As I’ve been thinking about this “sweet spot” where Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia meet, I’ve been trying to pull out where exactly those intersectionalities occur. This is, undoubtedly, a partial list, but it’s what I am able to come up with in the noisy lobby of my kids’ arts school.
- The aesthetic. Let’s face it, this is the first thing people tend to notice about all three of these “lifestyles” (if there is such a thing). Natural materials, muted colors, an ethereal glow. Toys are often handmade with love and knowledge of the child and are imbued with meaning. Toys tend are beautiful, open-ended, and multi-purpose.
- Simplicity. I see this in all three methodologies. Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio classrooms tend to be uncluttered. It’s better to have one or two very loved dolls than a whole nursery full of dolls that are thrown in a corner. Furnishings and linens are simple and, if adorned at all, tend to have handmade details. You are more likely to see a basket full of smooth, interesting rocks than a complicated toy with many parts.
- Accessibility. Children are shown how to carefully and mindfully use materials and are given full access to them. There is a trust that children are capable of using materials with care and purpose. The use of items are demonstrated with intention.
- Freedom within structure. Rhythms and routines are emphasized and children are shown that their worlds are predictable. And yet within this predictability, they are still given the chance to make choices. Each method has its own rhythms, routines, and rituals as well as its own way of presenting choices to children, but it’s still a prevailing theme.
- Respect and reverence. Children and childhood is cherished and honored. The grown ups acknowledge and honor the various ages and stages (although again, each method understands these in their own unique way).
There are more, of course, but these were my Saturday “in between lessons” thoughts.
Where do you see the commonalities between Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia? Are there any irreconcilable differences? And what do you do when the methods bump up against one another?