Else Gottgens wrote about her experience in observing many Waldorf classrooms in Chapter Three of our book, “Waldorf Education in Practice”.
“So, as a mentor, what did I see in too many classes where I was asked to observe?
And then, 20 minutes later: Mayhem!”
The mayhem often began with “circle”. “Circle” , in the grades, is supposed to be a warm-up. In Else Gottgens’ mind, many of the exercises, such as singing, reciting, finger plays, etc, actually can be done better behind the desk, facing the teacher!
The author then wrote about including exercises that make the children conscious of their feet and legs and finger games, speech and singing, concentration exercises for listening, and exercises to nourish the Twelve Senses. She debunked the notion that circle is a music lesson, a gym lesson, a speech lesson, a flute lesson and/or a math lesson all in one. In fact, she wrote: “The children should be moving a lot more during other parts of the Main Lesson.” This is for grades one through three, and very important! Imitation as a force in the early grades is waning, albeit a large part of children until the nine year change, but authority comes to the fore in this period of childhood development. The teacher no longer has to demonstrate and do everything with the child, but show the child and sometimes join in and sometimes step back and observe the child!
Now, this can be much more difficult in the home environment because there is not a group to hold the child if you step back as the teacher, but it is worth noting. When do you as a homeschool teacher, really observe your child? How do you deal with “warming-up” in the morning? Is it a warm-up, is it fun, or is it boring and your child dreads it?
Chapter Four – “Willingly Working and Greedily Learning”
How do children want to greedily learn in Waldorf Education? In Waldorf homeschooling?
By having a teacher who is enthusiastic about the subjects. By having a teacher who has pondered. Else Gottgens has laid out seven essentials to entice children to work and learn in this chapter. I highly advise that you read these and incorporate them into your own work in teaching.
- Images – children think in pictorial image (mainly) all the way up until age 13 or 14.
- The Night – use of sleep. Great examples in this section!
- Teach Something New Every Day
- Temperaments (we practice differentiating our way of teaching each day)
- Has Every Child Made An Effort Today? And if they haven’t, we need to look at our own preparation first – is the work too easy or too hard for them? Or are there other reasons?
- Getting the Children to Laugh –” Every lesson where the children never laughed is a lost lesson.”
“Many people spend most of their time on what to teach. However, particularly in the lower classes, that is not the main issue. It is the how that matter by far the most.
These little chapters give so much for us to think about! If you are reading along, I would love to hear what you think about these chapters.