3 Alternative Education Styles Your Nanny Can Draw Upon to Add Value To Your Child’s Education Experience
Montessori, Waldorf/Steiner, Reggio
No matter what stage of education your children are at – whether they’re in a conventional school, home-schooling or “unschooling”, or not yet ready for school – here’s a brief introduction to how a nanny or governess can support you in your quest for an enriched education experience.
One of the givens with being parents of babies and young children is that we are constantly faced with the need to make responsible decisions about their lives. Especially their education, both informal and formal.
For the majority of us, when thinking about our child’s educational experience and the opportunities for their future, it’s simple enough to say that we just want the best for our children. (I mean, maybe we’re secretly hoping they’ll grow up and join NASA. Or win the Nobel prize right?
But mostly, we really want them to be happy.) We want their interests nurtured. For them to feel comfortable in the setting. And for them to be respected as the individual learner they are.
For many of us, this will mean we turn to the conventional schooling system (because that’s what’s always been done), and it might then be a decision between public or private. A nanny can support the educational process before and after school time.
For a growing number of parents, like Jemma and her family, it will be the home education or ‘un-schooling’ pathway. We are proud advocates for home education and the growing ‘unschooling’ movement in the UK. (And here’s everything you need to know about home education), which can also be supported by a nanny or governess.
Alternative schooling is becoming more popular in the UK, with parents choosing to send their children to an “alternative” school, like Montessori, Reggio or Steiner. In this article, we introduce those three most well-known options.
And then some parents we work with choose a blend of alternative education philosophies, with the aid of a nanny or governess, as an adjunct to sending their children to a conventional school or home schooling.
We’re finding it’s this fourth option that is becoming increasingly appealing to families with young children.
So here’s a look at three of the more widely known alternative education styles: Montessori, Waldorf/Steiner, and Reggio.
These styles, or philosophies, offer you a less conventional pathway. They are considered to give a more personal educational experience for your child. And often they can provide a more tailored approach for the uniqueness of each individual student, when you feel as though your child may not wholeheartedly benefit (in mind, body, or soul) in normal schools.
Alternative schooling options have been around for quite a while now and studies show students thrive in them.
Whilst these three philosophies vary in their approach, they share a commonality too. Each champion the importance of respect for the child, and their inherent capacity to dictate their own individual learning journey.
What we’d like to highlight, is that your experience with these philosophies can also be extended in the home environment, with the support of a nanny or governess.
The Montessori philosophy & how your nanny can introduce that during her time with your children
The most common alternative education style, certainly with many of our nannies here at Happy Nest, is Montessori. Montessori, founded by Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational philosophy where teachers serve as guides to each child’s educational progress.
During her research, Montessori saw that children learn best by doing, and that happy self-motivated learners form positive images of themselves as confident successful people. Therefore, the premise of the Montessori approach is to emphasise the value in allowing children to engage in independent, self-led activity within a safe and respectful environment.
This means that children are given the benefit of choice, and are permitted to learn at their own pace. They do this according to their natural interests, without direction, interference or corrective action (whether that be from the teacher, parent, guardian, or nanny). And ultimately, it’s believed this freedom prepares them to become independent, self-assured learners.
To use the principles of the Montessori method within your home, it could be as simple as offering a play environment that will stimulate the natural interests of your child. For example, your nanny might create a safe “yes” area within your back garden that allows your highly curious and adventurous 3-year-old to independently collect sticks and leaves. The Montessori theory is that by doing this activity, he’s naturally extending his learning experience and exploring numbers and counting and other life skills in a setting that feels harmonious to his curiosity and pace of development.
A Montessori trained nanny in the home will highly value independent self-led play, and be actively engaged in facilitating the child’s natural learning and development process without directing it.
Montessori is for parents who want their child to acquire leadership skills and independence in a multi-age setting.
Understanding the Waldorf/Steiner philosophy
Although less well known than the Montessori education philosophy, Waldorf is an alternative education system which focuses on the holistic development of a child. Similar to the Montessori method, the philosophy advocates a play-based approach to education. Where it differs however, is that academic subjects are not introduced to children until a much later age than Montessori.
