Books about School and Schooling

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Waldorf books?

March 2009

Hey does anyone know where to get Waldorf books? for parents & kiddos? I found Liputto online after a bit of a search and am just wondering if anyone knows of any bookstores that carry similar books, used would be awesome. Thanks! julie

the ark toystore on 4th st. has some, new and expensive, as many are printed in Europe. also you may find some at libraries and/or special order from other libaries within the system. anon

Books about different educational philosophies

October 2001

I am seeking a good lay person's book (or several) that explains/compares different theories of elementary school education. I'd like a clear understanding of the differences between Waldorf/Montessori/other private approaches, etc. What is the difference between developmental education vs. academic? Are there other labels I should know? Also, does anyone have any advice about how to evaluate a public elementary school (other than test scores)? Thanks. Sarah

There are many wonderful resources for picking schools on the Neighborhood Parents Network web site at including a Guide to Selected Informations Sources that includes books of this sort. Good luck! Sima Sima

My son (turning 2) will be starting at a Montessori school (A Child's World - actually goes through 6th grade) next month. One book that I found to be an excellent explanation of the Montessori system is called Montessori A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard (1972, Schocken Books). I am currently working on The Montessori Controversy, by John Chattin-McNichols (1998, Delmar Publishers). I am only about 1/4 way through; it is a textbook so not as interesting a read (and a lot more expensive than the other), but seems to also have some good information. One chapter specifically discusses the Montessori model and curriculum for the elementary classroom. I got both books from A note: Maria Montessori never legally protected her method (from an intellectual property standpoint), so any school can call itself Montessori, and there is a big variety between those that do, so consider that when you go from book to actually visiting any program. Tracy Tilin

One of my favorite books on education for children is _Summerhill School, A New View of Childhood_ by A. S. Neill. Summerhill is a 75-year-old free/democratic school in England. There are several similar schools in the U.S. The book won't compare and contrast Waldorf/Montessori approaches, but it is an excellent springboard for thinking about education in general. A good resource for all kinds of alternative education is the Alternative Education Resource Organization, AERO. They have a website: which has many useful links for parents trying to sort out what kind of education will be best for their child. Best of luck, Anne

I remember desperately wanting just what you asked for - a guide book to explain all these educational philosophies clearly. I never found the perfect book, but here are some resources: Check out the the Neighborhood Parents Network (, which offers panel discussions with parents from various East Bay independent schools (one coming up on October 20). This a good opportunity to hear a jargon-free presentation of different educational philosophies. You might try to locate a copy of The Parents Guide to Alternatives in Education by Ronald Koetzsch, which describes the philosophy and methodology of schools with many different approaches to early childhood education such as Montessori, Waldorf, home schooling, various schools by religion, and Holistic schools. Keep in mind that understanding a single label, such as Montessori or academic or progressive probably won't give you as much information as you really need - there are different flavors of Montessori, varying approaches to progressive education, and the word academic can mean just about anything! Many schools incorporate aspects of a variety of approaches. For example, my daughter's school, Windrush, while most strongly identified with the progressive tradition (John Dewey, Reggio Emilia school), also incorporates the cognitive work of Piaget, Elkind, and Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), as well as the Humanist Tradition of places such as Bank Street School, and aspects of Montessori approaches. Our faculty are continuously reviewing research in education in order to revise and improve their teaching methods. So how can you keep up? Well, short of getting a degree in education and reading the works of Piaget, Skinner, Dewey, Holt, Steiner, etc., your best bet is to read, really read, the materials from each school you visit, and also ask, when you visit, at least this simple question: What is your philosophy about how children learn? And then follow up by asking for examples of how they teach particular subjects at different grade levels. Hopefully you'll get some concrete examples that will make sense. And be sure you find some real live parents at the school who can also enlighten you by explaining things in layperson's terms. (If you don't know anyone there, ask the admissions director for names.) You might also try reading the following: Good luck! Natasha

Check out NPN's website at Natasha Beery's articles are particularly helpful, and there is a good listing of other resources. Lysa