Montessori theory and curriculum make perfect sense to me and always have. RIE’s deep and abiding respect for children leading to a hands-off approach from adults is revolutionary. Waldorf’s gentle approach and spiritual and artistic components speak profoundly to me. Maybe there are others like me? Are you a little country bit country and a little rock n roll? A little RIE and a little Montessori? A little Waldorf thrown in too?
I go online to different groups I am part of – some Montessori, some RIE, some traditional teaching, and it is difficult. It can tie me in knots. I see people whose “philosophy” is not meeting their needs. They’re at a loss. Or I see them hold the philosophy so rigidly in their heads that they are not engaging their hearts, their intuition. I too have been guilty of that as a parent and it’s my biggest regret.
Though I took the RIE Foundations course and it was transformative in my work with parents and children as a parent-infant teacher, I see the limitations and I see what parents struggle with in implementing it. I see their struggles online and yet know I cannot answer or give advice as it would not be in strict keeping with RIE tenets.
Then I go to my Montessori pages and I see videos of parents grabbing their child’s hands to help them get a wooden coin into a slot and I cringe. Where would they have learned that they should override his agency and make his hand to their bidding? How sad to rob that child of the joy of discovering that that coin fits into that slot? But that’s what we’ve learned in Montessori training – to “teach” the child how to do things.
I am a 27-year birth to three Montessori teacher and I have always struggled with what didn’t feel right to me. There are many contradictions inside of me so I understand what parents go through. I wish that Montessori were more hands-off in the early years. I wish that it addressed the importance of free play and fantasy beyond saying that it begins inside the child and outside of the classroom.
Another struggle for me as a teacher is the conflict between honoring the parent-child relationship and being heartbroken when a child’s needs aren’t being met. I believe the relationship between a parent and child is a sacrosanct preordained contract and I know that each family has a unique culture. When we were homeschooling in a large diverse urban environment we interacted with families embracing a range of practices from breastfeeding until age 8 to corporal punishment at age one. Truly wonderful children came out of all of these homes!
But this doesn’t mean that every child comes into my daily toddler class ready to fit in and understand how we do things. I once had a boy who knocked every item off the shelves in sweeping gestures every day. Sometimes it takes months of grueling work and much repetition. I don’t always agree with what a parent is doing at home. I once had a girl who was potty trained in my class, where we wear cloth underpants, for 12 months before her parents were willing to switch out of disposables. How do I honor their relationship and live with the feeling that a child is not finding his highest self? I think it is a universal struggle amongst teachers.
At many points during my extensive education and training, it was necessary that I “keep quiet’ about another philosophy or pedagogy which was antithetical to the one I was studying. For instance both RIE and Erikson Institute have strong play-based foundations and are opposed to Montessori philosophy which they see as too academic. My Montessori trainers were not comfortable when I asked about “attachment theory” which is distinctly missing in Montessori philosophy yet critical to Eriksonian theory. I enjoy learning, thinking taking, and leaving behind what doesn’t work for me.
At this point, there is nothing about a child, ages birth to three, about which I don’t have an opinion but I can’t say my opinions have any purity or abide in any one philosophy. This preface is an introduction by way of disclaimer to my next post which I have been working on for some time. It will be a comparison of Montessori, RIE and Waldorf principals, all of which I embrace. Why am I qualified for this?
- I have all three international Montessori trainings plus Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
- One of my own children attended a Waldorf school where I simultaneously attended a Steiner Study Group.
- Though we had discussed Magda Gerber in my 0-3 Montessori training in 1990-91, I took the RIE Foundations course in 2012 and it dramatically informed and changed my parent-infant classes.
I teach parent-infant classes and both RIE and Montessori devotees attend. I find I have to couch things like “Well, from a strictly RIE perspective….” Or “Maria Montessori would say….” when really what I believe falls somewhere in between. And a dear and close friend is the head 0-3 Waldorf teacher just a few blocks away and I so enjoy hearing about her peaceful, joyful classes from both her and her parents.
But online I lurk because I know my “grey” opinions would be unwelcome. It’s painful because, really, who cares about “beliefs.” Don’t we all just want answers? And help? I am a deeply spiritual and religious woman married to an atheist. I don’t care what people believe because it’s so darn personal. But I do like to solve problems. Everything about my personality is drawn to solving problems. I would hope that people could look, learn and listen and then go deep in their hearts for what resonates and if they do, they are probably doing right by their children. And then we could all sit back and listen to some country music. Or some rock n roll.