Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Waldorf Education - Every parent should consider this

(Copied from a facebook post I wrote:)

"...to provide an education that enables children to become free human beings, and to help children to incarnate their 'unfolding spiritual identity', carried from the preceding spiritual existence, as beings of body, soul, and spirit in this lifetime." (From the Wikipedia page, about the holistic philosophy of Waldorf.)
I would like to share my impressions from my visit in all the classrooms at a Waldorf school this past week.
(In Israel Waldorf education is called Anthroposophic אנתרופוסופי, but it is essentially the same.)
In each classroom that I entered, I saw teachers talking quietly to attentive children. The classrooms are spacious, lit, and furnished with natural wood materials. The lower grades have high ceilings, large windows, pastel-colored window curtains, and handkerchiefs hanging over wooden structures against one of the walls which is their free-play area. In one fairy-land (that's how it made me feel) that I entered, the children were in a circle, chanting or playing a game led by the teacher, who sat with them in the circle and led the game in a soft voice. Another of the younger grades was sitting around a table, eating soup and bread they had baked the day before. The teacher was sitting at the head of the table, holding a fairy doll, telling a story or chanting a prayer before the food, again - is such a patient and lulling voice. No urgency. No anger. One child was not at the table, he was in the kitchen area, not wanting to participate. The teachers did not scold him (as would most likely happen in a regular school).
In another room, young children were in transition - from outdoors to indoors - getting their indoor clothing on again, comfy clothes. Transitions are a part of the routine. There is a lot of patience for transition. There is no need to hurry.
Another class was in the movement room, having their Eurythmy movement lesson, while their movements corresponded with a story the dancer-teacher was telling.
In the older grades the students were sitting behind pretty light-wooden desks, with each child's name written by her/him on the front of the desk. On the walls of the classrooms (instead of the regular brightly-colored posters in regular schools) was artwork by the students and teachers made out of natural materials. When I entered one of the classrooms, one of the students was in the middle of telling about some beautiful nature she saw on a family trip in Utah.
I don't know if I am able to really capture the gist of it in these words. My impression was that I had entered a safe and gentle space where children can be creative and can learn from teachers who sing songs and tell stories, from teachers who listen as well as talk, who don't try to squeeze a thousand words a minute in order to transfer as much information to kids as possible. (From teachers who are actually fairies perhaps?)
Every child knows the routine and structure.
Free playtime and imagination are sacred.
Kindness and gentleness are the way.
To read more about Waldorf education:
*On another occasion I was at that same school for a weekly assembly, each week led by a different grade, for the whole school and for parents (and friends, like me).
The way that assemblies work in this school is that every adult and student who enters the hall takes a chair for herself from the stacked chairs outside, and when the assembly is over everyone returns her chair to the stack. I thought this was genius. So simple and so sensical. Instead of having a third party come and set up chairs ahead of time, you have every person take responsibility for herself.

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