Deciding between Waldorf & Montessori - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 03-24-2012, 07:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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(x-posting on Montessori forum)

My son will be 3.5 in the fall & will start preschool. We have been offered spots at both a Waldorf & a Montessori school. Both will have full prek-8th grade & we are hoping that we'll be choosing a school that will work for the long term. It's a really difficult choice because both schools seem lovely & it's impossible to be certain which will be the best fit for DS in the end.

My son has been attending Waldorf parent-child for about 1.5 years. I took him & now DH is the one to take him. I have a soft spot in my heart for Waldorf, I really do love it. But I'm hesitating to send him there for prek. DS loves going to his Waldorf "school" & his teachers seem to adore him. But DH reports that DS just plays the way he does at home & doesn't really engage with the toys & materials -- in other words, DH says he's bored a lot. This could be because he's currently the oldest in the classroom or because we don't have many Waldorf toys at home or because the P-C classes are just different (parents knitting while children chase yarn, as opposed to only playing with peers in prek). Or it's just not the best fit for our outgoing, spirited DS who is obsessed with real people & work (construction workers, firefighters, etc) his imagination is expansive & he loves Waldorf story time though.

DH & I have no philosophical problems with Waldorf. I have some reservations about the curriculum as the children get older (emphasizing mythology over history, etc). But it's totally fine with us that they don't teach reading until 7.

We think DS will do well in a Montessori environment. He visited with us & enjoyed looking at all the tools & materials. However, we are concerned about the lack of emphasis on the imagination. It's just not there. I think we could counter this by making our home environment more Waldorf-like. But it's still a concern. We're lucky that the Montessori school has a gym program & outdoor space, which is also important for us because DS needs that physical outlet.

The Montessori school is slightly more affordable for us & is walkable from our home - these are big draws. DH & I also don't know if we're prepared to commit to the Waldorf community - it seems to be a bigger commitment. (I'm more attracted to the idea of the Waldorf community than DH but I have the busier work schedule).

Reading this over, I think it seems like I'm trying to talk myself into Montessori. Maybe I am. But I'd still love insight from any parents who have also gone through this sort of decision or who can comment on som e of my concerns. Sorry it's so long!

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#2 of 12 Old 03-24-2012, 02:56 PM
 
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There are certain things about Waldorf/Steiner schools that all parents should know, but most usually don't.

My son went to a Waldorf school K-2. If I had known these things before, I would have never placed him there.

I started investigating towards the end of his 2nd year there, when we started having problems, particularly with bullying.

 

In my own research, I found Steiner's beliefs to be very racist, and his religion - Anthroposophy, Christian-based, occultist, and just plain weird.

 

Teachers are taught to not interfere with bullying because it is karmic.

(bullying is what finally made me pull my son out of there)

 

They are also taught to believe in gnomes and fairies. (which is fine for parents who are ok with this, but not for me)

 

Black crayons are not allowed in Waldorf schools, and children with black hair must use the blue crayon when drawing themselves.

 

 

This first site is full of testimonials, and links to Steiner's own writings.

 

http://www.waldorfcritics.org/index.html

 

http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=480

 

http://www.skepdic.com/steiner.html

 

Here are some Steiner quotes from the second site:

 

“But the people that didn’t develop their id, that was too exposed to the influence of the sun, they were like plants: They produced far too much carbon under their skin – and became black. That is why the negroes are black.”

 

“Look at these colours, from the Negro to the Yellow population found in Asia. From those you have bodies which are once again containers of the most different souls, starting with the totally passive negro-soul, completely devoted to the surroundings, the outer physis, to the passive soul’s second level in the different parts of Asia.”

 

“It isn’t because of the whims of the Europeans that the Indian population has died out, but because of the Indian population had to acquire those forces that led it to die out.”

 

“And they developed this Ego so strongly that it has gone into their skin color: They became copper-red. They have developed into decadence.”


