Are you ready to look into the different approaches that you can use at home?

I want to preface this post by saying, don’t feel like you have to go full in with any of these. And also don’t feel like you have to be in a great financial place to be able to use any of them. You don’t. You can use all these at home, remember it is the philosophy that’s the important aspect, not the toys/tools/equipment.

Philosophy not curricula

Montessori, Waldorf and Charlotte Mason are not curricula, they are all educational philosophies.

Before we look at the differences, let’s see how they are alike.

All three were opposed to the industrial way of educating children, the ways that most schools still operate which is why these ideas are considered by many as alternative education ideologies.

All of them are against testing and textbooks and instead support the child to learn at their own pace.

And all of them that the child should be considered as an individual and so educated as such, going at the child’s speed and following the child’s natural rhythm and interests.

My background

I’m a Montessorian. When I first came across it I was smitten with the idea of following the child and enabling the child by giving them what they needed rather than trying to mould the child to a pre-determined set of rules. I am not a fan of school as a way to train kids for the workhouse, erm I mean workforce!

When I started blogging back in 2007, there was very little information out there. There were some Montessori school teachers, sharing what they were doing in school. There were just a few of us Montessorians blogging about doing Montessori at home, the same with Waldolf and poor Charlotte Mason didn’t get a look in. It was years before I found anyone blogging about her. Even finding books about her ideas was hard.

All that is to say, Montessori is what I know best but I do like a lot of the ideas from the other two. And because I’m a rebel, I feel it’s totally fine to take what works for your family from each philosophy and apply it to suit your needs. There are no hard and fast rules here! 

Side Note – I received what we would now call cyberbullying when I was starting out because I was promoting Montessori at home. Showing that it could be done outside the classroom and without expensive equipment. The purists didn’t like that. Luckily, I have a thick skin and bullying wasn’t going to stop me, I’m happy that I carried on because I now know, I helped many, many parents and their kids.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I get a percentage of the sale if you choose to buy something, at no cost to you.

Montessori

Let me introduce you to the incredible Maria Montessori, an extraordinary educator and visionary who revolutionized education worldwide. 

Born in Italy in 1870, Maria was a trailblazer in the field of early childhood education. With a background in medicine, she brought a scientific and holistic perspective to her work. 

Maria’s groundbreaking approach emphasized fostering independence, freedom, and the natural curiosity of children. She developed a unique method that focused on creating prepared environments, hands-on learning materials, and respectful guidance from teachers. 

The Montessori philosophy revolves around the idea of allowing children to learn at their own pace and cultivating their innate love for learning. By creating an environment that nurtures a child’s natural curiosity, independence, and love for learning. 

Montessori education empowers children to become active participants in their education. It’s a fascinating approach to learning that has been around for over a century, and Maria Montessori’s legacy continues to inspire educators and parents worldwide, reminding us of the immense potential and capabilities of every child. 

Montessori – a unique approach to education

What sets Montessori apart from other educational philosophies is its unique approach to learning and the emphasis it places on the child’s individuality and autonomy. 

In a Montessori classroom, you won’t find traditional teacher-led lessons or strict curriculum guidelines. Instead, the environment is carefully designed to promote self-directed learning and exploration. 

Montessori educators act as guides, observing each child’s interests and abilities, and tailoring their instruction accordingly. The Montessori method values hands-on learning, allowing children to engage with specially designed materials that encourage independent discovery and problem-solving. 

This approach fosters a deep sense of ownership and pride in their accomplishments, as children develop confidence and a genuine love for learning. 

Additionally, Montessori education recognizes the interconnectedness of different areas of development, incorporating practical life skills, social-emotional growth, and cultural appreciation into the curriculum. 

Small child peeling a banana

It’s a holistic approach that nurtures the whole child, empowering them to become critical thinkers, compassionate individuals, and lifelong learners. So, if you’re seeking an education philosophy that celebrates your child’s uniqueness, fosters independence, and encourages a deep passion for learning, Montessori might be the perfect fit for you.

TIP – a lot of people think that for Montessori to be used at home, you need to go out and buy all the special equipment. That simply isn’t true. Although the genuine equipment is lovely, the same lessons can be taught with things you can source around the home. This is exactly how Dr Montessori started out, using what she could get her hands on! If you are stuck, get started with my book Montessori Inspired Activities for Pre-Schoolers. 

What I do recommend is some time and money on learning about the philosophy and how to apply it. That will serve you much better than a load of expensive equipment that you don’t know how to use properly.

If you are looking for further reading, I recommend:
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

The Absorbent Mind: A Classic in Education and Child Development for Educators and Parents

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason, a true pioneer in the field of education, left an indelible mark on the way children are taught and nurtured. Born in England in 1842, Charlotte dedicated her life to revolutionizing education, believing in the importance of treating children as whole persons with minds, hearts, and spirits to be nourished. 

