As Amanda Evans and I get ready for our workshop “Protecting Childhood: Waldorf At Home For the First Seven Years” being held in the Greenville SC area February 17 and 18th, we thought it only fitting to re-read the source of so much inspiration: Steiner’s lectures compiled in “The Kingdom of Childhood.”
These lectures were given in August of 1924 in England as part of Steiner’s last trip (he died on March 30, 1925). Christopher Bamford writes in the introduction that Rudolf Steiner always adapted what he had to say to the audience in front of him. These lectures were given to a small group of English educators, and for that reason I find them practical and calling for those of us in English-speaking countries trying to work with Waldorf Education as he tried to adapt his thoughts for that particular audience.
The introduction points out the very unique features of Waldorf Education:
*Subjects are taught in the light of the knowledge of the child (the human being) as having roles to play on both earthly and spiritual planes
*It affirms that a child is an eternal being in the spiritual world before birth and childhood becomes a process of gradually coming down to earth
Teaching methods – In teaching, Steiner felt teachers should observe well, be careful about stressing a child’s intellect before the child would be ready (which he felt would be at adolescence), that the teacher should use the concrete and pictorial as well as wonder and reverence, and that we should teach whole to parts. He also encouraged his audience to form larger schools for England, and for them to be modern and well thought out and able to be “conversant with other contemporary educational ideas. For they were not to be dilettantish.”
Steiner always wanted children educated out of the knowledge of the human being (developmentally appropriate), “in accordance with the demands of life.” He remarked some things were obliged to be placed into the curriculum of the Waldorf Schools because they were demanded to fit into educational models. He felt strongly children should learn the practical arts. Christopher Bamford brings up the example at the end of the introduction that Steiner really wanted a shoemaker in the Waldorf School because it was something so “in accordance with real life.” The idea of being a practical worker was never far from Steiner’s mind.
For homeschoolers working with Steiner’s thoughts, I think we are in a good position as we can connect our children with the daily, practical parts of life and provide the academic levels that best suit our knowledge of human development and how children learn best.