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#3 of 12 Old 03-24-2012, 03:00 PM
 
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Oh no.

I thought I had posted that on the Montessori forum.

 

So, I'll just add, so as not to be hated, that Waldorf can be great for some people, but I think parents have the right to know more about the reasons behind the methodology, which are not usually shared upfront, and sometimes even hidden.


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#4 of 12 Old 03-24-2012, 04:59 PM
 
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Quote:

We think DS will do well in a Montessori environment. He visited with us & enjoyed looking at all the tools & materials. However, we are concerned about the lack of emphasis on the imagination. It's just not there.

 

That's why I decided against Montessori for DD right away. Not only did most Montessori schools not offer dramatic play et cetera, but one even explained that they believed children need to be pulled out of their imagination. That didn't sit well with me after all my professional experience and education in early childhood. BUT of course Montessori is okay for some people.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by rebeleducation View Post

 

Teachers are taught to not interfere with bullying because it is karmic.

(bullying is what finally made me pull my son out of there)

 

This isn't the case at every Waldorf school. Our school actually has an entire initiative on social inclusion, and Kim John Payne has trained the teachers and given lectures to the parents (& public community) about how bullying and exclusion are detrimental.

 

There are also some Waldorf schools that have modernized (for lack of better term) and seem to realize you can't follow Steiner's words literally and as strictly as others might.

 

Anthroposophy isn't a religion, but... Let's just say it's too pagan for some Christians and too Christian for some pagans. It's definitely not for everyone, and there are plenty of parents, even at our school, who don't buy into the whole idea but just want the education for their children.

 

It is a tough decision! Good luck!


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#5 of 12 Old 03-25-2012, 06:39 PM
 
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Quote:

There are certain things about Waldorf/Steiner schools that all parents should know, but most usually don't.

My son went to a Waldorf school K-2. If I had known these things before, I would have never placed him there.

I started investigating towards the end of his 2nd year there, when we started having problems, particularly with bullying.

 

In my own research, I found Steiner's beliefs to be very racist, and his religion - Anthroposophy, Christian-based, occultist, and just plain weird.

 

Teachers are taught to not interfere with bullying because it iskarmic.

(bullying is what finally made me pull my son out of there)

 

They are also taught to believe in gnomes and fairies. (which is fine for parents who are ok with this, but not for me)

 

Black crayons are not allowed in Waldorf schools, and children with black hair must use the blue crayon when drawing themselves.

 

 

This first site is full of testimonials, and links to Steiner's own writings.

you mention lots of the things that turned us off as well- also sword fighting was a real turn off- we are anti-weapon/war toys of any kind

 

my DS loves writing letters and reading and there was no way it could be stifled so it was NO for us

 

hope you find what works for you


 

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#6 of 12 Old 03-26-2012, 10:18 AM
 
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So, putting aside all the controversial comments in the previous posts, I'll just comment on what I think is the most important thing --

 

When it comes to Waldorf education, I think if you don't love it and feel really excited about it and that it is a great fit for your child and your family, maybe it's not right for you.  I say that because the school is really a community, and if you're feeling like the fit isn't quite right -- that's going to impact everything.  Everything. 

 

Having small concerns is one thing, but if you have big reservations about core philosophies or approaches, that is different.  I recently made a similar decision, and looked closely at Montessori for my daughter.  I was already very familiar with Waldorf.  I just didn't see my daughter fitting in and thriving in that environment when I am so used to seeing her blossom in the Waldorf world.  And it helps tip the scale that Waldorf is where my heart is too. 

 

And, finally, "little" things like geography and money can be big in the long run.  If one school fits much more easily into your life, that matters.  It really does. 

 

Good luck!

