“Well, it’s an educational system that focuses on emotional as well as intellectual development,” I’ll say.
“All the toys are made of natural materials,” I tell them.
“Waldorf educates the ‘whole child.'”
So, there was this cigarette factory in Germany in the early part of the twentieth century. The factory owner decided he wanted all his worker’s children to be well educated. He asked a philosopher named Rudolf Steiner to come up with a way to do it. What Steiner came up with is an educational model that changes with the developmental stages of child, and values a child’s emotional well being as much as academic learning. At least that’s what we’re expecting it to do. I’m launching this occasional series, “Waldorf Mama,” to explore our experience with Waldorf education and see if we really know what we’re getting ourselves into.
I first learned about Waldorf through knitting. Knitting icon Elizabeth Zimmerman sent her children to Waldorf school. Handcrafts are an integral part of Waldorf education. What do kids learn by knitting? Math, dexterity, patterns, structure, patience and perseverance.
Waldorf also supports kids’ need to be kids, not tiny consumers. Most Waldorf schools ask (or even tell) parents not to let their kids watch television. The dress code for our school bars commercial images, nail polish and discourages synthetic fabrics.
On a typical day, Nora will have circle time, where she’ll sing songs and hear stories. She’ll make bread or soup. She’ll dress up in silks and crowns. She’ll play outside and eat lunch from a wicker basket.
I once got all freaked out when I guy on Twitter asked if anyone else considered Waldorf education “a bit silly.” Though he said his children didn’t seem the worse for it. Silly? Then I realized this is precisely one of the things I love about Waldorf — the absence of cynicism. Kids ride unicycles, tumble, play act mythical tales and dance around the maypole. And this is just right. Imagination — and silliness — is what being a kid is all about.
Critics of Waldorf say it’s not academically rigorous, or it’s too new age or even cultish. We’ll soon see for ourselves how much Kool-aid we’re being asked to drink. Anyway, it really can’t be Kool-Aid, as it’s too laden with chemicals for the Waldorf set. Likely, we will be asked to drink some sort of herbal tea with immune boosting properties. Mmmm.
As instructed in the parent’s manual, we have procured a raincoat, rain pants, rain boots, a wicker basket with two cloth napkins for her packed lunches, and a pair of soft soled, closed heel slippers for use in the classroom.
On the first day of school, I will help Nora find her cubby, use the bathroom and change into her slippers, then I’ll leave her at the door and let Waldorf work its magic. I hope.