Enki Education - www.enkieducation.org
  Monthly Q & A
  What does Enki have in common with approaches like Waldorf and Montessori?

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. Waldorf and Montessori are certainly at the top of the list. Why? Because, although on a practical level they are in many ways 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, Montessori with individually driven and independent learning. We work with both of these and more. 

We have found that a breathing rhythm in learning requires there be times for large group learning as is done in Waldorf Schools, and is the beginning and ground of each day at an Enki school; and time for individual pursuits which is the center of Montessori programs and is included several times a week in Enki schools; and time for peer directed projects and discoveries, which are the center of theme studies programs and part of each week at an Enki school. These 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. In High school this rhythm expands, as do the children, to include apprenticeships in the larger community - again developmentally we feel this is the natural rhythmic step. 

Another significant difference is that 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 carry the class. This is VERY different from having special subject teachers and does not happen in Waldorf schools 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, both for the teachers' own health and for the children, who bond at a deeper level because of unmet needs. We also feel that a fresher perspective is arrived at by two. 

We also see the role of the teacher quite differently from the Montessori schools. In Montessori schools the teacher is seen as a facilitator who offers certain experiences through the activities and materials that are presented. The Montessori teacher certainly directs her class, but it is done indirectly. From there the child's work is self-directed, as self direction is seen as the key to learning in the Montessori approach. 

While we do feel that self-direction is an important component of the child's life at all ages, we do not feel it is the whole picture. Our experience, which has been echoed by other teachers and parents, is that children raised in a heavily self-directed model lose the sense that the adult has something to offer. They begin to feel that they must generate everything and lose some of the open interest in the world and the adult. 

We feel the teacher's most important job is that of acting as a model, someone worthy of emulating, someone who gives the children an experience of adulthood to which they would like to aspire. In the Enki approach we view the teacher as having the ultimate responsibility to guide the children through many different venues. This is the place where the three rhythms described above, also call out three very different roles for the teacher. Our teachers sometimes act as facilitators, setting up environments and standing back to let the children find their own way. And they sometimes act as leaders, openly modeling their own wisdom and creativity. But no matter what role they are taking they strive to serve as a supple container that directs when directing is needed, facilitates when facilitation is needed, and leads when leading is needed - always making their decisions in service of the child's overall well-being, his integration of body, heart and mind.

Other aspects of how we are unique, many of which center around our non-hierarchical multiculturalism, are discussed in the article "The Soup of Well-being" (see Articles on the main menu).


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