Babygirlsmama


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#7 of 12 Old 04-01-2012, 03:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all of your responses -- it was helpful to hear how some other families made this decision. I didn't reply right away, but read them all & considered them as DH & I made our decision. We have decided on the Montessori school for DS. DH & I were both super-psyched about the teachers & the program after our visits. I was really psyched about the Waldorf school as well, but DH was not as much into it. It's taken me a while to let go of Waldorf -- I really love the idea of this type of education & I think our school is a good one.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by WednesdayO View Post

That's why I decided against Montessori for DD right away. Not only did most Montessori schools not offer dramatic play et cetera, but one even explained that they believed children need to be pulled out of their imagination. That didn't sit well with me after all my professional experience and education in early childhood. BUT of course Montessori is okay for some people.

 

...

 

This isn't the case at every Waldorf school. Our school actually has an entire initiative on social inclusion, and Kim John Payne has trained the teachers and given lectures to the parents (& public community) about how bullying and exclusion are detrimental.

 

There are also some Waldorf schools that have modernized (for lack of better term) and seem to realize you can't follow Steiner's words literally and as strictly as others might.

 

Anthroposophy isn't a religion, but... Let's just say it's too pagan for some Christians and too Christian for some pagans. It's definitely not for everyone, and there are plenty of parents, even at our school, who don't buy into the whole idea but just want the education for their children.

 

It is a tough decision! Good luck!

 

WednesdayO, the bolded above also concerned me as I was told the same thing. Here's what DH & I have decided to do. We will try our utmost to "Waldforf-ize" our home life... That is, keep playthings simple & inspired by a Waldorf classroom: silks, natural objects, story telling (as opposed to focusing on reading books), water colors, wax, etc. ... We will attempt to have an imagination-haven at home so that he can explore things he's not able to at school. Also to make sure he has plenty of out-door time. It will be more work, but I think it will help foster a lively imagination in conjunction with all that Montessori has to offer.
 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by babygirlsmama View Post

So, putting aside all the controversial comments in the previous posts, I'll just comment on what I think is the most important thing --

 

When it comes to Waldorf education, I think if you don't love it and feel really excited about it and that it is a great fit for your child and your family, maybe it's not right for you.  I say that because the school is really a community, and if you're feeling like the fit isn't quite right -- that's going to impact everything.  Everything. 

 

Having small concerns is one thing, but if you have big reservations about core philosophies or approaches, that is different.  I recently made a similar decision, and looked closely at Montessori for my daughter.  I was already very familiar with Waldorf.  I just didn't see my daughter fitting in and thriving in that environment when I am so used to seeing her blossom in the Waldorf world.  And it helps tip the scale that Waldorf is where my heart is too. 

 

And, finally, "little" things like geography and money can be big in the long run.  If one school fits much more easily into your life, that matters.  It really does. 

 

Good luck!

Babygirlsmama


Babygirlsmama, a friend also said this to me & it has really resonated. This was a major factor in the end -- I see us being a much happier family with a short walk to school every day. Also, without the pressure of as much parental involvement, I think we'll be better balanced in the long run.

 

Thanks, ladies!

 


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#8 of 12 Old 05-28-2012, 06:35 AM
 
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I know your personal decision has already been made, but I wanted to respond to your original question as well as some of the feedback. 

 

First of all, we are a Waldorf family, but many of our friends have their kids in Montessori, and my mom and many close friends are Montessori trained, so I have a lot of respect for both Maria Montessori's principals and many of the schools inspired by her.  (One side note, Montessori is a much less organized educational tradition than Waldorf, so while there is variation among Waldorf schools, they all follow certain basic principal, which is much less the case with Montessori!)  Montessori does a wonderful job of providing beautiful, stimulating materials and encouraging children to engage their own innate curriosity.  Waldorf, of course, also provides beautiful, stimulating materials, but, at least in the older grades, focuses more on group work and rhythm.  It is an over-simplification, but I think it's true, that Montessori might be better for a child who is very group oriented, and needing some encouragement to find his or her own curiosity or "voice" but for us, our daughter is a VERY strong-willed little individual, and it has meant so much for us for her to be gently and lovingly brough into the COMMUNITY of her first-grade classroom.  Her individual will and desires are reigned in by the structure of the Waldorf classroom in a way that makes her feel so SAFE, but that would certainly not be the best for every child!

