Of Waldorf, Doman, and Charlotte Mason

I’ve been hearing a lot about other alternative methods of education besides Montessori. It seems that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with current traditional methods of education, and are reaching out for other ways of helping their children learn.

Sometimes Montessori gets lumped in with other methods like Waldorf, Doman, and Charlotte Mason. One example I’ve been seeing for years is eBay auctions – people like to cover their bases, so you might see an auction for a wooden toy that has “Montessori Waldorf” in the title, or language materials that say “Montessori Doman”. I think these kinds of examples lead people to think that all alternative methods of education are similar, but that is not the case.

So, here’s my super quick overview of each of these methods of education. I highly recommend that you surf the web for more info if you are interested in knowing more about these different methods.

Waldorf: Based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (philosopher and educator), this method attempts to educate children in a holistic manner that is both creative and analytical. Early learning focuses on imitation and following someone’s example; for older children, the curriculum centers around the visual arts, movement, and music.

Similarities to Montessori: respect for the mind of the child; allowing for free choices

Differences: encouraging fantasy/imaginative play at a young age; not emphasizing intellectual tasks

Doman: Based on the teachings of Dr. Glenn Doman (a physical therapist), this method began as a way to work with brain-damaged children. It focused on “patterning”, which calls for movements to be repeated over and over again until the child was ready to move to the next neurodevelopmental stage.

It has been widely discredited by the medical establishment, but is supported by many parents who believe their children have benefited from this method. Some people use Dr. Doman’s methods with healthy children, specifically to teach babies and toddlers to read.

Similarities to Montessori: emphasis on the connection between physical activity and brain development

introduces children to reading during infancy; is not a comprehensive educational method with a clearly defined curriculum

Charlotte Mason: This method is specifically a homeschooling method of education. Founded by Charlotte Mason (an educator), it focuses on classical learning, which includes great literature and the arts. Children also work on personal qualities like neatness, politeness, and obedience.

Charlotte herself was quite critical of the Montessori method, and felt like it didn’t put enough emphasis on senses other than touch, among other criticisms. She outlined her objections in a famous letter to The Times in the early 1900’s.

Similarities to Montessori: emphasis on learning through nature; use of real books (CM calls these “living books”: high-quality, written by a specialist) rather than textbooks and workbooks

introduces writing and grammar at a later age; does not use concrete materials to teach language, math, and cultural concepts

So, where do we go from here? I’m not against bringing in other ideas to Montessori; after all, Montessori herself borrowed from the scholars of her day, including Froebel and Seguin. For me personally, anything “extra” that I bring to Montessori needs to be “Montessorified”, to coin a phrase. However, there are many people out there who do combine freely from several different education approaches; this is found frequently in homeschooling. If you do that already and you’re comfortable with it, this next part won’t be necessary for you.

But if you are teaching at a Montessori school, or want to stick mostly to Montessori for homeschooling, I think it’s helpful to ask a few questions before bringing in outside materials or approaches. Ask yourself:

1) Are there already materials to teach this concept within the Montessori method? (if so, use them!)

2) Is there a way to turn this other material into a “Montessori material”, by adding or changing anything (e.g., adding a control of error to a non-Montessori material)

3) Is there anything about this material or approach that contradicts Montessori philosophy? (if so, re-think using this!)

Hopefully this info will help as you continue your journey through alternative education!