Montessori & Waldorf in the Minimalist Home

First of all, Waldorf appeals to my love of Nature and Rhythms, especially as both a Natural Therapist and Astrologer! Montessori makes so much sense to me, especially as a Feng Shui practitioner, given I have such a great respect for the environment and our personal space at home. This is another reason that I am so minimal as an Essentialist. I believe our environment is a huge influence over our lives. I am certain of that!

So, as a mother, I was naturally drawn to natural home birth and that extended to Attachment Parenting philosophies, with the abundant research to back up the basic human survival needs of being held, close and having a loving touch. This is where I chose principles of attachment parenting over RIE. Otherwise, I love RIE and follow this approach in my relationship with my daughter, and feel it’s done wonders for us. I believe we all need to take only that which resonates with us from each “style” of parenting or whatever it may be. Just like Bruce Lee said.  Styles separate man.

He was an amazing philosopher, not just a master of Martial Arts. So, to return to my personally developed “Way” of parenting…I wanted to share my purpose behind blending Montessori and Waldorf when it comes to parenting. There was a question in a Waldorf Parenting group I am in recently that asked how does one remain minimal while being a Steiner / Waldorf home.

My suggestion of blending Waldorf and Montessori came with an interest. I have even been discussing this recently with friends at my Gentle Parenting and Mother Nature Playgroups, which has brought me to write this post. How I personally do it…I take my favourite aspects of each and leave the rest, just as I did with earlier stages of parenting.

Where RIE (Respectful Infant Educaring) or (Resources for Infant Educaring) says Elimination Communication is advised against, I feel that it is in fact more natural than depending on nappies. We recently went completely nappy free, after realising that toilet cues were no more “work” than hunger or tired cues, that parents can learn to help their children and babies be more comfortable.

My approach to blending Waldorf and Montessori is actually quite simple. I am minimal, so I love the seasonal focus of Waldorf education. I now select a few books each season so that my little girl’s shelves are kept clear of clutter. She has a nice little library which is kept above her reach on a higher (safe) shelf. I do this so as not to overwhelm her. I also now have a nice little shelf which is my daughters “nature table” from the Waldorf education / parenting approach.

This is a great way for little children to learn about the cycles and seasons of nature. We now collect nature on our walks and we place a couple of centre pieces both on our dining table to admire and on her shelves. In terms of our lifestyle, we do lots of baking together which blends the best of both Waldorf and Montessori together. While Montessori instills responsibility, learning and independence in small children with life skills, Waldorf has a love of nature and nurturing such as cooking and gardening. My daughter loves spending time in our big vegie garden too!

While we bake, I encourage my little girl to get as involved as she wishes. I do follow her lead with plenty of uninterrupted independent play. As in the R.I.E philosophy, I believe this is an important part of child development. My daughter loves to help! She stands on her step (learning tower) and mixes as we blend all of the ingredients, learning as we go. She knows her food really well and I love that! She comes shopping with me, and has a great knowledge of what everything is. So many children miss out on that. But it’s something we love doing together.

In terms of her space, we have a place for everything and being a minimalist home, we pack up as we go, which is very “Montessori” to respect your belongings and space, and instill responsibility. This is a great way to teach discipline without it being a negative experience. I don’t do discipline, punishment or rewards and my little girl has a beautifully confident and gentle nature!

The “discipline” I do practice however is that of teaching and guiding my daughter in the value of what we appreciate and care for in our space. It’s more of an imparting of appreciation. I believe strongly in the RIE philosophy of slowing down with children and not rushing. I feel this is the best way to implement such a blend.

It would be near impossible to teach such “respect” and be as respectful as we need to be, in order to instill respect and strong healthy relationships if we were always rushing. It would also make it difficult to remain tidy and teach by example that we pack up when we are done before moving onto a different activity.

So, as I said, it’s simple. Keep toys and belongings minimal, beautiful and of natural materials. It’s a great way to keep toxic chemicals away from children by keeping clear of plastics (as much as possible). Choosing home made toys is also a beautiful way to teach an appreciation of things. In my eyes, it’s the best way to avoid the trap of a disposable lifestyle and attitude in our children that everything is replaceable. Because in truth, it’s very damaging on the environment. And that’s one thing that is important to me.