 

In terms of the "racism" of Steiner, I agree that he wrote some pretty offensive things, but in our Waldorf school there is an understanding that he was writing in a particular place and time, and no one at the school accepts every word he ever wrote as "divine"!  Our particular school is very diverse with many Latino, African-American and Asian-American children throughout the grades.  We live in a university area, with a very diverse and educated population, and no one takes those racist remarks of Steiner as something that currently holds water.  That being said, Steiner said MANY things that were very PROGRESSIVE for his time, and much of his wisdom is only now being recognized by the wider culture as having deep insight.  As a non-Anthroposophist practicing Christian, I have really appreciated learning about Steiner and Anthroposphy, but have never been made to feel like if I don't take his every word as "gospel" I was less welcome at the school.

 

And to the bullying point, that is absolutely NOT tolerated at our school.  As a previous poster said, our school has done extensive anti-bullying work, and is a leader in our wider local community in addressing bullying.  Kim John Payne has come to our school as well for a weekend conference on addressing bullying, but throughout the entire year there have been numerous events on the topic.  @rebeleducation, I'm so sorry that you had a painful situation at your school.  Of course, I fully agree with your point that people should educate themselves about Waldorf, because it is much more than just an educational philosophy, it's a way of life.  And I agree that Waldorf is NOT for every child or every family, but I'm so sad that you left with that kind of painful experience.  I hope and trust that your son is thriving in his current school!

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#9 of 12 Old 06-06-2012, 10:14 AM
 
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I realize that this thread is a bit old but in reading it I cannot help but stop to register an objection to some of the content here. People ought to choose whatever education system suits them but the decision process is not helped when certain myths are recycled over and over. Myths of this nature don't help parents evaluate the important differences that exist between certain educational approaches. Here is what my experience and research tells me about Waldorf schools.

 

Bullying. While some families may report that their child was bullied at a Waldorf school, there is nothing in the policies of these schools, teacher training, teacher handbooks or Rudolf Steiner's writing that says that teachers should not interfere in physical and emotional conflicts or between children because it is karmic. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Teachers at these schools, like all schools, endeavor to support a safe and nurturing environment for children to grow socially and academically. This means that if someone is being physically or emotionally abused the teacher must take action to protect the injured child and, furthermore, help an aggressive child learn not to treat others in this way. Cases of bullying tend to have complex, rather than straightforward, dimensions. If a parent is worried about this issue, they should ask about the school's policy and how teachers are trained to deal with student-to-student conflicts. There are also state laws that people working with children must follow. Certainly there are teachers who have handled the complex issue of bullying in a poor way. This fact, however, does not mean that when inept responses happen at a Waldorf school it is a direct result of beliefs about karma. Again, bullying tends to be a complex social dynamic. Teachers and administrators fail to properly deal with issues of bullying for the same reasons teachers and administrators everywhere do.

 

Gnomes and Fairies. If telling stories about gnomes and fairies constitutes "being taught to believe in gnomes and fairies" then perhaps Waldorf schools are guilty as charged. Some parents don't like their children being exposed to things that aren't objectively true. Such parents don't do Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and so on. To each her own. Other parents have no problem having their children hear stories about things that aren't real. They believe that a rich fantasy life helps expand the imagination and possibilities for play and that they will grow out of it when they are ready. Since nearly all kids eventually reject the existence of fairies, gnomes, leprechauns, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc., its questionable whether or not they have actually been "taught" anything. (BTW: Waldorf schools don't, to my knowledge, tell stories about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.)