Founded by Rudolph Steiner in the early 1900s, the philosophy is viewed less as an educational system and more of an art form – the art of awakening what is actually there within the human being. Steiner believed that children learn best when encouraged to use their imagination. He argued that education has to take into account physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual aspects of each child.
Waldorf teachers see education not as a competition between students (appealing to all those who oppose standardised testing) but as a way for students to learn when they are ready. ‘The right thing at the right time’ approach is used, and the focus is to let children play, to use storytelling as a conduit to process ideas and concepts, to connect with nature, and to make way for art.
It’s this last premise that’s probably the most crucial to you, your children, and your nanny within the home setting. When we make way for art, we allow unstructured moments to happen and creativity to take place. And it’s believed that this child-led process is where true learning happens.
Just like with the Montessori approach, to adopt the Waldorf/Steiner principles in the home, your nanny will emphasise the importance of self-directed play. Your nanny will likely have a love for arts and crafts, musical expression, and creative play. And in turn, you’ll no doubt find your children will uncover their own artistic appreciation too.
You can easily adopt the Steiner philosophy in the home by reaching for open-ended toys and natural materials collected from your immediate environment (cardboard, pine cones, and sticks are obvious choices). As with Montessori, it’s thought that an organised area where everything has its own basket or place, creates a space where children can develop greater creativity.
Waldorf is for parents who want their children to develop individualism in a cooperative, creative, and routine based setting.
The Reggio Emilia Principles for Preschool
You might be surprised to learn that the Reggio approach is already commonly used in the preschool and kindergarten classroom system. Originated in Italy, it’s based on the belief that children have unique interests, and teachers should serve as mentors who recognise these interests and facilitate learning along each child’s individual path.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy values the child as central to their own learning, not simply an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. This thought process enables the child to have a direct influence on their learning process. And therefore, the progression of the lesson (and also the overall curriculum) will adapt in sync with the child’s natural interest and activity.
Using the Reggio Emilia approach, lessons are tailored to meet the interest of the child. And are usually project based. You’ll find these projects are teacher framed (the teacher will collaborate on materials etc), and carried out as group work between the children.
Reggio Emilia programs often document what children do by way of photos, videos, and written observations. And if your child has been exposed to a formal nursery setting, you will likely already have encountered this approach.
Reggio Emilia is for parents who want their child to be a good citizen who knows how to cooperate and resolve conflicts with others.
So how can alternative education philosophies benefit your child?
As we circle back to the desire to provide our children with an education that gives them the tools they need to succeed (and be happy!) in life, it’s the opportunity for individualised learning that’s perhaps most appealing about these alternative education styles.
We know that children develop their core self during these early years, so the argument for individualised learning that is child-led and one that supports the child’s natural interests is most crucial.
The benefit to these principles is that you’re not restricted to an all or nothing decision. If you want to explore ways to nurture your child’s learning, in a way that supports them in their natural stage of development, then you’ve got the possibility of supplementing conventional schooling with these practices.
Now as you’re reading this, you might have more questions than answers. And for those who’ve only had exposure to “conventional” schooling, these options can be a bit of head spin. One common misconception to these approaches is the worry that it might be a convenient way to hide ‘laziness’ or ‘apathy’ in your nanny or teacher.
Let us be the first to quash this notion!
Yes, these approaches champion child-led activity. However you’ll find this kind of independent, self-directed activity requires a great deal of observation and extended pre-planning from the nanny or governess.
A nanny using any of these education styles to foster natural learning, or a governess drawing upon these philosophies as a teaching approach to aid more “formal” learning outcomes, will take an active role in observing. And in doing so, they’ll continuously create new ‘invitations to play’ and learn that are appropriate to your child’s level of interest and mental development.
The thing I think so many people get stumped on with selecting education styles is deciding which to choose and when to make it happen. But if you’re finding you just can’t get on board with the current system, or if you’re not keen on following a conventional setting, it’s time to look at alternative options–such as these.
Non-conventional schooling isn’t necessarily for everyone or every age. Different philosophies allow children to grow and learn in other ways beyond academics.
We hope you find this introduction an inspiration to learn more about the wonderful choices we have for educating and taking care of the growth of our children–whether they’re still babies with nannies or approaching the ‘school readiness’ age.
>> So far, which approach do you think resonates best with you? And have you experienced any of these before?