academics (his uncle is a top astrophysicist; he has an inquiring mind and needs more than fairies and gnomes for answers by now),
One of my trainers said something perfectly. She said that no amount of books could hold the information you would find in a Montessori classroom because every child will be interested in different things. You have to really be flexible and learn how to take the child's interest and find out a way that they can learn more about it.

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needing more outlet for the creative playful and silly parts of himself,
Creative writing will be a big part of this. However, I'd also like to point out he will learn how to not only be creative through imaginative stories (which he will learn how to do and have the opportunity to do). He will also learn how to be creative with reality-based stories.

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and not being able to interact with peers during lessons...
Why do they do that? You tend to learn more from peers than you do the teacher.

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so how does all that shape out in montessori?

soooo many q's!!
Hope that helps so far. There is a great 10 minute video on what Montessori Elementary classrooms offer. Here is a link to it. It may answer some of your other questions and give you more of a sense of what a Montessori Elementary program is like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGFYVRSWokg
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#9 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 03:18 AM
 
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Montessori imo provides an environment that nurtures wonder, excitement, curiousity and respect for the world and its many inhabitants. The innate curiosity in most is fostered in the classroom by providing the tools that permit a meaningful interaction by the child to the world all around. These tools are the building blocks for their own imagination and creativity whether it be scientific inquiry or creative writing. There is a wonderful analogy out there somewhere that relates how one must learn the basics to play the instrument before using the imagination and creativity to produce glorious music. Maybe someone has a better telling, anyway.

The basic foundation of the lower elementary years are the five great lessons. This is a great site http://www.missbarbara.net/greatlessons.html that covers both the content and some of the ways the stories are told in the classroom. It is amazing how the lessons open the eyes of children to their world around them ...devise their own alphabet and written language, similar with their own numerology, independent research on rocks and minerals motivated by the creation story, etc. They are wonderful and can foster so much. The stories are told each year starting in 1st grade. Consequently, each year and a new telling reveals so much more to the aging child. It is a wonderful experience to observe.

My children, in 3 different classrooms, are encouraged to follow their passions alone or with peers. This in practice means they have time in class to write plays, stage them with classmates; research and understand the properties of magnets sharing it with the class; and endless afternoons doing art projects. They are two third graders and a first grader (also 7 in Dec).

Because we happen to be in a private Montessori, there is a great deal of self selection by parents. This means there is a lot of similarity in how we view our children's educations. Namely, we happen to have a lot of children with limited media exposure, emphasis on nature, community awareness and so forth. There are strong, consistent expectations on how people whether children or adult behave - with respect towards all. Tools to help foster this are practiced daily. They are an active bunch of happy nice little people.

Hopefully you have the chance to check out the great stories. Montessori done well has beauty and peace not to mention the wonderful process discovering answers to the endless questions. It is all in the journey and not the destination. Well that is how I view education/life - one in the same.

Kat
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#10 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thank you, thank you, you guys. this is incredibly helpful,. now i'm in tears and kicking myself for not going this direction in the first place. to be honest i am truly grateful for the waldorf in the early years and for our enki hs-ing, but starting at 6 yrs this would have been a MUCH better fit for him.

we will hopefully find out today about spaces; i know they have one 6 yr old spot but the balance of boys/girls is off and they were hoping for a girl in that spot. i'm not sure ds being in a boy heavy group would be so good for him; i'd have to see the class in action to know and we can't do that till dec.

another q: is there handwork (weaving, knitting, sewing, pottery, etc) at all in elementary yrs. i didn't see that and forgot to ask. also, do they use interactive games at all for learning?

re social conflict the teachers answered our questions perfectly. they use community meetings to discuss issues amongst kids, have them learn to talk with each other, have them role play situations...all of this i cannot EVER imagine in our w school, and it's a HUGE issue.

