More and more we are seeing a rise in alternative schools, and the meaning of ‘education’ has become relative as there is no one way to educate. The world is quickly changing and schools need to adapt so that they can prepare the student – the individual – for the future.
At the same time, some parents find themselves ‘out-of-kilter’ with public schools and want to look beyond the traditional or ‘mainstream’ way of teaching and learning. Alternative education has become a trend and is growing rapidly around the world. Although Luxembourg city is small, it is possible to find different options for educating your child. Here are some alternative methodologies explained with the relevant school in Luxembourg listed.
What is it?
Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, Waldorf education is a humanistic approach to pedagogy, based on a profound understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Learning is interdisciplinary; integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements. The approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning. Another important concept is the three-fold nature of the human being in which body, soul and spirit are taken into consideration.
In Waldorf education, the idea is to engage the feelings of the child through art, music and rhythm. There are over 900 schools around the world
Waldorf teachers strive to transform education into an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head. One of the goals is to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible and integrated individuals and to help every child fulfil his or her unique destiny.
The central focus for the Waldorf teacher is the development of that essence in every person that is independent of external appearance, by instilling in his/her pupils an understanding of and appreciation for their background and place in the world, not only as members of any specific nation, ethnic group or race, but as members of humanity and world citizens.
Structure and Curriculum
The Waldorf curriculum is broad and comprehensive, structured to respond to the three developmental phases of childhood: from birth to approximately 6 or 7 years, from 7 to 14 years and from 14 to 18 years. Teachers are to provide meaningful support for the child to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content to the children that nourishes healthy growth. Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures.
The Waldorf School of Luxembourg is situated in Limpertsberg and offers education from 4-18 year olds. Founded in 1983, it offers a humanist, non-competitive approach and delivers impressive results in the international baccalaureate (IB) programme. The language of instruction in preschool is Luxembourgish; German in Primary school with English and French introduced early. French is the main language in secondary school and for the IB Diploma.
What is it?
Montessori education, developed by Maria Montessori, is practised in around 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to 18 years old.
Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society.
The Montessori classroom, sometimes called the ‘children’s community’, is a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of the children’s independence and sense of personal empowerment. In this environment, children move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest. Every small child is responsible for their own environment. When they are hungry, they prepare their own snacks and drinks, they go to the bathroom without assistance, and when they make a mess, they help each other clean it up.
Children are encouraged to learn and experience on their own. The teacher’s role in Montessori education is not primarily to impart knowledge – rather to observe the children and pay attention to each child’s needs and provide the stimulus that corresponds to each child’s maturity and interest.
The Montessori Method goes from the concrete to the abstract, which means that many concrete materials are used during the early school years, but the goal is for students to be able to think abstractly.
The main purpose of a Montessori school is to provide carefully planned, stimulating environment which will help the child develop a foundation for creative learning.
More specific goals are
1) to develop a positive attitude toward school;
2) to help each child develop self confidence;
3) Assisting each child in building a habit of concentration;
4) fostering an abiding curiosity;
5) developing habits of initiative and persistence; and
6) fostering inner security and sense of order in the child.
Known as the ‘Cosmic Curriculum’, the Montessori approach is interdisciplinary, as subjects are woven together. The children make connections between the subject areas spontaneously.
During the early years, the curriculum introduces the children to phonetic sounds, and continues with spontaneous reading and grammar activities.
One of the most important tools in Montessori education is working with specialized educational materials, which are selected for each group. Students learn concepts from working with these materials, rather than by direct instruction
Characteristics of a Montessori School:
- Mixed aged classes
- Highly individualized
- Students have their own plan that will guide them in their independent work
- Freedom with responsibility
- An environment without traditional school desks
- Homework uncommon below elementary level
- Critical thinking encouraged
- Many activities contribute towards resolution of conflict
There are a number of Montessori and Montessori-inspirec crèches in Luxembourg, including the well-established chains, L’Enfant Roi (main language – French, with usually German and another language of instruction available) and Sunflower Montessori (English). Other nursery options include:-
For school-age children, there is also the Montessori School of Luxembourg, École Maria Montessori (language of instruction: French and German) for 3-12 year olds and Over the Rainbow school (language of instruction: French and English) which follows a Montessori-based method of teaching.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the search engine Google.com credit their years as Montessori students as a major factor behind their success.
Homeschooling is legal, although not widely practised in Luxembourg.
Education is compulsory from ages 4 to 16 and is governed by the law on education, Loi du 6 février 2009 relative à l’obligation scolaire. Article 9 of the law states ‘Elle peut aussi être dispensée à domicile sous les conditions déterminées par la loi’ and therefore provides the home education option. For more information, please read the conditions set out in the law above, contact your local commune for further information and for details of your local educational inspector. They will set out the path and requirements for Luxembourgish homeschooling.
Do check out www.alliasbl.lu for a personal take on homeschooling here (English)
Take the opportunity to research further the different choices you have and think about your child’s needs and abilities: which approach and environment would be best for your child? Everyone has an opinion or experience of one or another approach, but the important thing to note is that there is no ONE best approach, just one that works best for YOU!