Enki Education, Waldorf Education, and the Montessori Method

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Waldorf Education, the Montessori Method, and Enki – similarities and differences

Our approach starts with the belief that there both is wisdom and genuine care in all approaches to teaching. As a result, we are informed by and have threads of many approaches as each applied to both homeschoooling and classroom learning. Waldorf Homeschooling and education and Montessori as applied to both homeschool and classroom are certainly among those at the top of the list. Why? Because although on a practical level in many ways they are polar opposite approaches, both are focused on the education as a way to nourish the whole child. Both seek to bring him to become all he can be, including body, heart, mind, and spirit. We share that goal.

But we are also very different.

One key way we are unique grows out of our belief that all aspects of education need to work with the breathing rhythms of learning – including the rhythm of learning formats. Simply put, just as our physical breathing requires an in-out-rest cycle, so too the children need to feel this in their learning. Waldorf education works nearly exclusively with the large group/teacher directed learning. Waldorf homeschooling has more flexibility, but adult directed learning is still the core. Montessori works almost exclusively with individually driven and independent learning – whether at home or in the classroom. In both classroom and homeschool programs, we work with both of these and more.

We have found that a breathing rhythm in learning requires there be times for:

  1. Adult led learning as is done in Waldorf homeschooling programs such as Live Education and Oak Meadow and in Waldorf classrooms, is the beginning and ground of each day in an Enki program;
  2. Time for individual pursuits which is the center of Montessori programs, is included in short stretches daily and for longer periods several times a week in the Enki classroom homeschool curriculum;
  3. Cooperative project learning – peer or family directed – which is the center of theme studies programs, is part of each week in an Enki program.

These three different types of learning are woven together differently at different ages, always with healthy rhythm and the integration of body, heart and mind as our central goal.

In the Junior High School, peer group decision making and work are the heart of the program because we feel the central developmental task for this age is the forming of healthy peer community. We can all see that preadolescents desperately seek to do this. In the Enki approach we empower them to do this in a healthy way. This need for peer work does pose special challenges for the Homeschool, but attention to this need also gives rise to creative and wonderful solutions.

In our High school plan this rhythm expands, as do the children, to include apprenticeships in the larger community – again developmentally we feel this is the natural rhythmic step. In the Homeschool this is quite readily accomplished – more easily than it Is in the classroom setting.

Another significant difference between the methods (though this does not apply to either Enki or Waldorf homeschooling), is that in the school setting we work with partner teaching. On a blueprint level (adapted to financial constraints) two teachers carry a class for the first five years, with a new team coming in for the junior high years. Sometimes they work alone, sometimes together – but both teachers carry the class.

This is VERY different from having special subject teachers and does not happen in Waldorf education for complex reasons having to do with Steiner’s insights regarding the development of the ego body. We feel that these reasons may have been compelling in Europe of 1920, but the world has changed a lot. First of all, today children rarely get to see adults working together, so they have no models for doing this. For the most part, the lucky ones experience tag-team parenting. Very few actually live in a team situation with real and respectful working together as a model. We feel this leaves a critical hole in their experience. Second, children need more from teachers now as the family and community disintegrate at an alarming rate. It is unrealistic to ask one person to carry this, for both the teachers’ own health and for the children, who today bond at a deeper level because of unmet needs. We also feel that a fresher perspective is arrived at by two adults.

In the Homeschool curriculum the children have the experience of a stable home, but still the need to see adults working together constructively remains an important one. In the Enki approach to homeschooling we work with the rhythms of the day to include family chores done all together, and family times which include sharing a taste of the days work. Together, these support the sense of working together as a family and offer the child a chance to learn about relating to adults through the modeling provided by the parents – is no greater teacher. While are varying views on this in Waldorf circles, it is also a focus for several of the Waldorf homeschooling programs on the market – Christopherus being one.

Enki also views the role of the adult differently from Montessori. In Montessori the adult is viewed as a facilitator who sets up a learning environment and then stays out of the way so the children’s owning impulse to learn is supported. In Enki we also see this as a very important aspect of learning and growing and great attention is given to the environment and to opportunities for self-directed learning. But from the Enki perspective, we also feel the adult must sit as a respected elder, opening the doors to a vast and rich world the child could not know without her. This is not just a world of facts and figures, but a world of imagination and creativity that can take us beyond the confines of the material world and factual understanding.

And, most importantly, as adults we stand as models of the child’s potential, and as inspiration for what lies ahead. If we do not offer the children a proud and rich example of what lies ahead, what have we told them about the value of growing and learning?

This view of the adult’s role also leads to a difference in both the content and the role of story in the curriculum. This is a place where Enki and both Waldorf homeschooling and classroom teaching are in agreement. We see story as a way that the adult can bring the children an experience not only of worlds beyond their reach, but also worlds that are well within their experience but are less tangible (emotions, energies, dreams, etc.) For both Enki and Waldorf, this makes story central to the curriculum and includes not only history and biography (which are also part of Montessori) but also myth, fantasy, and the like).

There are many other aspects unique to our approach, many of which center around our nonhierarchical multiculturalism. The role of the adult is an area of real difference between Waldorf, Montessori, and Enki, and is discussed in the article “The Soup of Wellbeing” on this site, and in the files section of our parent discussion site – the Enki Experience.

All told, Enki is inspired and informed by the Montessori Method, Waldorf Homeschooling and classroom education, and many others, but Enki is Enki. We hope that through this site, the Enki Experience site, our books and videos, and attendance at our programs, you will have a chance to get to know this unique and innovative approach.