 

Black crayons are not allowed in Waldorf Schools. All schools? Everywhere? At all grade levels? My kids started in pre-K and were able to use black crayons. The basic set of 8 block beeswax crayons comes with the color black. Why would this be supplied just to throw them away? Parents who are concerned about this issue should specifically ask to see the art supplies and ask if a child with black hair will be forced to use another color to draw themselves. If a teacher says, "Yes. I will not let your daughter draw her own lovely black hair. Its much better for her to use this navy blue crayon instead" then either walk out the door or simply say, "No you will not. If my kid wants to draw themselves you are going to hand over that black beeswax crayon I know came in the set." As a side note, watercolor work is different. Students mainly work in primary colors when they are young. Around the time they are capable of depicting people in the wet-on-wet technique more work is done using colored pencils (all colors) and charcoal drawing begins in earnest (obviously using the color black).

 

Steiner. This is a huge topic but suffice it to say that Steiner was generally considered socially progressive and anti-racist in his time and place. Nowadays, people might identify both racist and anti-racist themes and statements in his work, especially when things are taken out of context. (I am not saying everything that might be labeled racist has been taken out of context.) None of this means that Waldorf schools, teachers, students, etc., have racist beliefs or teach students to think or behave in racist ways any more than any other kind of school system. Much of the present objection to Steiner has to do with Theosophical ideas that were in wide circulation in groups that were considered progressive and antiracist at the time. 

 

I should also like to point out that Maria Montessori belonged to the Theosophical Society, lived with them, and was published by them. Many of her earliest teachers and proponents were Theosophists. Who ever complains that problems at Montessori schools must be due to the writings of Annie Besant or the personal Theosophical beliefs of prominent early Montessori teachers? No one.

 

There are many interesting and important differences between Waldorf and Montessori. These oft-referenced myths are not among them. Since this response is already too long, I think CarenSwan's comments regarding the role community and individuality plays in education are excellent. This has been our experience as well. All of the sinister gnomes and fairies stuff is a distraction from the real questions parents should be asking themselves about what their individual child seems to need out of their educational environment.

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#10 of 12 Old 06-21-2012, 01:23 PM
 
