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I’m learning about Waldorf education

Educational philosophies, like parenting philosophies are myriad. One fact seems clear to me: One Size Does NOT Fit All. Or even most.

I was taught in a rote-memorization educational philosophy. It worked for me overall, because I am one of those “students” who enjoys sitting at a desk, reading and completing work. Checking off tasks, getting things done is soothing and productive-feeling for me (however non-productive the actual result might be!). However, critical thinking and creative thinking was not overtly taught or encouraged. Just the facts, ma’am!

I definitely see a place for memorization as a foundational tool and a way to build mental acuity. Multiplication and poetry are two things I think beneficial to memorize. It is unfortunate memorization skills seem to be brushed aside in today’s educational scene (I’m being all-inclusive here!).

At the same time schools are ditching memorization, I’m not seeing much in the critical / creative part either. I observe children with an alarming lack of initiative, an inability to problem-solve, an unwillingness to see a situation from different angles, and a resistance to developing community. I am painting with a broad brush here, summarizing my experiences both in and out of many classrooms. I have also seen plenty to be hopeful about too, but we could do more with the potental each child brings to the table.

My first year of teaching, I dutifully followed the plan laid out in textbooks nearly two decades old. I knew it wasn’t working. Students were bored. I was bored. I jumped at the chance to learn the writer’s workshop method, something other than everyone sitting in rows, writing the same thesis, memorizing spelling lists (although PLEASE can we have a revival in spelling education, it’s bad … spell-check doesn’t help if it’s not used!!).

It took about two minutes to transition my mindset from the one-size-fits-all method of teaching writing, to the individualized method of the writing workshop. It took me the next four years to practice and incorporate what I learned. Those years were fun, interesting, a work-in-progress.

Writing started happening naturally, organically… from seed idea to tendrils of sentences to unfolding paragraphs, to flowering final stories. There were restrictions: bell schedules, assemblies, intercom announcements, absent students… grades! Yet I saw classes forming communities, sharing progress, understanding the process, branching out into their own “assignments,” taking risks with style. No, it wasn’t this perfect microcosm, but it was different and it was starting to work.

And then I had a baby. To be honest, writer’s workshop has taken a bit of a back seat the past year or so, but I still think about the principles of workshop. I wish more schools would adopt a more “organic” method of teaching. I wish (gasp!) the idea of grades would be revisited and revised.

As I prepare to be “my child’s first teacher” (as all parents are!), I am constantly searching for the best ways to introduce the world to him. In a few years, I’ll have to decide: public, private, Christian, home school. Which one? I believe each has benefits and drawbacks, depending on a family’s situation, and on the child’s needs. As I said, one-size does not fit all.

Several educational philosophies have drawn my attention these days, including classical education, Charlotte Mason, and most recently, Waldorf education. Since I already have some understanding of the first two, I am curious to see what Waldorf has to offer. In my initial readings, here are the key points I am drawn to:

  • Computers are not the most effective medium for teaching elementary children – real-world learning experiences are far more complex and lasting than learning in front of a TV or computer
  • Comprehensively addresses multiple intelligences, such as tactile learning, community, and social intelligence
  • Although not Christian, the spiritual component of humanity is taught, and, unlike secular schools, religious literature is incorporated, which I feel gives parents like myself support in our home and church religious instruction
  • Rhythm and order are important aspects of the day/year (I like rhythm and order! I need more of it!)

I am new to the idea of Waldorf, trailing my fingers through the river of information I am finding online. I am sure there will be points I don’t agree with, but the overall concept is one I am exploring.

Since a major concept of Waldorf education is that imaginary play IS the work of young children, I have a “Play To Learn” review and giveaway event at the end of September. I’ll be featuring products and companies that align with or favor Waldorf philosophies. And I’ll be sharing concepts I’m learning along the way! I hope you’ll join me in my learning experience!

Have you heard of Waldorf education? What is your educational philosophy?

Crunchy Beach Mama

Friday 16th of September 2011

Can't wait for you event! When you were talking about grades it reminded me what I saw on the news the other day that there was a school meeting to discuss not having real A,B,C grades. I wasn't listening close enough to see what it was about but now I wish I did. What kind of school for your children. A toughy. Money, Time, Patience, Heart, are all contributing factors and I think I would doubt anything I did :)

Crunchy Beach Mama

Friday 16th of September 2011

Can't wait for you event! When you were talking about grades it reminded me what I saw on the news the other day that there was a school meeting to discuss not having real A,B,C grades. I wasn't listening close enough to see what it was about but now I wish I did. What kind of school for your children. A toughy. Money, Time, Patience, Heart, are all contributing factors and I think I would doubt anything I did :)

T Rex Mom

Friday 16th of September 2011

I look forward to hearing more about Waldorf philosophy. I only know of Waldorf dolls and toys. I thought that was what you were referring previously. I cannot wait to read more.

We are big with rhythm and order around here. I suspect we already practice many of these concepts. We just don't realize it.

T Rex Mom

Friday 16th of September 2011

I look forward to hearing more about Waldorf philosophy. I only know of Waldorf dolls and toys. I thought that was what you were referring previously. I cannot wait to read more.

We are big with rhythm and order around here. I suspect we already practice many of these concepts. We just don't realize it.

Liz H.

Thursday 15th of September 2011

My mom has talked about these style of schools. I went to college with a guy who went to these types of schools, our English professor always gave him a hard time about it. I dont think the professor liked his free thinking out side the box style. The class loved it! I think they are worth looking into. We have been thinking about home school or other alternatives to public schools. I love your posts on education.

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