Why I Love the Waldorf Approach to Education - Livin' the Good Life
Nov. 22nd, 2009
09:32 am - Why I Love the Waldorf Approach to Education
Yesterday, I took a friend and her two small children to the annual "Elf Faire" at the Pasadena Waldorf School. It's the first time I've ever been to it, and I've been wanting to go to something like that for the last 30 years. (God knows, I'm a patient woman!) I can tell you that I got my necessary daily quota of "drinking in beauty" at that faire! I am a real sucker for beautiful, romantic and charming things. This event was all of those and more! I've included photographs in this post, because there is no way to adequately describe the beauty and the effect it had on me during this sumptuous event. Let me just say that among hundreds of other fun and fascinating entertainments, there were live bands in every corner of the school playing many varieties of mostly accoustic music, a puppet show offered by the kindergarten teachers, and my absolute favorite offering of the day was "The Fourth Grade Play", which was an ennactment of a Norse Myth.
In Waldorf schools, your first grade teacher is your teacher all the way through eighth grade. He or she follows the entire class lock-step through every grade, and so he (or she) comes to know each child in his class very well... almost like a extra parent. When the fourth grade teacher introduced the play "Thor and His Hammer", I was struck by the pride and caring he felt for his students. I watched him sit with glowing satisfaction, accompanying and cueing the students throughout the performance. He announced at the beginning that the main character was sick that day, and another child, on a moment's notice, had to fill in for him.... but no matter, he said, because all the kids (about 20 ten year olds) had to learn every line of the play, so anyone could step in at any moment. I couldn't take pictures or videos of it, but I wish I could have. The costumes where rich and beautiful, the acting was excellent, there was a pretty complicated and well-executed dance, the singing was heavenly (in harmony!) And I was astonished that all the children seemed to be able to sing in tune! (It seems like most kids don't sing these days, much less sing on key.) All the "lines" were delivered "Shakespeare" style, in flowery poems, each child speaking out loud and clear and confidently. There was humor, tragedy, trickery and even a hint of romance in the story. I was moved. In all my years of attending our local summer youth theater productions, I never witnessed such a talented cast. And they only began rehearsing this play two weeks ago! Amazing! I think it's because, beginning in first grade, the children in Waldorf schools work daily on singing, dancing, and recitation. Music and the arts are a central part of the school's curriculum.
When I was raising our kids, it was my dream to send them all to a Waldorf school. But, we could not have afforded to send even ONE of our children to a school like that, much less five! So, my solution was to do Waldorf in the home. Ely showed up at the Faire just as it was closing, and we went together to check out a Waldorf classroom where samples of the children's work, from first through eighth grade, were on display. I think Ely was struck by the beauty of it all. And it was interesting for both of us to see how similar the children's work was to the work that he had done as a child. I had a feeling of "deja vu" as we looked over the many artfully-crafted "main lesson books". (The children create beautiful journals of the things they learn in each subject.) I also had a feeling of satisfaction that we were able to pull off a Waldorf-style education, for a tiny fraction of the cost, as well as we did. I know from experience that those main lesson books represent hours and hours of concentrated effort on both the teacher's and the student's parts, so I had a deep appreciation for the works on display.
One of the many enchanted places to go
Tea was served under these
Charming scenes everywhere
Examples of classroom work: woodcarving and watercolor painting
All children learn to knit and do other handwork. Here is a second grader's knitting and main lesson books
Two main lesson books created by an eighth grader
The teachers often draw pictures with colored chalks on their blackboards to illustrate a story they are studying in class. This one was the story of Moses (No, this is not a Christian school. This school studies all religions.)
This sign was on the wall of the classroom
The very unique Waldorf-style dolls that were for sale
More dolls. All handmade.
The dolls have very minimal facial features in order for the child to more easily imagine the doll's look and personality to suit the child's own liking and taste
Here is one of the magical scenes that was created to display some of the Waldorf dolls that were for sale. This is an example of the beauty I was drinking in all day:
Another scene... sigh
No more words necessary.