Sunday, July 11, 2010

Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner

As some of you may know and others may not. Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner were contemporaries. They all lived and made reforms in education just before and just after 1900. Mason worked with parent led education in England while Montessori and Steiner worked with poor children. Because they lived and worked in the same era you will find many similarities and some marked differences in their methods.

Quick Notes on Methods:
Charlotte Mason--living books, nature studies, handwork, copywork
Stiener/Waldorf Method--head, hands & heart, main lessons, art, music and movement, stories
Montessori--manipulatives, real world work, touch & sight & think (something like that)

Both Mason and Steiner write about the development of the will of the child. Mason's focus is on good habits while Steiner is focused on rhythm.

Starting School:
Montessori schools focus on learning academics through puzzles, manipulatives, and play at an early age. While Mason believes that young children should spend plenty of time outdoors. Waldorf schools have young children outdoors and also encourage creative and imaginative play. All three methods believe in using objects made of natural materials.

Waldorf schools start teaching reading in the first and second grades. Charlotte Mason teaches letters and phonics to children who are in Kindergarten and then reading is taught in first and second grade. Montessori children work with phonics as young as 3 but the children are allowed to work at their own pace on learning to read. Some read early and others later.

None of these methods put pressure on a child to be reading at the end of Kindergarten or even first grade. They look toward the end of the third grade year for fluency in reading.

History curriculum
All three follow a chronological approach to history but with their own ideas on how it plays out.

Montessori schools often follow a 3-year cycle. They also teach the 5 great lessons: creation/evolution, coming of animals, coming of man, story of writing and story of numbers.

Charlotte Mason spreads her cycle over 6 years and the children focus on both world and home country history and then in the middle grades learn about the history of another country.

Waldorf schools start at the misty collective memories of humans and in the stories that have been passes down in the form of fairy tales. From there they move onto legends and fables then into myth and finally into the story of history up to modern times. This journey starts out in first grade and ends in eighth grade.

Montessori is probably the most rigorous about mathematics. There are many manipulatives and games that children use in the schools to learn about how numbers work.

Waldorf schools use natural objects and stories to teach math and have the children draw pictures about their work and their discoveries. If done right, the child learns to love math and can have a solid foundation. If done on the light side they may like math but not have a good foundation. Waldorf also uses movement games and songs in math.

Charlotte Mason is weak in this area. She says that the children should do math but did not lay out a solid plan for what that should include.

Waldorf schools have children play in nature and hear stories about how nature works. As they grow they learn about the world around them through observation.

Second grade--animals and their homes
Third grade--farms, from seed to pie, from sheep to sweater type lessons, shelter & building
Fourth grade--man and animal, how man is the caretaker of animal
Fifth grade--botany
Middle School--astronomy, physics, chemistry through experiments and observation

Montessori schools teach science through play and experiments. They also have 3-part cards with pictures, labels and information that the children recreate to learn the information.

Charlotte Mason has the children also learning through observation of the natural world around them. She does not include plans for the study of physics or chemistry but the children will know about the natural world, biology, botany, astronomy and earth sciences through time spent exploring the natural world.

Observation and experiments are what tie these together.

Language arts
Charlotte Mason's method is strongest here with her focus on "living books," copywork and narration. Montessori again turns to manipulatives and experimentation for the children to learn about how to form words, sentences and write.

Waldorf schools are different here in that the children find phonics linked to pictures and stories. They do copywork in that they copy what the teacher writes for them to put in their main lesson books where they also draw a picture. Form drawing is something that Waldorf has that the others don't.

Charlotte Mason reserved the mornings for lessons and the afternoons for handwork. Waldorf schools do the same thing. Montessori schools do not do handwork but instead have the children involved in useful work such as helping to keep the classroom clean.

All three methods were born out of the same era. They have some similarities. They can seem to work well together. But they also have their differences. All three cared deeply for the development of the child into a useful adult. They all have good points and bad. And they are all worthy of drawing inspiration from.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great explanation laying them all out like that. Thought I am biased about one of them :).


CloseAcademy said...

Thanks. I always thought they were all rather alike and I thought it would be nice to lay it out for others to see.

Cindie said...

Wonderful, Christy! I was just thinking about why I liked Mason and Steiner both and the qualities of each! Thank you for such a beautiful explanation.


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