Her groundbreaking educational philosophy, known as the Charlotte Mason method, offered a refreshing approach to learning that focused on living ideas, rich literature, nature study, and the formation of good habits.

One of the key components of the Charlotte Mason method is the emphasis on living ideas. Rather than simply memorizing facts, children are exposed to living books that ignite their imagination and provide a deeper understanding of various subjects. 

These books, often written by authors passionate about their topics, engage the child’s mind and create a lasting connection with the material. For example, instead of dry textbooks on history, children might dive into captivating biographies, firsthand accounts, and narratives that bring the past to life.

In addition to living ideas, Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of rich literature in a child’s education. She believed that exposing children to quality literature not only enhances their language skills but also cultivates their moral imagination and instils a love for reading. 

In a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum, children are introduced to a wide range of classic and contemporary literature from different genres and cultures. They explore timeless tales, thought-provoking poetry, and captivating stories that expand their horizons and spark their imagination.

Charlotte Mason and Nature

Nature study was another integral aspect of Charlotte Mason’s method. She recognized the inherent value of spending time outdoors, observing and interacting with the natural world. Nature walks, nature journals, and hands-on exploration of plants, animals, and the environment played a central role in a Charlotte Mason education. By immersing themselves in nature, children develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, and appreciation for the beauty and interconnectedness of the world around them.

Charlotte Mason also emphasized the importance of forming good habits in children. Habits such as attentiveness, diligence, respect, and responsibility were seen as essential for character development and successful learning. Through gentle guidance and consistent practice, children were encouraged to cultivate these habits, which would serve them well throughout their lives.

The Charlotte Mason method continues to inspire educators and parents to create learning environments that nourish the whole child. By embracing living ideas, rich literature, nature study, and the formation of good habits, children are encouraged to explore, question, and engage with the world around them. Charlotte Mason’s legacy reminds us that education is not just about the accumulation of knowledge but also about nurturing the hearts, minds, and spirits of our children.

Further reading:
A Philosophy of Education (The Home Education Series)
Parents and Children (The Home Education Series)

Blog post: Montessori from home

Waldorf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner, the remarkable founder of Waldorf education, was a visionary philosopher, educator, and polymath who revolutionized the field with his holistic approach to learning. Born in 1861 in what was then Austria, Steiner believed that education should go beyond intellectual development and encompass the emotional, social, and spiritual growth of children. 

Drawing from his extensive knowledge in various disciplines such as philosophy, science, and the arts, he developed a pedagogical system known as Waldorf education that cherishes imagination, creativity, and hands-on learning.

In the Waldorf approach, academic subjects are seamlessly integrated with artistic activities to create a well-rounded educational experience. 

For example, in a Waldorf classroom, mathematics may come alive through rhythmic movement and dance, allowing children to explore mathematical concepts in a kinesthetic and engaging way. 

Language arts lessons might involve storytelling, drama, and poetry, awakening the child’s love for literature and nurturing their communication skills. 

Science lessons may include hands-on experiments and observations of nature, fostering a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world.

Artistic expression is a fundamental aspect of Waldorf education. Children engage in various artistic activities such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and music, which are seen as essential for their overall development. 

Through artistic endeavours, children develop fine motor skills, self-expression, and a deep appreciation for beauty. They are encouraged to explore their creativity and imagination, allowing their unique talents to blossom.

Another distinctive feature of Waldorf education is the importance placed on imaginative play. Children are given ample time and space to engage in unstructured play, allowing them to freely explore their imaginations, interact with their peers, and develop their social skills. 

Play materials in a Waldorf classroom are often simple and made from natural materials, encouraging children to engage in open-ended play and fostering a connection with the natural world.

A key principle of Waldorf education is the recognition of each child’s individuality. Teachers strive to understand the unique needs, interests, and developmental stages of each student, tailoring the curriculum accordingly. The aim is to support the child’s growth and nurture their innate strengths and talents, fostering a love for learning that lasts a lifetime.

Rudolf Steiner’s profound insights and holistic approach continue to inspire educators and parents worldwide. Waldorf education, with its emphasis on artistic expression, imaginative play, and nurturing the whole child, offers a rich and vibrant educational experience that honours the unique gifts of every individual. 

Through the Waldorf method, children are encouraged to embrace their creativity, develop a deep connection with the world around them, and become compassionate, well-rounded individuals who can contribute positively to society.

Further reading:
The Education of the Child: And Early Lectures on Education

To Wrap Up

I recommend digging a bit more into each of Montessori, Waldorf and Charlotte Mason, or at least into the ideas that feel good for you. And then embrace it as a family way of life, not just ‘school hours’. If you do that then school time will be much easier!

And don’t let anyone else bully you into following their method, this is your choice as the parents or guardians of your kids. The choice is up to you and your partner.

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