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I know I'm late to the thread but I've been struggling with my son's placement and am considering Waldorf. I read everything I could find and researched the school and the problem for me is I love it but am also not sure I'm strong enough to defend why to those who are going to question me. For example, I'm an atheist. My family knows this: oh, I'm single adoptive mom so my boys only have me as an influence and I don't have to hash things out with a husband. Anyway, my oldest was Christian when I adopted him and he attends church 2 x week with my mom. My youngest was from an orphanage in Russia vs US foster (oldest) and so youngest had no religion and I put him in the place I felt was the best fit: a jewish daycare due to Russian speaking peers and teachers. For 2 years he didn't know anything really about Christ or such but lately he goes to church because he loves his big brother so much and he has moved to a 'great' private school. 'Great' because while great he is not fitting in: they are constructivist curriculum. He learned nothing in Kindergarten until I sat him down with list of things he needed to pass Kindergarten. In April he knew no letter sounds but after just 4 days of me showing and telling and having him mimic me he learned to read simple words, sounds, etc... Curriculum mismatch. Montessouri, is out as I definately think he needs a more structured learning environment. He picks up fast but needs to be led in learning and needs lots of imaginative play. Also needs less academic focus and more structure then constructivist school. Anyway, I originally thought Waldorf but bailed due to not wanting to be in 'weird' school. Most private school are either christian, jewish, or very academic in focus were I live (with academic ones being over 12,000/year). Not for my child. The constructivist is great school and lots of kids do well but mine had a major personality change (tons of behavior problems only at school---NEVER any problems anywhere else, suddenly become shy and introverted and cranky and sulky, etc...). So, I'm telling my pediatrician how I don't like the private school but my local school is violent (police have been called 83 times to a school for K-6 graders in 2011-2012 school year). My older son is in high school, btw, which is why non-issue as my local Jr. high and High School are fine. My pediatrician says: you know he seems like a child who might do well in Waldorf. I call and since end of year they have me bring him to a summer camp to evaluate fit. WELL. My son LOVES it. He doesn't even know I'm considering this a school and last night he said to me 'maybe I could go to this school. they do the same thing all the time'. Meaning the scheduling and predictability. 4 of the staff including the first grade teacher has commented on how well he fit into the schedule, etc... He doesn't even have a 'friend' in that he's been at camp 5 days and doesn't remember specific kids. He just seems SO content and at ease and now I am planning to put him there but worry because quite honestly, as you may have noticed with above examples, while I'm 'atheist' I really don't care all that much if my kids choose to do Christian faith, Jewish, or none or believe in gnomes. I say whatever. At some point they'll decide 'for sure', as adults, and it won't matter all that much. I was so sure of Christianity as my life calling I considered becoming a NUN once...then at ~25, I lost all faith and am no definately athiest in belief. So, my problem is: some things I'm just not going to follow along with at home. My son doesn't care to watch t.v. I was raised without t.v. (due to my parents choosing what might now be seen as voluntary simplicity---they both quit their jobs in big city and moved to Amish country where I was raised with my 2 siblings on a sort of hobby farm without electricity or indoor plumbing). But, we watch sometimes. He buys clothes with Tom and Jerry figures on it. He loves police and arresting people. My plan is to do the minimum service hours. To stick with the program but also to let him use black crayons even if school says no (honestly I'd tell him though 'yeah, I think that is odd but that is the school's rule). My older son is African American and we've faced racism (in Scouting of all places) but again I tell my boys I don't condone it and they should strive not to condone. Okay...sorry I'm rambling. I would say in an average week my boys watch 3.5 hours of t.v. max...my youngest watches Tom and Jerry for 30 minutes once a week and we might do a kids t.v movie once a week. My son would rather play with his toys: which aren't basic simple toys but detailed police cars, army men, and police 'army like' men. He also likes to run around outside with neighbor kids all weekend (like 6-8 hours)....so this is kind of easy pick for m. I guess I just feel like a hypocrit because I want my son to go to a Waldorf school as it is best fit for him but I don't want to or plan to conform with things (IN MY HOME) that I don't 'care' to focus on.
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#11 of 12 Old 06-21-2012, 01:23 PM
 
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Sorry I put indents in but above looks hard to read. I hope it doesn't discourage anyone from reading.
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#12 of 12 Old 06-28-2012, 10:25 AM
 
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As a Waldorf teacher and a parent, I can speak from experience to say that choosing what school your children attend is important...but it isn't the end of every situation.  One of the important things to know about Montessori school is that they do not accept students after a certain age--if you try Waldorf first and want to change, you may no longer be able to enter into the Montessori program.  However, if you try Montessori first and that does not work out, you will have tried that option and can simply go back to your Waldorf school.  Then again, if you find that you are all happy with Montessori, then there is no reason to change anything!  

Though people downplay the financial side of things--as parents we know how much we would all sacrifice to pay for the best education--I do think it is an important consideration.  I also think it is important to be able to stress to your child the fact that you can walk to school and the environmental sacrifice you make for that (I that case would make a point to walk every day, even in inclement weather).    And then I would be sure to emphasize imagination at home and allow your child the freedom to live in the imaginative realm for as long as he can (though he will be told otherwise at school, perhaps you can arrange for them to protect that space around him a little bit).  I do believe that free creative and imaginative play is vital to young children--and once they leave that space of early-childhood, you cannot put that creativity back into them.  If you can give your son that freedom and a space to have plenty of that open-ended creative play, then I think you can feel liberated to choose the Montessori school without guilt.  

Obviously, as a Waldorf teacher (and with three children at a Waldorf school), I am biased to its advantages.  But I see the benefits of all kinds of solutions that work for real-life problems and I understand that "whatever works" is part of the child-led philosophy that we parents have become accustomed to.  If Montessori works better for your family, it is worth following that path!

Maggie 

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