and, wow, stories that offer q's rather than answers....in waldorf the stories are offering moral tales all the time, and in general waldorf discourages the "why" q's at this age. bleh. they recently did a play there that was all about a character being punished for asking "why" too many times; the punishment was being sent all the way back to being born again and having to live his life over because if he was still asking why as an old man then he clearly needed to learn his lessons all over again...what a bizarre message to a group of young children!...we came out of that furious, and ds's little friend brilliantly came out going "why?why?why?why?..."!!
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#11 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 10:57 AM
 
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I think it would be a higher priority though to get organized like this in preparation from a transition from Waldorf. The model there is so very, very, very different, and this kid is going to have to really reorient. Even subtle changes at home can help him have a new frame with which to view his own growth and learning, participation and value.
That's a really good point I hadn't thought of. I do remember that I thought Waldorf was very "top-down."

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so..my concerns...it's all so new to us. I wonder about creativity in the classroom. ds draws all day every day, and uses his hands to make and learn all kidns of things, sings all day, puts on his own shows all the time.... I wonder about creative writing further down the line. Is there any oral storytelling in m? Any place for mythology or folk/fairy tales? I wonder about it feeling a little "cold" to him after the (supposedly) "nurturing" atmosphere of waldorf. He would miss the toys in the classroom at waldorf, and the outdoor play space with it's forts and swings and ropes and sandpit. I wonder if the way kids play in m is very different? He really enjoys interacting with and learning from adults - something he doesn't get in a satisfying way in waldorf - and wonder how this looks in m? can kids ask questions, learn directly form the teacher? I wonder how we would fit with the community of parents and whether there would be a heavy media influence (although a teacher there said 75% of the families feels the same way as we do about it).
I'm a writer and pretty into creativity... I've been just fine with the Montessori approach at the Casa (3-6 yrs) level. My own belief about creativity is that as long as the "wildly creative" moments aren't disparaged, children actually have a kind of natural instinct towards mastery and fundamentals... that is that they want to know how to do things "right" so that they can then do them their own way. So for me as long as the flights of fancy are not discouraged I'm totally fine with the school itself focusing on literacy - at the Casa level this means a lot of fine motor work, learning to stay in the lines when staying in the lines is the task at hand, a lot of art literacy like learning about artists and their work (all white males, but we are working on this with the school).

But I would ask directly at that particular school how they handle it when a child wants to use the materials creatively. I think it gives a lot of information about the school.

Oral storytelling... well our Montessori is not entirely pure; they adhere pretty closely to strict methods from 8:30-3:30 but from 3:30 - 5 they transform into a more laid back daycare sort of day. So I'm not sure at which point my son learned all this, but yesterday he kind of startled us by being quiet for about ten minutes and then informing us that he was "making shirts so that my brothers won't have to stay swans." (He has no brothers ) Clearly something is going on there since we hadn't read that part of the Grimm canon at home yet!

Cold - very school-dependent. I will say that we deliberately chose our school because there is definitely an underlying warmth and care - but on the surface it is really calm and might feel cold to some (it did to my parents). Teachers don't clap with glee and praise a lot. And for my praise-junkie son (personality trait), there was an adjustment period for sure as he learned to gauge his own pride in his work and also to understand that quiet appreciation, attention, and care, is no less real than the ecstatic clapping of his grandparents and nanny before he went into the school. (Some of this is interpretation 'cause he was little, but I'm pretty sure this is how it shook down.) I actually considered this a huge plus to his lifelong development. But I do know that the first couple of months he was clearly "praise hungry" when he got home. We just cuddled a lot and stayed the course. He's pretty clear that his teachers love him though as he lists them in his love-list.

Play - I'm not sure what the differences might be and my son's young so I can't address that too well. For outdoor space our school is small and the outdoor space is pretty simple (although rich with trees and shrubs), but they play a lot of games like soccer. If he misses it is it something you can provide at other times?

Media - We're a media-lite (not free) family and haven't found much to say about it one way or another... I guess one thing about our school is that it's very, very diverse and so there is no assumption that the other families are "like us."

