Both Steiner and Montessori discovered the following constant and objective truths about the development of the human child.
1) The child is an active learner, not an empty vessel; learning only occurs when and to the extent that a child is actively engaged with the process and is given the opportunity to link new knowledge securely with what has already been learned.
2) Hence children need to be free to choose which materials they work with
3) children under 6 are capable of learning and understanding a great deal but their development can easily be stunted by limiting adult expectations
4) children do not learn primarily through analysis but by doing, by touching, by moving, by engaging all of their senses, smell, sight, hearing taste and through music and rhythm; these are not additional “subjects “ to be studied but an integral part of the learning process; they need real tools and objects which they can touch hold and use for the purpose of developing specific skills
5) These objects need to be made to scale and from beautiful natural materials, so that they are a pleasure to work with
6) Its not possessing an object that is important but rather, the work that you can do with it. Both philosophies work to mitigate the materialism of our age.
7) Children should be shown that learning is its own joy; children learn to, for example, make bread, because it is intrinsically fun and because it gives them control over their own lives, not because they will get a sticker. Rewards can be very counter-productive.
8) children need to be free to move around while they are learning; forcing them to sit at a desk frustrates them and obstructs their learning
9) the wider environment also needs to be made to scale (small chairs, tables, cloths), to be aesthetically pleasing, “the best of the best” as Maria Montessori commented and to be kept in meticulous order with damaged or incomplete items being repaired or replaced at once.
10) The children need a routine and a structure; repetition and rhythm are very important to them.
11) Rote-learning is an important, although not predominant, part of education. It gives the child security and a stable framework on which to hang ideas and impressions. It does not, however need to be dull; generally rote-learning is achieved through rhythm, rhyme and especially, song.
12) care of their environment needs to be part and parcel of their learning
13) Intellectual development arises from these practical sensory experiences, it is not a prerequisite for them. Academic analysis is something a child will spontaneously develop after the event once they have genuinely understood a concept through the senses and through practical experiences; adult academic analysis imposed upon a child before they have engaged with a concept at a practical and personal level can not only prevent the child from understanding the concept but deter him of her from exploring the idea completely.
14) Exposing children to television and computers in the early years of their life is destructive, due not merely to the content of programs, but to the nature of the medium itself and its tendency to put the child into a passive state, in which they cannot learn and from which they find it increasingly difficult to escape. Steiner and Montessori both recognise that if your aim is to give the child a chance of being a competent and creative computer programmer at age 25, you do not set out by sitting them in front of a screen at age 5. Recent research has roundly backed up this approach; (“SFC”)
15) As adults engaging with young children who are learning, we tread upon holy ground; the child is very sensitive in his or her first 6 years to adult expectations, feelings and attitudes; if we are to support their learning and wider development we must first prepare ourselves by shedding our own emotional baggage and preconceptions which are often so limiting, by respecting the child as an active learner and by being sensitive to his or her developmental needs
16) Children need to be with others of different ages rather than being corralled into strictly delineated peer groups. Siblings need each other to develop their full potential.
17) Other children are seen not as rivals to compete with but as companions who will help you learn.
18) “Both Montessori and Waldorf educational methods emphasize the benefits of having a small class size. A study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network (2005), found that classrooms with fewer children in them were more likely to expose children to academic activities.” ( http://sitemaker.umich.edu/nilsen.356/educational_philosophy)
19) Children need to have modelled for them how to behave and how to use the tools and other things on offer; the primary role of the teacher is as guardian of the environment and of the children’s safety and as role model. As Steiner taught; “What a teacher is , is far more important than what he knows” (RSoE) “The child needs an authority in whom he can trust to pronounce what is good, true and beautiful …. The [educator] must believe in what he teaches...What lives in the [educator’s] soul has an effect on the children. Education depends on what the [educator] is, not only only what he says. (RSoEp137)
20) Teaching takes place through positive role modelling; “teaching by teaching” Maria Montessori advised “not by correcting”. If a child is getting something wrong, the approach both methods favour is to provide a positive model of what the child should be doing and only to intervene with a “no!” if safety or respect for others or for the environment are issues.
21) Once they have been shown how to use a certain tool, children need the freedom to explore its use at their own pace and to interpret the use in their own way.
22) Children should not be hurried. At least for some periods during the day they need the time as well as the space to explore things on their own terms.
23) Children need to be outdoors; there is, to quote Billy Connoly, “no such things as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”
24) An appreciation of nature and the seasons is an important part of education.
25) Spirituality is the basis on which all development takes place; spirituality is an integral part of a child’s personality and development and the spiritual informs every aspect of what you do as an educator. .” All subjects should be taught out of a consciousness of this spiritual background and in this sense every lesson is a religious lesson….without religion no person is whole...to deprive children of religious instruction is to only half educate them.(RSoE.p136) “A real educator...must himself be inwardly religious i.e he must experience wonder at the growing child as a divine manifestation,...must have a love for the child and for what he has to do for the child. [The educator] must himself...feel gratitude towards the divine creative powers [and].. needs to be concerned for his own spiritual development. Anything less than this is a sham and the teaching will be ineffective” (RSoE p137).
26) Children are constantly learning on a number of levels at once; spiritual, intellectual, academic, sensory and physical development all go hand in hand; an attempt to artificially separate these strands one from another is constricting and can in fact stunt a child’s development. A genuine educator acknowledges their interconnectedness by providing learning opportunities which encourage integrated physical, spiritual, sensory and intellectual development]