the Montessori Method,
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
We have found that a breathing rhythm in learning
requires there be times for:
- 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;
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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