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#12 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Media - We're a media-lite (not free) family and haven't found much to say about it one way or another... I guess one thing about our school is that it's very, very diverse and so there is no assumption that the other families are "like us."
That would be refereshing to us. I don't like the assumption of a certain lifestyle related to a child's education.

btw, we are not totally media free; eg we love watching david attenborough films, but we are wary of immersing him into a real mainstream culture after him being so sheltered in some ways. what i saw at montessori felt very comfortable and i love that they don't allow any toys, video games, lunchboxes with tv characters etc.
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Didn't have time to read all the previous posts, but I've had children come from very well-respected Waldorf programs into my 6-9 Montessori classroom and have done beautifully. The few that I've had have been so excited to learn about letters and numbers, since they hadn't been previously exposed, and literally exploded into learning. Exciting and cool - there's something to that Waldorf!
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#14 of 20 Old 11-19-2008, 12:06 PM
 
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another q: is there handwork (weaving, knitting, sewing, pottery, etc) at all in elementary yrs. i didn't see that and forgot to ask. also, do they use interactive games at all for learning?
The handwork - depends on the teacher. If you have certain skills, maybe you can help bring those into the classroom.

It also depends on the school. I had pottery in my upper elementary (by a blind pottery teacher, of all things), but that is a rare thing to find.

The games - I never thought of the Montessori materials as anything but fun things when I was in school. I remember asking my neighbor why she has to sit at school when I get to play all day.

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and, wow, stories that offer q's rather than answers....in waldorf the stories are offering moral tales all the time, and in general waldorf discourages the "why" q's at this age. bleh. they recently did a play there that was all about a character being punished for asking "why" too many times; the punishment was being sent all the way back to being born again and having to live his life over because if he was still asking why as an old man then he clearly needed to learn his lessons all over again...what a bizarre message to a group of young children!...we came out of that furious, and ds's little friend brilliantly came out going "why?why?why?why?..."!!
I'd send my son in with a big list of why questions. "Why did we do that play? Why didn't they want the person to always learn in life? Why don't they make a tastebud-less machine to find out how many licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?"
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#15 of 20 Old 11-19-2008, 04:31 PM
 
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I would begin by setting up my home consistent with the Montessori principles regarding providing opportunities for successful independence, stewardship for the community (family community in the case of home), and personal responsibility/respect as well as responsibility/respect for others.
In defense of what I've experienced so far in terms of Waldorf early ed, they are very supportive of many of the sorts of things Sierra describe along these lines in her post. My son's mixed-age kindergarten classroom is absolutely set up to allow for a lot of independence, and they do lots of practical work in the class-- actually MORE "practical life" and "care of the self/care of the environment" type activities than I saw in some Montessori classrooms I visited. Also, the teachers very gently and consistently encourage parents to allow children ample opportunity to be competent, independent people who participate as fully as possible in the work of the home.

I was initially really drawn to Montessori and I still hope my son can end up at a Montessori elementary, or some other more child-led schooling system when he ages out of the Waldorf kindy. I was all set to send my son to a very impressive AMI model children's house school, and then at the last minute was told that they didn't have room for him because he would be "too old" (he would have been 3 at the start of the school year). I was informed of this in mid-April, and we had to seriously scramble, and ended up sending our son to a Waldorf kindergarten. I have been quite pleasantly surprised by how good a fit its been for him and they seem to really support and nurture his inquisitive, independent nature.

And as for the OPs concerns- its hard to answer very helpfully, except to repeat what everyone either says or hints at- that the specific school and the specific classroom are very important, even schools supposedly following the same principles can be very different from one another. As someone who expects to move cities and switch schools with my son at *least* once, maybe more, I have to believe that if the school is a good fit for you and your child, with a supportive teacher and school staff, and you all work together to support your child during the transition, it will work out.

