From Reading To Action: “Waldorf Education in Practice”

Chapter XI talks about how “image” is the heart of Waldorf Education in practice. For the seven to fourteen year old child IMAGE is the most powerful and important tool for education.  We use images to help children grow towards a fruitful and responsible adulthood, and it all begins with images.

A good image brings forth the senses; doing this search for an image and a story to go with that image is great and important work for the teacher.  We must learn to listen to our sense impressions.  We must learn how to pick images and use them.  We often do this through the idea of polarities.  The author gives the example of choosing plants that are polar opposites – rose and lily, holly and ivy, and see what arises in doing exercises with those images.

In the seven to fourteen year old we are looking to develop memory, the power of discernment (not judgment but discernment), habits, how to deal with urges, balanced use of one’s temperament and many other areas.  What we do in Waldorf Education is to help lay a healthy foundation for an adult life in these areas.    The children also need to acquire academic skills by the end of this phase – by the age of 14.

This is such an interesting chapter that really gets to the heart of Waldorf Education in both the school and home settings.  Such important things to think about as we plan for next school year.  I wish this chapter had been longer and held more examples!

Chapter XII is about “Story Telling”.  We often work over the summer holidays to learn stories for the following school year.  We read, sleep on them and re-read and sleep again…we let it lie and rest and then see what we can bring forth to the children.  We can prepare the night before for the story we are bringing the next day.  Often we can do this through the idea of images (again, that concept!).  This chapter also talks about going deeper: what do the images of the story mean and hold for the children?

For small children below school age, we tell the same story day by day with the same  words.  The author gives a great example of “judgments” in a story versus telling with pictures.

There is a good checklist on page 107 regarding what to think about when you cannot hold a child’s attention with a story and some suggestions for how to start a story based upon the temperament of the child/class.  Also, some great reminders about clear speech.  We, as teachers, should be doing speech exercises.  There are also suggestions for “Saints and Beasts:  the peaceful battle”  for second grade and suggestions for third grade when we are in-between image and history.  If you read the section on Third Grade, you may find it important to end your Old Testament stories with Elijah, where the small, still voice is now inside of us.

The last chapter is about teaching a foreign language.  We will dive into that next week and then move into the book, “Lifeways”.


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