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Homeschooling with Waldorf and Montessori Methods

Not everyone can afford the tuition of Waldorf or Montessori schools, so some parents are trying to bring the private school experience home by using the Waldorf and Montessori teaching methods in their homeschooling curricula. Here's how I did it.

Finding the perfect educational fit

When our oldest daughter was little, she was extremely precocious. And by precocious, I mean she climbed to the top of a 20-foot tree to look at a bird's nest, caught a swarm of bumble bees to create an insect collection by herself and covered our dining room table with terra-cotta clay. We knew she would need a different learning environment when she was old enough to start school.

We were lucky enough to afford to send our daughter to a Montessori preschool and a Waldorf elementary school for a couple of years in the beginning. Montessori preschool was great, and our daughter loved the sequential, explorative style of learning that this educational method provided. Seeing a room full of science and math materials really worked well with her curious mind, but something was missing. She needed direction, and a truly child-led Montessori classroom did not provide her with enough direction and structure.

Waldorf was very different. I was immediately taken in by the beauty, wholesomeness and overall enchantment of the Waldorf way, which included an environment full of amazing art materials, dreamy surroundings and whimsical stories. Because my daughter lived in her imagination most of the time anyway, the Waldorf method seemed like a natural fit. But she also seemed to crave a deeper, more investigative type of learning beyond the strict borders of the curriculum.

When we could no longer afford private school tuition and couldn't find the right school environment for our twice exceptional child, we decided that homeschooling was the solution. Homeschooling allowed us to combine the beauty and quaintness of the Waldorf method with the explorative nature of Montessori.

Bringing Waldorf home

If you'd like to transform your home into a Waldorf style learning environment, it can be really fun—and super expensive. You can cut costs significantly by making wise choices about which materials you want to buy outright and which ones you want to find or make yourself. Buying Waldorf curriculum materials from forums is always well worth the money, and they usually include practical information that homeschoolers crave about how to present lessons to your child and how to use the art supplies. Instead of buying top of the line German block crayons, try making your own by pouring melted crayons into an ice cube tray. Make simple and inexpensive changes to your home by replacing plastic toys with wood, silk or wool toys. Fill baskets with yarn, wooden blocks and objects found in nature, like acorns or pine cones, to spark your child's curiosity.

One of the cornerstones in Waldorf education is creating a rhythm that the children follow every day. You can easily do this at home by making a schedule that includes rhythmical activities. For example, every morning my family would start the day by lighting a candle and singing a couple of songs or verses before making breakfast together. After we ate, I would get out the recorders and have my daughter follow behind me while we played simple songs around the living room. Story time or nature exploration would follow, then a puppet show using woolen math gnomes or watercolor painting.

Montessori with mommy

You can easily create a Montessori learning environment at home by arranging your living space in a way that invites exploration. Instead of using your bookshelves to hold your outdated encyclopedia collection, you can use them to hold practical arts trays, puzzles, color tiles and math materials. Again, don't spend money when you can create your own trays, tiny cups, plastic animals, sheets of felt, even math beads at a fraction of the cost. Try using paint samples from the hardware store instead of purchasing pricey color tiles.

Montessori is all about teaching children to become independent and self sufficient, so try to think of different ways to incorporate this around your house. Have your child help you bake bread, sweep the floor or wash the dishes. Place a pair of shoes on a tray for your child to practice tying and untying. Demonstrate how to hang up a jacket in the closet or make a bed properly while your child watches you, then allow him to try these tasks on his own.

A packaged Montessori homeschooling curriculum can be a little trickier to find, but you can actually purchase the materials that Montessori teachers use in the classroom. These materials will provide you with all the instruction and information you'll need, which can be extremely helpful if you just don't know how to explain what to do with the teens board or the binomials cube.