(Muse- my son actually sounds a lot like yours, just a little bit younger! Tons of wonderful self-directed projects and plans, loves to help and be an integral part of the family life, always eager for independence- sometimes asking for it before I think he's ready, but he's really taught me to trust him! Good luck with the new school, I hope they have a space for you, it sounds great.)

dissertating mom to three

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#16 of 20 Old 11-22-2008, 08:49 PM
 
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We use Montessori in addition to our Waldorf homeschooling this year...it just felt right, particularly with my son. I actually have considered touring our Montessori school for my dd...I do think there is a lot of similarities with Waldorf thought and Montessori...my dd was really great friends with a boy who went to Montessori and he was very creative in his play like my Waldorf kiddos. Anyway, I think it's wonderful that you have found a place that feels like home for him, Muse. : I would definitely choose a Montessori school over another method--and we did use a democratic/progressive school part time last year that didn't work out in the long run.
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#17 of 20 Old 11-27-2008, 12:19 PM
 
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Muse, I remember you from the Waldorf board!
My children and I have been on a similar journey. We had different reasons for leaving Waldorf (mostly financial and logistical), but now we are all headed for Montessori. I am working at a Montessori school in a 6-9 classroom and getting my MEd in Montessori education. Dd is going to a Montessori 3-6 program, and ds is in traditional K, but going to be in the 6-9 room at my school (with me! ) next year.
I absolutely love and respect Waldorf and think it can be a really beautiful thing. Like any other system, there are good and not so good programs, teachers, parents, etc.
I remember being so struck with the 7th graders' star charts at our WS. I thought it was so awesome that they got to learn astronomy, I never did in school.
Now I've seen Montessori kindergarteners making their own constellation books and totally loving it and getting it. The lesson was introduced by the teacher telling the children the story of Cassiopiea, Cephus, and Andromeda. There's the storytelling element for you.
The children in my 6-9 class put on puppet shows with puppets they have made with whatever materials they find in the classroom as part of their personal development. They also research topics that interest them, make posters/other materials, and present them to the class. They can take any lesson as deep as they want to, and are encouraged to create their own charts, drawings, maps, etc.
I still have a "waldorfy" home environment, and the meaningful work aspect of Waldorf ties in beautifully with Montessori. Yup, my kids already know how to dust, sweep, bake bread, etc. They make their beds, ds can get snacks together for himself and dd.
To me, the most overwhelming part about the transition would be the whole idea of notebooks for each subject and work plans. I know my ds will need a lot of support to get all of that down. Also, if he hasn't done any letters(sounds and recognition), handwriting, and basic numbers, I would do a few lessons with him at home and practice a bit before he gets to his new school.
Every classroom is different, but at our school we have many adults in our room all the time, and children are free to ask for help, and they receive full attention to their questions. They also help each other out a lot. When there are conflicts, we have mediations.
Your son sounds a lot like mine. I would go for it.

so many roads to ease my soul...

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#18 of 20 Old 11-27-2008, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone, this is so helpful. Well, the M school we fell in love with doesn't have any spots.
We have a child visit scheduled at a different progressive school, and also a tour at another M school. Both are so expensive though....We'll have to weigh all the pros and cons of switching schools, but it does seem he's not getting anything much positive form his current school So glad to have the week off right now and for him to be able to follow his interests again.
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#19 of 20 Old 03-28-2009, 04:35 AM
 
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Muse, I was wondering how things are going and if you've found a spot for your ds next year.

We're in a similar situation with a poor kindergarten fit this year but it's at our neighborhood traditional school. It's an immersion program which we were really attracted to, but it is the epitomy of poor teaching practices and there is little hope of affecting change there. It's been a brutally painful year.

We're hoping that our new M charter that opens up in the fall of 09/10 works out for us. It's brand new so it's a big risk but after reading all these amazing things about M education, I'm thinking it will be worlds better than where we are now. And I feel more confident in asking the right questions and knowing what to look for.

Good luck...I can really relate to how hard it is to have your child in a school that just isn't right.
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#20 of 20 Old 03-28-2009, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi! well we toured all the private schools and eventually settled on our local public school. He is doing great and SO happy to be out of his previous school. It would have been nice to get into that Montessori school but in retrospect it is such a relief to not be paying tuition, to be able to walk to school, and to be in such a diverse community. :

Best of luck with your decisions.
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