What is Waldorf Education? Books about Waldorf Education
The first Waldorf School was founded in 1919 and although the numbers of schools has been growing worldwide ever since, most people know little about it. I first came across this method of education during my college years in a course on the subject of alternative methods of education. For those not directly involved with Waldorf Education, it is hard to really gain an understanding of what Waldorf is all about in part because it goes very much against the grain of current commercial driven culture. There are however, a number of books that offer a window into this spiritually grounded educational philosophy.
Currently, there are about 1,000 Waldorf schools in 60 countries. Approximately 150 Waldorf schools are currently operating in North America. There are also public Waldorf programs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Detroit, Michigan.
The Waldorf Education method is fundamentally based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. As opposed to primarily focusing on academics, Steiner's attends to all of the needs of the child, including their individual, spiritual and social needs. The Waldorf method steps outside of the realm of education and becomes an approach to life itself. This approach speaks not only to academic progression but to the ever evolving human spirit. This learning taps into the natural ability of children to model adults and the need to have deep lasting connections with their educators and classmates. Because we are spiritual beings, Waldorf education places equal emphasis on the study of music, art, dance and poetry as to that of math, language arts, and the sciences. Waldorf Education is based on the belief that human beings are not one dimensional, not simply attending school as a means to and measure of standardized academic achievement, but rather to develop and nurture each and every aspect of the person as a whole being.
There is no one book that explains this educational philosophy, but instead many books, each shining a light on specific aspects of the Waldorf way.
My continued exposure to Waldorf Education has been on many levels, first, while studying elementary education in college, later as a parent and finally as an educator and writer. I have read many books on the philosophy, but found that there is no one all inclusive book that seems to “nail it”. Many books touch on it and tap, to one degree or another, into its essence, yet still fail to convey it fully. Perhaps it is it's fundamentally spiritual nature that is so difficult to express, to impart, and comprehend without experiencing it firsthand, either as a student, teacher or parent. Waldorf Education is highly touted by many educational experts and is a philosophy that deserves consideration for any parent seeking the best education for their child currently available.
One book, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, is written by a mother who understands the value of living in the moment with her children and how it is through these simple moments that purest connections are made. When we slow down and take notice of the blessings around us we find peace, happiness, connection and we grow and learn together with our children. Each chapter of this book is written about a memory, an experience that the author Katrina Kenison shared with her children. Through example she teaches us that we can all lead a more spiritually based life by simply enjoying each moment that has been given to us. This slowing down and embracing the wonder and beauty of life is one of the core aspects of what Waldorf Education and philosophy is all about.
The "Go-to" book for Waldorf Parents
You Are your Child’s First Teacher is not only interesting to read, it is an excellent reference source for the first time mother, and mothers of young children. When my children were younger, I found myself returning to this book again and again for questions ranging from nutrition to behavior. Author, Rahima Baldwin, offers a wealth of knowledge based on her background and experience both as a teacher and as a mother. This is the “go-to” book for any Waldorf parent. Author Rahima Baldwin breaks down the details of parenting utilizing the Waldorf approach and sensibilities.
Verse from "Seven Times the Sun"
To Welcome Night
The dark comes like a blanket,
protecting us at night,
the moon shines
like the heart of God,
providing gentle light,
The stars call forth
our sparkling dreams,
like waves upon a shore,
To greet the nighttime pilgrims as we journey through sleep’s door.
The Waldorf philosophy values the rhythms of daily life and asks parents to pay attention to these since they play a beneficial role in raising healthy children. While most parents are aware that keeping a consistent bedtime and eating regular meals are important, they may not realize the significant affects and benefits that these and other daily, weekly and seasonal activities have. Keeping routines helps children to feel safe and secure, allowing them to flourish. The book, Seven Times the SUN, builds on the importance of these routines and holidays and embraces them using verse, song and celebratory traditions. This book offers verses for many moments throughout the day, including morning, mealtime, playtime and quiet time. There are even verses for when a child feels sad. This book is not only a treasure trove for any Waldorf parent or teacher, but parents and teachers in general.
Waldorf education not only focuses on daily and weekly rhythms, it also places a great emphasis on the seasons of the year. This is a larger rhythm that all humans yearn to connect with, experiencing the seasons is reassuring and exciting, not only because they are naturally beautiful and comforting, just as importantly, they are consistent, imparting a sense of safety because we can rely on them. One universal way of celebrating the seasons is done by celebrating the holidays. The book All Year Round offers a different approach to the holidays, a Waldorf Approach that, (take Christmas for instance), instead of placing the emphasis on commercial gifts, places the value on creating your own holiday gifts, creations using natural materials. One holiday that is celebrated in the fall, when the days become dramatically shorter is called Michealmas, children and parents alike rejoice in this holiday involving lanterns. “All Year Round” explains how to make a Michealmas lantern and how to celebrate this evening as a family. This is quite a memorable experience for children who get to carry a lantern that they created. This book will take you through each holiday and allow your family to connect with the seasons in true Waldorf tradition.
Children at Playis a book that any child at heart can fall in love because it celebrates the beauty of play. Waldorf Educators have always known and valued play not only for its practical benefits but also because there is a spiritual connection that play evokes.
Children at Play, is a book that delves into the benefits and importance of play. Play is something that is currently undervalued by mainstream parents and educators and it has been this way for many years. Play at home has been replaced in part by scheduled activities along with increased screen time with television, computers, video games etc. This unprecedented change has had a profound effect on children. “Children at Play” reminds us of the many benefits that play provides the young developing child. Some of these benefits include increased imagination, time for exploration, development of social skills, role playing, and exercise. On a deeper level the child at play is asking the more profound question “Who am I?” and “Where is my place in the world?” Questions whose answers can explored, even discovered by the simply playing and interacting with others in a fun, non-structured, free to be yourself, manner.
Children should not dig only in sterile sand; digging in the living earth leads to encounters with worms, insects, centipedes...there is no substitute— Heidi Britz-Creoelius - Children at Play
Play teaches executive function, which is the ability of the child to control himself; it is during play that a child practices this skill. Play also teaches focus and concentration. When a child is playing they are deep in concentration, both on the activity and on planning events of the play activity. Play allows a child to be the master of his experience, given that during most of their waking hours children’s activities are prescribed by adults, it is during play that a child can determine their own events and outcome; they get to practice being the master of their universe in a safe and enjoyable, and rewarding way.
Play teaches life skills, but sadly for many children today with little play time, these skills cannot fully develop.
It is important for parents and educators to revisit the purpose and benefits of play, and reading “Children at Play” is an excellent place to start.
While the Waldorf method of education has been growing around the world with increased numbers of schools, many people remain unaware of what this method of Education is about. Waldorf education takes a very different approach to child development and life itself. In most ways it seems in opposition to our modern, mainstream culture because of its slower pace, not seeking to make big strides, but rather to cherish and fully develop each part of the human being. Because this method of education and life is so unfamiliar, it can take time to comprehend it all, and even more patience to adopt it. But the benefits of implementing this method reach far beyond any effort it may take to get there.
The books presented here offer a glimpse and some important insights into what Waldorf Education and the Waldorf Approach to life is all about.
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© 2015 Tracy Lynn Conway