Did you ever get the feeling that Waldorf homeschoolers or Waldorf families in general lose the forest for the trees sometimes? Or that their lives and their children must be absolutely perfect because they have this perfect rhythm in this perfectly peaceful home where every object has a place and there are only natural toys where everyone goes about singing all day long like Maria Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”?
Here is my idea, and see what you all think:
I think Waldorf Education is for everyone. I think even if you do not agree one hundred percent with what Steiner wrote, elements of Waldorf Education can still work for you and your family. I still think Steiner was an amazing observer of children, and so many of the ways he thought to bring life and morals and yes, education to children in a school setting was incredible! Many of his simple observations of children match with what Gesell, Piaget and other child psychologists have also noted in child development. This curriculum is possibly the best match for what Gesell and Piaget thought.
Interestingly enough, in his book, “The Therapeutic Eye: How Rudolf Steiner Observed Children”, Peter Selg writes, “At the Stuttgart teachers’ meetings, Rudolf Steiner would never be abstract, let alone moralistic.” In another few pages, he quotes Caroline von Heydebrand ( a teacher) as saying that “Rudolf Steiner was someone “whose wise insight was exceeded only by his kindness.” He asked teachers to approach students from a point of love that came from the deepest knowledge of the developing human being.
In the first seven years, we work to protect a child’s senses, to develop a child’s imagination, to work with the child’s impulses and will through movement and fantasy and through the child’s body. Why then, do so many people turn the first seven years into a list of “Can Not’s” and “Should Not’s”?
I suggest that these people are looking at the first seven years in Waldorf from a negative perspective; the things Waldorf “won’t let my child do” as opposed to what will best nurture and develop the child in the first seven years. I have worked with so many children over the years from premature infants up until age twenty-one, in intensive care units, in outpatient facilities, in the home, in breastfeeding clinics, in support groups. I have worked with children with special needs, children with physical challenges, children with emotional and mental challenges. I have observed so many children over the years. We are all human beings. These children, all of them, would have benefitted from the indications we follow in the first seven years in Waldorf Education. I feel strongly about Waldorf Education precisely because of my experience and observations.
Do not use Waldorf as an excuse to suck the joy out of your family life nor to put down the people around you because they do things differently. Be a light, and a kind light, for those around you. Perhaps your example, without any words at all, will be powerful to them on their journey. They are doing the best they can with the information they have at this moment. And if they are not really thinking, oh dear, that is unfortunate for the children. But not everyone is interested in being a mindful parent. And even mindful parents have differences of opinions!
Have joy, keep the very big picture in mind as to what is important – rest, rhythm, outside time, fostering the imagination through music and stories and puppetry, movement, protecting the senses, giving the child a sense of goodness and security in the family and home and the world. That is the bottom line. It is not that television is evil or that computers are evil or that if your child looks through a magnifying glass before they are nine they are going to die or if they teach themselves to read they are going to be damaged!
It is, though, about what you as a family make as a priority, how you live consistently, how the younger your child is the more protection of their senses that they need, and how you do need to make some hard choices about what to wait on and what to start now. As a society we tend to offer the small child everything in one giant lump at an early age and dump it on them – “Here you go! You are six, right? Here is Teddy Roosevelt and World War II and Irag and a microscope and a computer and the Internet and oh! don’t forget your cell phone and here, you can watch that movie, no problem and sure, Harry Potter is fine, enjoy the last book especially! Want to earn some money? Better get on that fast track now! Here’s your list of classes and sports and school activities!”
I should hope that even without Waldorf Education, we would figure out that a six- year- old is not the same person as a sixteen –year old and that some things should come later rather than earlier. I would hope we would stop and ask ourselves if our child really does need to know that, to do that, to be talked to in that way at that age and to stop and think. What we say and what we do makes our child’s world and their reality. Think about what kind of world and reality you want it to be!
The world will open up; the right thing at the right time.
Waldorf Education is for real parents and for real people. People who have a sense of humor and love and delight in the child. Are you one of those kinds of people?