Mr. S and I are not planning on sending Tiny One to preschool or daycare. I plan to stay home with her. I feel so grateful that I have the opportunity to do this as it is something I really enjoy. But even though we plan to keep her at home at least until Kindergarten, we still recognize the benefit of some preschool programs and their philosophies.
I come from a Montessori family – I attended elementary, my four siblings all attended from 2.5 or 3 years old, and my sister is now a Montessori primary guide (teacher) – so I am comfortable with and a fan of her educational philosophy for the most part. There are a few areas that I don’t agree with 100%, particularly regarding the youngest babies and children.
I discovered Waldorf more recently, as I was looking for guidance in establishing a routine for Tiny One and myself. I have been voraciously reading books and resources on the internet to find out more about it. Much of it really speaks to me, although (again) I am not behind the entire philosophy, particularly in limiting academics until the age of 7.
For Tiny One, I am creating my own preschool philosophy taking parts of Montessori and parts of Waldorf and generally using my own common sense. Here are the things I particularly like about each philosophy that I hope to incorporate into our family routines and “preschool” with Tiny One.
- In Montessori, learning is very hands-on. I personally learn by doing, and I think it is unnatural for kids to be sitting in front of workbooks all day. I also think the materials make it easier to understand concepts.
- Montessori allows children to move at their own pace. Each child can spend as much (or as little) time as they need on a given concept before moving on to the next one. There is no “advanced” or “remedial,” just individual learning styles and pacing.
- There is a focus on practical life for young children – showing them how to do things for themselves – followed by sensory experiences. Waldorf also has young children doing practical life activities; while Montessori precisely teaches children how to do each activity, in Waldorf, I am not sure if they are taught how to do them or do them based on imitation (if somebody knows the answer, please comment and let me know!)
- Much of the focus in Montessori is giving the child autonomy. Therefore, they have child-size furniture, tools, etc, to help child feel autonomous and capable. This is hard to do well at home – especially in a small apartment – but I really like the idea and will try to incorporate it where I can.
- Waldorf schools and families focus on rhythm – rhythm of the day, week, and year (with festivals). This is something I need more of personally as well, so I am trying to incorporate them into our family life. I started with our celebration of the summer solstice.
- There is also a focus on nature – much of the rhythms revolve around nature, and the teachers bring this into their daily activities in the form of the nature table, toys made of natural materials, and plenty of time outside.
- Imaginary free play is the core of the pre-elementary Waldorf classroom. I think creative, free play is very important, especially for younger children, and is something that I feel the Montessori environment does not have enough. I agree with the Waldorf philosophy that we need more creative thinkers, and that imaginary play will encourage children to learn to be creative, but I don’t agree that there cannot also be some academics introduced.
- Waldorf schools and families have plenty of wonderful celebrations, including the seasonal festivals, which give the feeling that life and the world is beautiful and magical.
- Waldorf emphasizes movement and physical tasks for the young child, something that might be limited in traditional preschools and the early grades.
- Going along with the creative focus is plenty of art, storytelling with puppets, and other creative activities (I especially love their approach to introducing painting – painting wet-on-wet watercolors, starting with one primary color at a time and then combining two in each of the combinations.)
Right now I am doing a lot of research (one of my favorite things to do!) However, there are a few things I am already implementing:
- Establishing rhythm: I am trying out a daily rhythm (which I intend to share soon), and am working on the weekly and yearly rhythms.
- I added a nature table (really a shelf) to our dining area and am trying to incorporate more outside time.
- I am introducing natural toys and a few Montessori infant materials – treasure basket, palmer and pincer grasp cylinders (not official Montessori, but simplified version of more advanced Montessori material and good for developing the motor skills in the hands required to do many other things).
- I am becoming more aware of our own routines and how we do things around the house. E.g. making sure we eat at the table and try to display proper table manners, and no tv around the baby.
- Reading, singing and telling stories to the baby. She really enjoys our reading time. She gets excited when we take out the books and sits quietly, until she decides she wants to eat the book… She also likes it when I sing. When I start a song she will often look up at me and smile – what a huge ego boost that is for me!